Health checks at NY — but not NJ — airports as part of quarantine 'hot spot' strategy
It's quiet at Newark Liberty International Airport, where the effects of coronavirus prevention measures are plain to see. NorthJersey.com
If you're flying into New York from a "hot spot" coronavirus state — the list is up to 16, as of Thursday — prepare to see some friendly health department faces, forms and pamphlets.
But not in New Jersey — at least not yet.
The New York Department of Health has about 20 or so "educational staff members" stationed at airports around the state: JFK, LaGuardia, Stewart, Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo.
The staff is there to provide information about the mandatory, 14-day quarantine for those arriving from states where COVID-19 test rates are higher than 10 positive cases per 100,000 residents or a state with a higher than 10% positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. Those who test negative can end their quarantine early.
"Airlines are instructed to distribute forms to passengers when boarding flights, and DOH staff are located in destination airports for the purpose of educating passengers and collecting those forms. They do not approach travelers," Jill Montag, a New York DOH spokeswoman, said in an email. "People identified from the questionnaires as requiring quarantine will be contacted by the NYS Health Dept staff and/or contact tracers for follow-up."
Contact tracing has been a critical component of the states' plans to reopen so steps can be taken to alert people and places about those who may have been exposed to someone positive with the virus.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut announced the quarantine agreement June 24.
New Jersey — home to Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro, which is reserved for mostly private air travel — has not yet announced any plans to have a presence at the airports.
Murphy, at his daily press briefing on Wednesday, said, "I don’t know Judy that you’ve got people there, but the Port Authority obviously is right into this," deferring to Judith Persichilli, commissioner of the state Department of Health.
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Persichilli continued: "We have alerts and we are looking at having forms filled out by individuals that are traveling, that’s all in the works right now."
Murphy added: "Folks are, for the most part, taking this seriously, so we don’t have a whole lot of evidence that there’s a lot of people getting on planes from hot spots right now."
For its part, the Port Authority has put up signs to provide information for people in the terminals at the airports it oversees, which include JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Stewart and Teterboro.
"In terms of the enforcement, we’ll leave that to the various states to enforce," said agency Chairman Kevin O'Toole when asked last week about whether they would be enforcing or providing traveler data to the states. "We believe our role is that it will be informational, posting signs throughout the various airports to advise outgoing and incoming passengers. Informational."
Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering the region’s transportation systems and how they affect your commute, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.