Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio put on a show of force for travelers from states on New York’s quarantine list — but despite the threats, only a single person has been busted for breaking the order, officials said.
Mark Anthony Perez, 51 of Miramar, Florida, wasn’t in his room when city sheriff’s deputies showed up twice, on Sept. 18, to the Club Wyndham in Midtown, where he was supposed to be quarantining for two weeks, according to an arrest report.
The next morning, the front desk called him down and the deputies were there to issue him two summons. Perez, who could not be reached for comment, faces a maximum penalty of $1,500 in fines, the sheriff’s department said.
Cuomo enacted the quarantine program in June and tasked local governments with enforcing it. Anyone traveling from states with positive COVID test rates above 10 percent on a seven-day rolling average is required to fill out a contact-tracing form and quarantine for two weeks. Thirty-eight states were listed as of Saturday.
Since its inception, skeptics have wondered if the initiative lacked practicality in favor of politicking.
“I think it’s a signal to those other states that reopened hastily and with lax precautions, and are now suffering from a spike in cases as a result. Some of these states, such as Florida, had imposed similar travel restrictions on New Yorkers, so it’s a kind of poetic justice,” said Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, to City & State.
Months later as cases continued to climb outside New York, de Blasio set up sheriff’s checkpoints at bridges and tunnels and threatened $10,000 fines for quarantine violators.
“We’ve got to make clear to people there are consequences,” de Blasio said in August.
Some saw the checkpoints as wasted resources.
“This is more #covid theatrics by de Blasio & Cuomo,” Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli said at the time.
At local airports and train stations, state workers strike an intimidating presence while handing out forms requiring travelers to disclose their whereabouts and contact information. The city sheriff’s department also distributes the forms at checkpoints.
More than 1 million traveler forms have been filled out, according to the state health department. The sheriff’s department said it has issued three summons for failing to complete the form and has screened 7,163 people at checkpoints.
Once travelers submit their information, the city’s Test and Trace Corps follow-up with phone calls, while the sheriff’s department regularly checks on guests at local hotels. The mayor’s office said more than 1 million phone calls have been made by Test and Trace.
A hotel manager at the Club Wyndham where Perez was busted said officials regularly drop by to distribute information and traveler forms, but the hotel does not track customers’ whereabouts.
“We don’t know if the guests are staying in their rooms,” he said.
A Manhattan resident who took a trip to the Midwest in August said state officials hounded him with phone calls when he returned.
“They called every day and asked if I was quarantining,” he said. “But they never did anything to make sure I was telling the truth.”
When asked if he followed the guidelines, the resident, who asked not to be named, said he’d “rather not say.”
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