New York State’s travel advisory guidance has zigzagged once again. On March 10, 2021, new interim guidance was released by the Department of Health (DOH) relating to quarantine restrictions for travelers arriving in New York State following out-of-state travel. As we previously reported, the DOH initially issued guidelines on out-of-state travel on June 24, 2020, and was later updated on October 8, 2020, November 3, 2020, and now March 10, 2021. As further discussed below, the updated interim guidance significantly relaxes travel restrictions.
A day later, on March 11, 2021, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York from another state or territory within the United States starting April 1. Accordingly, individuals engaging in domestic travel are advised to follow the updated interim guidance until the travel advisory is lifted April 1.
The interim guidance includes the following existing and new exemptions to mandatory quarantines after travel outside of New York.
Existing and continuing exemptions:
Existing and continuing quarantine reduction rules:
The interim guidance continues to permit domestic travelers to “test out” of quarantine. Specifically, travelers entering New York from a non-border state, who have been outside of New York for more than 24 hours, will have to quarantine with the DOH’s guidance unless they have:
The interim guidance references and incorporates current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Specifically, air passengers traveling to the United States from another country must show either:
This applies to both U.S. residents and visitors from other countries. Notably, documentation of vaccination status or antibody test results will not be accepted as proof of COVID-19 status.
After arrival in the United States, travelers must either quarantine for seven days with a test three to five days after travel, or quarantine for the full 10 days without a test. This requirement applies to all international travelers whether they were tested before boarding, are recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection, or are fully vaccinated.
Despite the expansion of exemptions to mandatory quarantines relating to travel, the interim guidance makes it clear that non-essential travel remains strongly discouraged. Indeed, New York’s longstanding exemption to the eligibility of New York’s COVID-19 paid sick leave law for those that engage in voluntary personal travel continues.
All individuals coming into New York from either a non-border state or U.S. territory, or any other country, whether or not such person is a New York resident, is still required to complete the traveler health form upon entering New York. Travelers may be asked to show proof of vaccination status or proof of recovery from laboratory confirmed COVID-19. Anyone who violates a quarantine order may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000, or imprisonment up to 15 days.
The interim guidance makes it clear that both the DOH and CDC are unsure as to the scope of protection by the COVID-19 vaccines, beyond preventing severe and symptomatic COVID-19. Specifically, it cautions that little is known about how much the vaccines might reduce transmission, how long protections lasts, and the ability of the vaccines to prevent against variants of the disease. Moreover, some individuals who were previously infected with COVID-19 have been infected again at a later time. For all of those reasons, employers should continue to enforce COVID-19 prevention protocols (e.g., masks, social distancing), even for employees who have been vaccinated.
While the expansion of exemptions per the interim guidance is welcomed by many employers, the application of the rules are fact specific and remain complex. We encourage employers to seek legal counsel when attempting to address these complicated employee issues.
For more information or immediate guidance, contact: