Visitors from coronavirus hotspots will have to quarantine for 14 days if they set foot in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, the governors of those northeastern states said Wednesday.
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas have high, current infection rates to warrant this new quarantine advisory, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Residents of those states are not being barred from coming to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, so Wednesday’s action is largely advisory.
“This is the smart thing to do. We have taken our people … through hell and back,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told reporters, via a remote feed in a briefing hosted by Cuomo in Albany.
“And the last thing we need to do is to subject our folks to another round, and this virus is risky enough on its own in terms of the potential to flare back up.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said region-wide planning is essential to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
“The Northeast region has taken this seriously and that’s allowed us, as a region, to power through and get out positivity rates very low,” Lamont said. “But we’re not an island. As we look at the rest of the country, we’ve seen not just spikes, but community spread.”
Those nine states from the South and Midwest are now on the quarantine list based on rolling, seven-day averages of infection rates, according to Cuomo.
“The states themselves can change as the infection rate changes. And we’ll update daily what states are above that infection rate,” Cuomo said.
“Again it’s just common sense and it’s the sprit of community. If you’re in a place that has a high infection rate, we understand that and we’ll help you in any way we can.”
Track this summer’s coronavirus hot spots across the U.S. here
When a reporter asked if Wednesday’s announcement was more symbolic than practical, Cuomo insisted there’ll be teeth to the enforcement.
“No, you violate the quarantine, you will then have to do a mandatory quarantine and you’ll be fined,” he said.
But officials admitted that no would-be out-of-state visitors will be prevented from entering the region.
“That is not a quarantine, that is a blockage. That is what the federal government threatened to do us at one point and I said that would start a civil war,” Cuomo said. “That is a blockage. That has not been done since the Civil War.”
Cuomo insisted that quarantine scofflaws could be found by hotel clerks, colleagues at business meetings and police who pull over motorist to find they’ve come from one of the states on the quarantine list.
Fines could range between $2,000 and $10,000.
“If you’re violating a quarantine, you can be subject to a judicial order and mandatory quarantine,” Cuomo said. “You could have to pay the costs of quarantine. There are also fines that can go along with violating the quarantine.”
The advisory falls far short of actions by countries employing aggressive tactics to track visitors and make sure they’re staying in lockdown.
In Hong Kong, for example, authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese region use wrist monitors and phone apps to make sure visitors stick to two weeks in quarantine.
And in South Korea, officials launched aggressive testing and tracing practices to limit coronavirus spread. The nation has also employed GPS data from mobile phones, credit card transactions and security camera footage as part of its effort.