ALBANY — New York is teaming up with Connecticut and New Jersey in imposing a 14-day mandatory quarantine on travelers entering the region from states that have been deemed hot spots for the spread of the coronavirus contagion.
The mandate takes effect at midnight Wednesday.
Cuomo, at a stop in New York City, explained the order does not block people from entering or leaving New York. The state also has no authority over airports, which are regulated by the federal government.
The quarantine order is directed at people traveling from the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Texas and Utah. The directive also applies to people from New York, Connecticut or New Jersey returning home from those states.
One upstate leader, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, criticized Cuomo's move as "hypocritical and audacious," noting New York has recorded more coronavirus infections than any other state, followed by California and New Jersey.,
Further, when the downstate region was the top virus hot spot in the nation, McLaughlin said his request for a quarantine order to limit travel from downstate to the upstate region was rejected by the Cuomo administration.
Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi shot back: "New York's curve is going down — and we want to keep it this way, while 27 other states are going up following the same science-be-damned public health strategy that McLaughlin has agitated for since the beginning."
The governor, clarifying the quarantine order as Major League Baseball prepares to open a limited season without fans in the stands, said the players will not be impacted by the quarantine order.
Cuomo said those who violate the quarantine will face financial penalties. Local governments will be directed to enforce the edict, with fines beginning at $2,000 for first-time violators and up to $10,000 for violators who expose others to harm. Those who disregard the mandate can also be subject to judicial orders, he added.
Noting he was attempting to avoid a scramble in travel moves, Cuomo said, "It's better to implement it quickly so you don't cause a ruckus at the airports."
Meanwhile, officials said the North Country, the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier, Central New York and the Finger Lakes region are on track to begin the state's Phase 4 of business reopening Friday. However, in an abrupt change from earlier plans, malls, gyms and movie theaters will face a delay in reopening while health officials review concerns relating to the spread of the virus.
Western New York is tentatively set to enter Phase 4 next week.
Mall operators have been pressuring the Cuomo administration to allow them to reopen the interior of malls, now closed for more than three months. The state is allowing mall stores to reopen if they have doors that exit to the parking areas and are not connected to main entrances to the plazas.
GOP lawmakers argued the reopening plans are arbitrary and hurt small businesses. Sen. Sue Serino, R-Dutchess County, called the state's priorities "totally backward."
"To allow Hollywood heavyweights to restart production but deny that right to small, mom and pop businesses like movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers, or businesses already operating on slim margins like local shopping malls, defies logic," Serino said.
Senate GOP Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said it was time to terminate Cuomo's "unbridled and unchecked" executive powers ceded to him by lawmakers when the pandemic reached New York in March.
Cuomo's authority to call the shots in managing the public health crisis runs through April 30.
In Troy, McLaughlin urged businesses that are not licensed by the state to reopen even if Cuomo wants them to remain locked down.
"The only thing that will work is standing up and pushing back," McLaughlin said.
The governor said the infection rate has tapered off throughout the state because the public has largely accepted directives to wear face coverings in public and maintain social distance from other people.
"The news is good in New York but that does not mean people can relax," he said.
The quarantine order impacting travel from the nine states was based on the infection rates based on the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, on a seven-day rolling average.
Cuomo argued the infection rate has increased in states where he said businesses reopened too early.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com