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NY won't add NJ, CT, PA to COVID-19 quarantine order after all

Jon Campbell
New York State Team

ALBANY — New York will not add New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to its travel advisory despite COVID-19 infections rising at a clip that would have required travelers from the states to quarantine upon arrival. 

Cuomo on Tuesday initially said 43 states and territories now qualify for the 14-day self-quarantine requirement, including two states — New Jersey and Connecticut — that initially issued the order in conjunction with New York four months ago.

But by the time Cuomo's administration released the full list Tuesday afternoon, only 40 states were on it after Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut had all been granted exemptions. The full list of states is below.

Instead, travelers from New York's neighbors will be "strongly encouraged" to avoid any nonessential travel to the Empire State, according to Cuomo's office. 

Earlier in the day, Cuomo had all but conceded New York won't or can't enforce the ban against its neighbors. New York has been enforcing the quarantine requirement almost exclusively at airports, not at train stations and highways used by many to cross into New York. 

"There is no practical way to quarantine New York from New Jersey and Connecticut," Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters. "There are just too many interchanges. There are too many interconnections."

Quarantine was tri-state effort

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut first issued a joint travel advisory in late June as COVID-19 cases cooled in the Northeast and began to rise elsewhere in the country.

The joint advisory applies to any state that exceeds 10 average daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the previous week, or if 10% of COVID-19 tests come back positive over the same time period.

Typically, New York updates the list of affected states each Tuesday on behalf of the three states.

Late Tuesday morning, Cuomo had announced 43 states -- including New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania -- met the threshold for the quarantine list. 

Cuomo's initial announcement appeared to contradict comments Monday by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, who suggested his state would not be added to his neighboring states' quarantine lists. But Cuomo's office soon clarified in a news release that the three neighboring states would not be added to the list. 

“We’re not going to be going on any of their quarantine lists and we’ll work together to come up with a metric that we think is enforceable and realistic," Lamont said at a news conference.

Lamont had said his office has been in discussion with New York and other neighboring states about changing the threshold for making the list and anticipated it taking effect soon, though he did suggest it wasn't final.

Lamont's plan would have only applied to states that have 10 average daily cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate above 5%, rather than an either-or scenario.

New York did not use Lamont's proposed calculation when it updated the list on Tuesday, instead relying on the same method it has used since June. 

Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey all averaged at least 10 daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the past week. But they were all below the 5% testing threshold Lamont wanted to impose, meaning they would not have qualified.

By Tuesday, Lamont rolled that plan back, instead saying he had reached a "pact" with New Jersey and New York.

“We’re going to keep the overall travel advisory in place for all the other states," Lamont said, according to the Hartford Courant. "But for New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, we’re going to have a pact where you don’t have the travel advisory that impacts any of the three of us when you travel amongst each other.”

Passengers are required to wear a mask while flying on a plane for all major U.S. airlines and at the airport.

Last week, 38 states and territories qualified for the tri-state quarantine list, including large states like Florida and Texas.

That list expanded to 40 on Tuesday with the addition of Maryland and Arizona. 

Database:See how close your state is to coming off the NY, NJ, CT quarantine list

New York averaged 7.3 daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, the fifth-lowest number in the country. Its test positivity rate was slightly above 1%.

Had New York added its neighboring states, it would have marked the first time states sharing a border with New York qualified for the quarantine list, which raised questions about whether people who frequently cross the state border for work will be granted an exemption.

New Jersey, for example, allowed workers from Delaware to travel to its state for work when the latter state was added to the quarantine list. 

New York took a different approach, instead electing to exempt its neighboring states all together.

Cuomo said closing off New York from New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania would have a "disastrous effect on the economy," which relies on thousands of workers who cross state lines to work, particularly in the tri-state area.

"So we’re going to be working with Connecticut and New Jersey to see how we can help them with their spikes and also talk to Connecticut and New Jersey about making it clear to the extent travel between the states is non-essential, it should be avoided," Cuomo said.

Later in the call, Cuomo said the same issues apply to Pennsylvania.

More states qualify for quarantine list

New York's enforcement of the measure has been focused at airports, where most out-of-state travelers are required to fill out a contact tracing form upon arrival under threat of a $2,000 fine. 

Under New York's current rules, travelers who pass through a state on the travel advisory list for less than 24 hours are exempt from the quarantine requirement, which accounts for flyovers and stops at rest areas when traveling on the Thruway.

The state also has an exemption for essential workers who travel to New York for work. 

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he had not yet spoken directly to Cuomo about how New York plans to handle the situation.

"My advice is to not travel, frankly," Murphy said.

Cuomo said Tuesday he would soon speak with Murphy and Lamont.

"I'm going to be speaking to the governors today about how we can help them with their spikes," Cuomo said.

Here's the full list of states subject to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut's quarantine advisory:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. Colorado
  6. Delaware
  7. Florida
  8. Georgia
  9. Guam
  10. Idaho
  11. Illinois
  12. Indiana
  13. Iowa
  14. Kansas
  15. Kentucky
  16. Louisiana
  17. Maryland
  18. Michigan
  19. Minnesota
  20. Mississippi
  21. Missouri
  22. Montana
  23. Nebraska
  24. New Mexico
  25. Nevada
  26. North Carolina
  27. North Dakota
  28. Ohio
  29. Oklahoma
  30. Puerto Rico
  31. Rhode Island
  32. South Carolina
  33. South Dakota
  34. Tennessee
  35. Texas
  36. Utah
  37. Virginia
  38. West Virginia
  39. Wisconsin
  40. Wyoming

More:NY, NJ, CT order out-of-state travelers to quarantine because of COVID-19

More:New York, New Jersey quarantine list grows to 38 states, territories after 3 more added

Includes reporting by The Associated Press.

Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.

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