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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will require travelers from high-COVID states to fill out a form with their local contact information; July 13, 2020. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

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ALBANY – New York will require travelers from states with high rates of COVID-19 to provide information about their local accommodations or face a penalty of up to $2,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The shift in policy comes nearly three weeks after New York issued an order in late June requiring many out-of-state travelers to quarantine for two weeks upon entering the state.

Now, travelers to New York from the states on the quarantine list will be required to fill out a form documenting where they're coming from, where they're going and their local contact information before they leave the airport, Cuomo said Monday.

The form will be made available at airports or online.

Enforcement, however, will be concentrated at airport, where the state will station compliance officers who will be required to collect forms from passengers before they leave the airport.

"You must give officials at the airport your form as to where you came from and where you're going before you leave the airport," Cuomo said. "It will be enforced in every airport in the state."

Travel form used to be voluntary

Previously, the state Department of Health had been working with airlines to circulate a similar form to passengers deplaning in New York.

But the form was voluntarily and there were no penalties associated with not filling it out; Now, Cuomo said the state will issue an "emergency health order" making it mandatory and allowing authorities to issue a summons that could carry a $2,000 fine.

The form requires travelers to give their name, birth date, phone number and email address, as well as information about where they will be staying and which states they have recently traveled to. 

Cuomo, a Democrat, said the Port Authority will handle enforcement in the New York City-area airports, while the state will work with local airports in other areas of the state.

It wasn't immediately clear whether those who travel to New York by other means of transportation, such as bus or car, would be required to fill out the form or how that would be enforced. 

The Department of Health's order says the form must be filled out by all travelers affected by New York's quarantine order.

But it also says travelers must "submit the complete form to the New York officials stationed at the airport, or in a receptacle designated for such forms," leaving it unclear whether travelers by car or bus would be affected.

Republicans criticize Cuomo for order

Cuomo's latest order received pushback from Republican leaders, who said it infringes on civil liberties.

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, Niagara County, said he hopes someone files a legal challenge asking a court to examine.

"This overreach of power violates the civil liberties of New Yorkers and citizens across this country, who do not need the government to threaten fines and quarantines in order to travel responsibly," Ortt said in a statement. "This is putting an unwelcome mat at New York’s door."

New York's larger quarantine order is mandatory for travelers coming from states with at least 10 average daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, though enforcement in general is a difficult task.

As of Monday, the quarantine list applied to 19 states including California, Florida and Texas.

Travelers who are only passing through New York on a highway or a flyover are not subject to the order, so long as their stay is less than 24 hours.

Travelers to the state are expected to self-quarantine upon their arrival, meaning they isolate on their own in a hotel room, apartment or home.

If the traveler is caught violating the self-quarantine, the state or a local health department can seek a mandatory quarantine order, which would carry a $2,000 fine for a first violation, according to the state.

Cuomo says order will help stop COVID-19 spread

On Monday, Cuomo said the order is necessary to ensure New York does not see a resurgence of the coronavirus. He pointed to a July 6 Endeavor Air flight from Atlanta to Albany, which saw three passengers test positive after beginning to show symptoms July 7, according to Rensselaer County

There were 44 passengers on the flight, according to Delta Air Lines. (Endeavor is a Delta subsidiary.)

New York was hit harder than any other state in March in April, with more than 24,000 confirmed deaths and 400,000 confirmed cases since March 1.

But New York was able to calm the storm in May and June, with the state now having among the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country.

"We can't be in a situation where we have people from other states bringing the virus again," Cuomo said. "It's that simple."

As of Monday, the New York quarantine order applied to 19 states. They were:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi 
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

As of Sunday night, at least four states were in danger of being added to the quarantine list when New York updates it Tuesday.

New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio had all surpassed 10 average daily COVID-19 cases for the seven-day period that ended Sunday. New York will make its final calculation after Monday's data is in, which means some of those states could dip below the 10 mark.

Delaware, meanwhile, had inched below the 10 case mark after it was added to the list last week. That means the state could be removed from the list Tuesday depending on how many positive cases it reported Monday.

More: Q&A: What to know about the quarantine if traveling to NY, NJ and CT

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

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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