As we previously reported, on June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring that individuals returning to New York State from so-called restricted states – i.e., states that met certain COVID-19 transmission levels – quarantine for a period of 14 days upon return. As we also reported, effective November 4, New York adopted new protocols and issued an updated travel advisory and Interim Guidance allowing out-of-state travelers to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Just six days later, however – on November 10 – the State updated these protocols yet again. This article will summarize the cumulative changes implemented by the November 4 and 10 updates.
Specifically, the updated protocols permit any traveler to New York from a noncontiguous state, a U.S. territory, or a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) level two or three country, to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine as follows:
- Travelers who were in another state for more than 24 hours must: (i) obtain a COVID-19 test within three days (i.e., 72 hours) of departure from that state, prior to their arrival in New York; (ii) upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days; and (iii) obtain a second COVID-19 test on the fourth day of their quarantine. If both tests come back negative, the individual may end their quarantine upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.
- Travelers who were in another state for less than 24 hours: (i) do not need to obtain a COVID-19 test prior to their departure from the other state; (ii) do not need to quarantine upon arrival in New York; (iii) must still fill out the required traveler form upon arrival into New York; and (iv) must take a COVID-19 test four days after their arrival into New York.
Essential workers and travelers returning from contiguous states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont) are exempt from the above quarantine requirements; however, all covered travelers must continue to fill out a Traveler Form upon their arrival in New York. The essential worker exemption still imposes specific testing and/or preventative measures, depending on the length of the individual’s stay in New York.
The updated travel advisory and Interim Guidance also confirm that local health departments will validate tests if necessary, and if a test comes back positive, will issue isolation orders and initiate contact tracing efforts. In addition, local health departments will also be responsible for contacting the state from which the individual arrived to alert that state to initiate contact tracing. Individuals found violating a quarantine order may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 15 days.
Employers should immediately advise employees of these new guidelines and update their daily screening questionnaires, business safety plans, and COVID-19 protocols accordingly. Employers should also remind employees that voluntary, non-work-related travel to a destination requiring a quarantine upon return will render the employee ineligible for New York’s paid sick leave for individuals quarantined due to COVID-19.