New York Governor Wants Customs-Like Check-in For Domestic Flights

Airlines will be handing out quarantine forms for passengers to fill out when entering New York. Governor Cuomo also wants “a customs-like check-in at the airport” for domestic flights.

The forms will be used to enforce New York’s quarantine of arriving domestic passengers from states with “a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.”

“The airlines have agreed to hand out forms on the flights coming into New York where on that form it will ask you where you’re coming from, where are you staying, and we need you to quarantine,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

The criteria for who has to quarantine is ever-changing, which means people will buy airline tickets and discover their trips are for naught as departure approaches.

Currently residents of the following states are subject to 14 day quarantine on arrival: Alabama; Arkansas; Arizona; California; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Iowa; Idaho; Kansas; Louisiana; Mississippi; North Carolina; Nevada; Oklahoma; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah.

Anyone who violates the state’s self-quarantine requirement is subject to government quarantine and fines: “$2,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for second and up to $10,000 if you “cause harm.””

These rules do not limit travel into New York from other countries where coronavirus prevalence is greater than it is in New York (and greater than in some states whose arrivals are restricted). And there are no limits on intra-state travel either as people bring the virus from one area of New York to another.

Governor Cuomo says this is necessary because “we worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down.” New York’s transmission rate is down because of how many New Yorkers have already had the virus. Cuomo has been smug about the turnabout considering similar quarantine rules for New Yorkers that had previously been imposed by states including Florida and Texas, but he has no cause to be.

There have been 32,000 COVID-19 deaths in New York. While only about 400,000 cases have been confirmed, that’s because of how little testing was being done in March. At the height of the outbreak in the Northeast the U.S. may have been seeing 700,000 infections per day.

In New Jersey 12% of nursing home residents died of COVID-19. In New York they kept their number down by coding anyone who contracted the virus in a nursing home, but who was transferred to a hospital and died there, as a hospital death and not a nursing home death. That kept their nursing home number down to ‘only’ around 6200 deaths.

In March Governor Cuomo’s office ordered nursing homes to accept COVID patients back from hospitals as long as they were ‘medically stable’ and forbade them from testing new and returning nursing home residents for the virus. Cuomo’s office has tried multiple arguments to deny responsibility – that it’s really the CDC’s fault for not providing better guidance, that it’s really nursing home workers who more likely brought the virus in with them. For all his bluster on television though, he’s acted more like the chief executive of a U.S. airline than a leader. It’s always someone else’s fault and it’s easiest to blame ‘others’.

The important question, though, is this: once instituted, will these restrictions go away? Will “a customs-like check-in at the airport,” once contructed, be permanent?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, there is alot of editorializing in this post. The NEWS part of the post is that NY is trying to keep its current numbers where they are, and thus they are issuing a quarantine order from any state that has numbers above a certain level. That level is PUBLISHED, and of course it changes, because the level of infected people in a state changes. The executives of the tri-state area are responsible for their citizens, and the actions are in that vein. If your post is if there is going to be a border forever between states, post that. Lets not keep repeating the right wings talking points about why NY is horrible, as it just invites a battle in the comments. The TRAVEL question here is about the current rules…lets keep it there.

  2. We (Americans) need customs-like check-in at our public high schools, which are a lawless disaster. High school kids buy and sell drugs on school grounds for crying out loud. All this would come to a complete stop, representing a major public health victory, if we funded and stationed US Customs and Border Protection officers at every school entrance and screened students each morning as if they were international arriving passengers.

  3. I agree that New York made some crucial and awful mistakes. However the last question is answered by the benchmark of how it is determined which states they are blacklisting. If all states get below those numbers, the paperwork will go away.

  4. There’s a law suit still going on about this. The emergency TRO was denied, but the case will continue.

  5. @Joelfreak
    You don’t seem to understand what “editorializing” means. Show me an article where there is no editorializing.
    “The NEWS part of the post is that NY is trying to keep its current numbers where they are, and thus they are issuing a quarantine order from any state that has numbers above a certain level.”
    That is a conclusion, not a fact. I guess you don’t know how to say anything factual.

  6. @james Putting in things that bias the reader that are not relevant to the issue at hand is editorializing.

  7. State will pass a statute, but the city could become a covid “sanctuary city.”

  8. “New York’s transmission rate is down because of how many New Yorkers have already had the virus.”

    Infectious diseases specialist at NY Hospital. This is not true.

  9. @Meropenem Unfortunately many of the ‘facts’ trumpeted in this post are right wing talking points…

  10. Who will fill this out correctly knowing that they will have to quarantine? Complete BS.

  11. Gary the article says he discussed the customs checkin *last month* and links to an article June 26 where he talks about the option.

    In that article it says “he’s talking with federal authorities about what they would be willing to do, including the possibility of a customs-like check-in at the airport.”

    My interpretation is the feds said no thanks to that and it’s not on the table now.

    The article mentioned having customs agents help with tracking was asked but again I think the Feds said no to participating in that.

  12. Agree with Meropenum (great name by the way)

    NY has nowhere near the number of infections that would lead to so called “herd immunity “

    The infection receded because New Yorkers sacrificed tremendously to enact social distancing and quarantine guidelines.

    Gary is very far off base on some of his medical commentary These last few months

    -another MD and senior medical leader at a large institution dealing with this

  13. @JRMW @Meropenem – Nowhere do I claim New York has herd immunity. New York City likely has ~30% infected. Add in some cross-immunity from other coronaviruses. Infections continue. Herd immunity is not “either/or” the more people who have had the virus, the more it slows down, the fewer people there are to infect and spread it. And super spreaders likely got it first, so there are fewer of those too.

    It’s a silly claim that New York ‘did a great job’ containing the virus.

  14. @Joelfreak what exactly here is a right wing talking point? That ordering nursing homes to accept COVID patients was a bad idea…?

  15. This is unconstitutional. A state cannot treat a citizen of another state differently than its own. Hawaii has had quasi-domestic customs for years by purportedly requiring passengers to complete what amounts to a focus group survey form that’s used for tourism marketing. They claim it is mandatory but I’ve never filled it out.

  16. Didn’t Cuomo threaten to sue the governor of Rhode Island when she ordered R.I. State Police to pull oveR motorists with New York license plates? How is this any different?

  17. FL asks residents of NY, NJ and CT to quarantine for 14 days and fill out a similar form. The FL governor signed that executive order on March 23rd, but it has been extended with no expiration date. Given the current numbers in FL and. In the northeast, that is even more outrageous. So Gary, maybe you should write an article about that too!

  18. I think you have to put into context decisions made over time based on information available at the time. NY implemented a lot of at the time controversial mandates, but there were no other states facing the situation they had. We saw the virus first, at the time, known cases here in Seattle and down in CA, but once testing / hospitalizations came forward, it was very clear that New York and NYC in particular had a very different situation. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, there were things they over-reacted on. There were also things they got dead on right. In comparison to the federal response to date, it seems NY got it more right. You can compare upstate vs. other states fairly to eliminate the high numbers who did contract in NYC – upstate is doing much better than most other ares of the country right now. However, there seems to be more evidence coming forward that antibodies are not remaining for long periods of time, which, if what I understand is correct, may mean herd immunity is not easily achieved. I like Reading Gary’s perspectives, but Cuomo did lead his state from what was a horrid situation back to manageable, and so far we need more of those outcomes than what we are seeing elsewhere.

  19. Cuomo’s move clearly violates the Constitutional right to travel (long established under the Fifth Amendment) and would be struck down by a federal court. It is clearly arbitrary and capricious. Like Cuomo just banned travellers from Delaware. Delaware does not have a significant COVID problem now (50-some-odd hospitalizations and a low positivity number). But it’s a small state with a Democratic governor who likes free asymptomatic testing (especially young people and poultry workers) and Delaware can (barely) get to the meager ten positive tests per 100,000. BANNED! This is insane.

    But there are MANY people, including several posters here, who are just as clueless as Cuomo about COVID. New York did NOTHING to stop the virus; the virus stops itself when it gets to a certain level of infection/lethality. All viruses do. The people who love to say “we’re nowhere near herd immunity” are know-nothings. I suggest better educating yourself by avoiding the mainstream media. You can look at the death data yourself (Western Europe first, and then compare USA North with the Sunbelt) or you can read the work of smart people like Stanford professor and Nobel Prize winner Michael Levitt. When you start understanding t-cells, you know that NYC is clearly at herd immunity (or virus “burnout” to be more accurate), many other cities near NYC that got hit hard are also there, and most of the places further from NYC are getting there now. That’s how the virus problem ends, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (the virus doesn’t care).

  20. I guess because Gary doesn’t think NY did a “great” job containing the virus…he’s grouping it with Tx, Fl and Az.
    If a population doesn’t have herd immunity than there can be community spread. The fact is that there isn’t community spread in Ny now because of the 2-3mo mitigation and careful reopening undertaken.
    Just because you live in Austin doesn’t mean you need to be sore at NY

  21. So many epidemiologists and constitutional lawyers here. Gary should just email this post and comments to Fauci/Pence, take your pick. Problem (if you believe there is one) solved.

  22. @Gary what does nursing homes have ANYTHING to do with current quarantine requirements? The last paragraph is really an entire right wing talking point.

  23. @chopsticks NY did NOTHING to stop the virus? Do you live here? Viruses just stop on their own?!! Where did you get your degree from?

  24. Joelfreak just seems like a nut. I guess labelling anybody with a different opinion as a “right wing” and saying their points are just biased, without actually stating anything, is his specialty.

    And to the person who commented “meropenem” is a great name. I guess you don’t know it’s an antibiotic?

  25. @Gary

    I am confused

    You agree that NY doesn’t have herd immunity

    But then you give no credit to New Yorkers for their quarantine effort?

    Please elucidate how the virus spread slowed in NY, Seattle, SF, and other hot spots if it was not from quarantine and not from herd immunity

    You are correct: Herd immunity is not all or none. but 30% is so far away from herd immunity that it is, essentially, none

    With 30% infected, thus means that70% of your do-called super spreaders are still out there, waiting to get infected and super spread

    In addition
    Please explain why we see massive amounts of cases in every locale that loosened restrictions

    Your argument makes zero sense

  26. @JRMW – 30% plus cross-immunity with super spreaders getting the virus first is enough for the virus to slow. You’ve got perhaps half the population of NYC that can still get it, not 70%. Fewer super spreaders and fewer super spreading events.

    We see huge spikes in cases where the virus hadn’t hit yet. It’s not correct to say they opened ‘too early’ as many do, whenever they opened the virus would spread as long as it remained circulating in the country and with most residents not having had it yet.

    People went out and exposed themselves more than opening up guidelines permitted, just as people locked themselves down earlier than official rules required. The lockdown orders probably accelerated the behavior that was already happening and the opening up guidance accelerated private behavior beyond what the rules stated.

    Other than New York’s disastrous policy to send COVID patients back into nursing homes, and to require nursing homes to take those paitents (without even permitting testing), and Cuomo’s counterproductive pissing match with DeBlasio, policy had only a limited role to play in New York – and elsewhere.

    The major policy drivers – and failures – were in the CDC and FDA’s limitations and bungles of testing, lying to the public initially about the ineffectiveness of masks, and bungling the China travel ban (and not imposing one earlier on Europe, but if it too would have been bungled that was largely irrelevant).

  27. “New York’s transmission rate is down because of how many New Yorkers have already had the virus. ”

    There is no scientific / data-driven evidence for this yet.

  28. To support @gary point NY def has immunity, ppl here in NY have been mostly ignoring guidelines for more then a month simply because no one is getting the virus anymore.
    I believe the biggest blame lies on the trump admin for not having a comprehensive policy in the beginning of March (they still don’t) leaving it up to the states just means avoiding the eventual deaths etc.

  29. What DAVID said.
    Mr. Leff, back up your observations with facts and supporting statements from professionals. Maybe call a few. It will enhance your credibility in an area where you are not an expert.
    Otherwise, your post comes off as no more than the unsubstantiated rants in these comments.

  30. @Leeman – there are many studies backing up discussions of t-cell based cross-immunity eg

    That the spread of the virus slows down based on super spreaders getting the virus, rather than the population needing to reach herd immunity themselves

    Everything I’m suggesting is consistent with many studies, experts, and fits the facts as they’re developing.

  31. There are fewer cases now because residents embraced the social distancing and lockdown promoted by the governor and the mayor. It likely has little to do with “herd immunity”
    More’s the pity the strategy wasn’t adopted by some of the clowns in other states: they could have learned from the lessons of NY but decided to go off half-cocked on a path set by ideological lunacy ( not too dissimilar from the arguments about constitutional rights and freedoms pushed by the usual suspects in these comments).

  32. @Paolo – New York got the virus early relative to many states, most states DID lock down (and citizens locked themselves down before states did), those states simply hadn’t seen the surge that New York and New Jersey had.

    We know more about the virus now than we did then, and that’s the best excuse for New York’s poor performance (NY/NJ/MA have over 40% of the nation’s COVID deaths). We know that respiratory droplets and aerosolized virus seem to matter more than surfaces, that kids can get the virus but may not spread it as easily, that masks really do help, and that there’s a wide variety in spread between infected people – some don’t spread it at all while 10% – 20% of cases are responsible for over 80% of spread.

    That suggests the keys to limiting spread are limiting the size of events, limiting prolonged indoor contact, and wearing masks. We don’t need total shutdowns to control the virus, the marginal benefit of complete shutdown is low and there are real costs to mental health, physical health and well-being for that approach too.

    I think we probably need to do more than we’re doing in Texas, however.

  33. Gary,

    Long time reader- I’ve even sent you ideas for posts you have done. And used your links, and recommended your blog to numerous other readers.

    But you lost me here. Lots of what you wrote isn’t factual- it’s some gobbledygook amalgamation of theories, half truths and speculation. What Meropenem and JRMW say are right- at least one of them is an infectious disease doctor. All you are is a blogger, putting false words in their mouths- I saw neither of them claiming that NY “did a great job” prior to your claim they said that.

    Goodbye, Gary- I’ve unsubscribed to your feed, deleted ViewFromTheWing off my toolbar, I’m never reading your blog again. You were a very good blogger in your time, but now, you feel like you’ve crossed over to the dark side.

  34. @George – I’m truly sorry to learn that your disagreement with what I’ve written leads you to stop reading, you’ve been a valuable commenter whether for or against me in the past. Not to mention we both attended UCLA (maybe that’s why your comment saddens me most!). I absolutely love disagreement and engagement and learn from it, but I respect that not everyone does and that everyone makes the decisions of what to read for themselves. So you certainly have my best!

  35. “. High school kids buy and sell drugs on school grounds for crying out loud.”

    Can you tell me what high school? Asking for a friend.

  36. @Gary:
    We agree on one thing
    NY has fewer super spreader events. BECAUSE OF QUARANTINE!

    30% infectivity is not enough to slow the spread of infectious disease

    I don’t think you understand super spreaders
    In part because NOBODY does with regards to Covid

    But if they exist, there is no indication that they get Covid first
    They simply spread to more people

    And thus, NY still likely has 70% of their super spreaders

    But those super spreaders cannot super spread because NY, unlike TX and AZ, does not allow bar hopping and huge political rallies and other events that encourage… uh… super spreading!

    I disagree with much of our government response to Covid. I disagree with almost everything that our current administration says

    But there is zero question that social distancing, masks, and lockdowns reduce the spread of Covid

    The question is whether or not we as a nation can afford to quarantine, if we have the political will to quarantine (we don’t), and what the correct balance is between freedom, the economy, Infection control measures, protecting our elderly, and protecting the future of our young

    All that said: your medical commentary is just plain wrong. Full stop
    I’ll continue to read you because you’re smart and interesting

    But in the area of Covid and health you are unfortunately dangerously ignorant

    I cannot in good conscience let your dangerous ideas stand, given my background and personal morality

    My best to you despite our disagreement

  37. @JRMW how do you explain the resurgence of cases in Los Angeles? Do you really think that New York’s quarantine was better-executed than theirs? what about Japan?

    The idea that spread doesn’t start to slow at 30% infection is certainly not universally held, see for instance your model that super spreaders don’t get the virus first simply is inconsistent with human behavior, if super spreaders aren’t physically different just behaviroally different they’re in contact with a lot more people, and in close contact with more people, of course the virus is likely to infect that population earlier.

    “there is zero question that social distancing, masks, and lockdowns reduce the spread of Covid” we have no disagreement here!

    Texas made a huge error, I believe, in re-opening bars – not because Texas’ rules here were problematic, but because rules weren’t followed. Bars were supposed to be physically-distanced at 50% capacity with table service only, i.e. no difference inside really than restaurants. I still don’t like the prolonged time indoors but bars ‘following the rules’ weren’t the issue it’s that so many didn’t. Bars were closed again a couple of weeks ago.

    As for ‘new york doesn’t allow huge political rallies but texas does’ i genuinely have no idea what you’re talking about, are you referring to trump’s poorly-attended rally in oklahoma? or black lives matter protests which were big here, in new york, dc, and elsewhere – and where though we’ve seen a handful of reports of the level of infection of protestors after the events we still don’t really know to what extent these outdoor events were or were not major spreaders of the virus?

    My point has simply been – and I think you agree – that there’s so much we do not know for certain about the virus. Cuomo’s riumphalism which has been broadly parrotted, as though somehow New York HANDLED THE VIRUS WELL, makes no sense.

    Try this another way – if you’re right that New York’s reduction in spread is due to policy, rather than a smaller % of population being vulnerable to the virus, then the city is just back where it was in February with fewer people currently infected – and coming out of lockdown will mean a return to growth in the virus. So it’s a testable hypothesis.

  38. And a popular summary of what we know about herd immunity, good reason to think it happens somewhere between 20% – 60% of the population and probably different levels in different places

    “if roughly one out of every five people in a given population is immune to the virus, that seems to be enough to slow its spread to a level where each infectious person is infecting an average of less than one other person.”

    “Essentially, at present, New York City—where I live—might be said to be at a version of herd immunity, or at least safe equilibrium.”

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