Planning on a trip to the Big Apple?
Be prepared to spend two weeks locked away somewhere as a new directive from the governors of three Northeast states proves that sometimes what goes around comes around.
The chief executives of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced June 24 they would require a 14-day quarantine for visitors arriving from states that have “significant community spread.” The definition they chose includes Arizona. And that, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuoma, includes Arizona and eight other states
The order was to take effect at 12:01 a.m. June 25.
If the verbiage used by Cuomo sounds familiar, it should.
In April, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a similar two-week quarantine for visitors to Arizona from areas with what he described as “substantial community spread.”
Ducey said at the time that his powers under state emergency laws allow him to tell new arrivals that they must go directly to their place of isolation or self-quarantine “and only leave that location for essential services.” And he said the move was aimed at the tri-state area of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York because it has become of COVID-19 hotspot.
That Arizona order has since expired as infection rates in those states have gone down.
But just the reverse is happening here.
Cuomo, in a joint announcement with his counterparts, said this isn’t meant to single out any particular state. He said the governors have come up with what they consider an infection rate that is unacceptable.
“Any state that goes over that infection rate, that state will be subject to the quarantine,” Cuomo explained.
That rate, he explained, is based on one of two standards: 10 positive cases for every 100,000 residents on a seven-day rolling average, or 10% of the total population testing positive.
New figures June 24 from the Arizona Department of Health Services put the total of positive tests at 10.7%. And looking just at the past full week, the figure is 19%.
But part-week data for the current week shows a positive rate of 21%. And the Center for Bioscience at Arizona State University, doing its own reports, on June 24 pegged the most recent seven-day average at 22.1%, its highest point ever.
Overall, the health department reported another 1,795 cases on June 24, bringing the state’s tally to just slightly less than 60,000. There also were 79 deaths reported with the total now at 1,463.
The state also reported a new record of 2,270 individuals suffering from COVID-19 in hospital beds. ICU bed usage was 581, down from the prior day’s record of 614.
Overall, the health department said that 86% of hospital beds and 88% of ICU beds were in use by all types of patients, though the agency has yet to reimpose limits on elective surgeries despite the governor’s prior order saying these would be put back in place at facilities where the average exceeded 80%.
On Wednesday, state Health Director Cara Christ said her staff is in contact with hospitals to ensure they understand their obligations to keep beds available should there be a surge in COVID-19 cases. To date, however, Christ said she has issued no such orders.
Cuomo, in announcing the quarantine on Arizonans and others, said it’s not personal.
“It’s only for the simple reason that we worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down,” he explained. “We don’t want to see it go up because a lot of people come into this region and they could literally bring the infection with them.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called it “a smart thing to do.”
“We, the three of us, have taken our states through hell and back,” he said. “The last thing we need to do right now is to subject our folks to another round. This virus is risky enough on its own in terms of the potential to flare back up.”
That sentiment was echoed by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont who shared a similar sentiment.
“We’re not an island,” he said. “As we look around the rest of the country we have seen not just spikes but we’ve seen real community spread, better than 10% positivity rate, in a number of these states that we’re talking about right now.”
Other states subject to the quarantine, according to Cuomo, include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.
Ducey press aide Patrick Ptak said his boss is not focused on the order.
“These states can make decisions they consider most appropriate, just as we have and will continue to do,” he said.”Our complete focus is on slowing and containing the spread in Arizona and ensuring care for those who are infected by the virus.”
Cuomo said each of the three states will do its own enforcement.
In his case, Cuomo said he envisions situations where hotel clerks, checking people in, ask the visitors why they are not in quarantine.
“You go to a business meeting, someone says, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in quarantine?’ ” Cuomo continued. And he expects police officers to ask the same question if they stop someone driving with license plates from one of the affected states.
“Any of those mechanisms you can be detected as violating your quarantine,” Cuomo said.
And he said the order has teeth.
Cuomo said anyone caught violating the quarantine could be subject to a court order and a mandated quarantine – including paying for the cost if they get caught.
“There are also fines that go along with violating quarantine,” he said, starting at $2,000 for a first violation, $5,000 for a second and up to $10,000 if the person causes harm.
That compares with the possibility of a $2,500 fine and six months in jail that was the penalty for violating Ducey’s order.
On June 23, Cuomo took a swipe at states that have decided to reopen – he did not name names – before there was scientific evidence that the virus had abated.
“New York went from one of the highest infection rates in the country to one of the lowest because we made decisions based on science, not politics,” he said.
“We’re seeing in other states what happens when you just reopen with no regard for metrics or data,” Cuomo said. “It’s bad for public health and for the economy, and states that reopened in a rush are now seeing a boomerang.”
Ducey has repeatedly defended his decisions both to allow non-essential businesses to reopen and to dissolve his stay-at-home order. And it was only within the past week, facing spiking infection numbers, that he agreed to allow city, town and county officials to impose requirements for people to cover their faces while in public.