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Enforcement teams will deploy to key entry points in the city to ensure incoming travelers complete health forms that request contact information and to inform them of the two-week quarantine requirement.
New York City is setting up checkpoints on bridges and tunnels into the city to enforce quarantine restrictions on incoming travelers, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
A statewide quarantine order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires visitors from states with elevated coronavirus infection rates to isolate for two weeks upon entry into New York, but currently one-fifth of new coronavirus cases in New York City are from out-of-state travelers, city health officials said.
Travelers visiting from 34 states and Puerto Rico must fill out the New York State Department of Health travel form, which asks about visitors’ travel plans or face a $2,000 fine. Visitors can also be fined up to $10,000 if they violate the quarantine order.
At the checkpoints, which will be set up at key vehicle entry points into the city, travelers will be asked to complete the travel forms and reminded of the quarantine orders.
"The checkpoints are going to send a very powerful message that this quarantine is serious. Even if we can't reach every single person, I think it'll get the message across," de Blasio said. "We don't want to penalize people. We want to educate them, make sure they're following the rules."
The mayor said authorities do not want to issue fines to violators given the current economic climate, “but if we have to, we will.”
More than 4.7 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the United States and the national death toll has neared 157,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While infections have dropped dramatically in New York, originally the epicenter of the pandemic, they’ve risen precipitously in other parts of the country.
To stop the return of the virus to New York, enforcement teams will begin deploying at Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Thursday. The teams, led by the city’s sheriff, will educate travelers about the requirements and ensure they have filled out the travel forms, which ask for the traveler’s name, contact information and data about where and how long they will stay in New York.
"We need to ensure visitors and New Yorkers returning home are taking the necessary precautions," said Sheriff Joseph Fucito. "We're going to deploy to be very visible."
The city’s Test and Trace Corps is following up with visitors based on information collected from the travel forms. So far the corps has called more than 86,000 travelers and even deployed teams to visit people they could not reach by phone, said Dr. Ted Long. By making contact with travelers under quarantine, the city hopes to assess a person’s needs during the two-week isolation and offer help, including free food delivery, connections to local doctors, or even a hotel stay, Long said.
The bridge and tunnel checkpoints come after the state started conducting similar enforcement at airports in July. Passengers on all incoming flights were required to fill out the health travel forms.
Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.