ALBANY — A COVID-19 resurgence in New York is inevitable and bars may close statewide as the virus spikes across the nation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said before expanding the two-week isolation mandate for travelers Tuesday to 10 additional states, or more than half the nation.
It is a mathematical certainty that coronavirus cases will increase in New York as infections and hospitalizations continue to rise in 40 states and Puerto Rico, the governor said during a telephone briefing late Tuesday morning. The state’s COVID-19 transmission rate is 1.02, meaning every infected New Yorker will infect 1.02 other people. The virus stops spreading with transmission rates under 1, or spreads quickly when one person infects more than one other person.
“It’s going to come back to New York — it is inevitable,” Cuomo said. “The virus travels. We’ve learned that lesson. It’s not possibly, it will.”
Out-of-state travelers are the greatest threat to New York’s low coronavirus infections and transmission numbers, Cuomo said, as the European strain of COVID-19 infected the Eastern Seaboard after landing in New York and New Jersey airports in February and March.
The governor expanded his order Tuesday to require visitors from 31 states to self-isolate for two weeks, adding Alaska, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia and Washington to the list.
Delaware returned to the isolation list after its removal last week. Minnesota was removed from the quarantine mandate after its coronavirus numbers declined.
Passengers who land in New York airports from one of the 31 states are required to complete the state Health Department’s traveler form before leaving the airport. Department employees greet travelers at the gate in airports to maximize enforcement. Travelers required to self-isolate may be subjected to random telephone or video calls to ensure quarantine.
The quarantine will help slow the state’s COVID-19 infections, but it is flawed, Cuomo said, because the state cannot enforce quarantining travelers who enter New York by vehicle or train.
“Yes, we have the quarantine in effect, but the quarantine is imperfect,” Cuomo said. “The only way to defeat community spread is everyone operating to help everyone else. Our future is in their hands.”
Cuomo and Govs. Phil Murphy, D-N.J.; and Ned Lamont, D-Conn., imposed a tri-state order at midnight June 25 mandating a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers who arrive in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from states with more than a 10% positive coronavirus test rate, or a positive test rating higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day average. Weekly calculations are completed Monday nights and the list is updated Tuesday morning.
Bars may close statewide as Cuomo and state agencies continue to receive hundreds of complaints of New Yorkers crowding streets, especially downstate and in New York City, to eat and drink. Four downstate bars — three in Queens and one on Long Island — lost their liquor licenses Monday after the State Liquor Authority investigated continuous violations of state COVID-19 orders requiring patrons to socially distance and wear face masks or coverings in public.
The SLA has suspended 27 licenses and charged 410 establishments with citations to date after pandemic violations.
The state permits restaurants to resume outdoor dining under phase 3 of reopening, Cuomo said, but did not approve outdoor bars. Bars remain closed in New Jersey and were closed again this month in California, Texas and Florida.
“We never authorized bars to reopen,” Cuomo said. “We never authorized bar operations. Bars are congregations of people milling about. That is exactly what we’re trying to avoid.”
“I understand bars are under tremendous economic pressure and they took this outdoor dining as an opportunity to do outdoor drinking, but that’s not what the regulations intended and this is now a significant problem,” the governor added. “By the words themselves, ‘outdoor dining’ is not a bar operation. The word is dining. You don’t dine when you go to a restaurant to drink.”
The state’s Restaurant & Tavern Association suggested the state’s recent “three strikes and you’re out” policy for bars and restaurants should be more aggressive. Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association Executive Director Scott Wexler advocated for a “one strike and you’re out” enforcement policy Tuesday.
“New York’s restaurant and tavern industry knows that protecting the state’s success in combating coronavirus is the key to keeping their businesses afloat,” Wexler said in a statement Tuesday. “We support Gov. Cuomo’s calls to enforce physical distancing and face covering protocols. Large gatherings at or near bars need to end. Bad actors need to be shut down immediately if they won’t comply with the rules.”
The governor is disgusted a nationwide mask-wearing order is not in effect, as a recent Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model projects 40,000 more Americans will die from COVID-19 without a national mask mandate.
“I am still repulsed, frankly, by the federal government’s failure to do a mask order,” Cuomo said. “Every health official says it will save lives. Why wouldn’t you do it? It is just, to me, one of the really gross, negligent actions by government.”
Cuomo and top aides in the state’s coronavirus task force had a successful trip and meeting to Savannah, Georgia, on Monday. Health Department workers continue to follow up to establish adequate testing and contact tracing organization
Cuomo repeated his offer for New York to assist states and cities battling the surging coronavirus. More than 30,000 out-of-state health care workers, including nurses and doctors, volunteered to come help in New York during the height of the pandemic this spring.
“Anyone who needs help, we will be there,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers don’t forget, and we will be there for you when you need us.”
Eight more virus patients have entered New York hospitals, bringing the total to 724 hospitalized.
Two New Yorkers died from the virus Monday, down from eight Sunday. The state’s virus-related fatalities have remained flat for several weeks.
“That’s a significant milestone for me, personally, and I think all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “Obviously, that’s two too many, but remember, at one time we had over 800 deaths in a single day April 14. ... New Yorkers, by their actions, have saved lives. At two deaths, they saved lives. There’s no greater accomplishment one can achieve.”
The state reported 855 new COVID-19 cases, or about 1.29% positive, of the 66,169 tests conducted Monday. Each of the state’s 10 regions reported a low, consistent positive COVID-19 testing rate of 1.6% or lower.
To see where each region stands on reopening and the complete county breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.