NYC to have COVID-19 checkpoints at major bridges, tunnels; state GOP leader slams move

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By 1010 WINS

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that New York City will have COVID-19 checkpoints at key entry points to New York City to help enforce the state's mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers.

De Blasio said the new traveler registration checkpoints will be at major bridge and tunnel crossings to remind travelers coming from 34 impacted states and Puerto Rico about the mandatory quarantine.

“Starting today, we’re going to do something new in New York City: We will have checkpoints at key entry points to the city,” the mayor said.

“Travelers from those states will be given information about the quarantine,” de Blasio said. “They’ll be reminded that it’s required, not optional. They’ll be reminded that failure to quarantine is a violation of state law and it comes with serious penalties. In fact, under certain circumstances, the fines can be as high as $10,000. So this is serious stuff.”

The checkpoints will be operated by the New York City Sheriff's Office in coordination with other law enforcement agencies.

George Washington Bridge

NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito said the objective of the checkpoints is to remind visitors and New York residents returning to the city to follow the mandatory quarantine.

“We need to ensure visitors and New Yorkers returning home are taking the necessary precautions to limit the spread of this disease,” Fucito said. “The entire team will strive to ensure the deployment balances the critical public health and welfare needs of the residents of the city with the legal protections entitled to all people.”

Fucito added that “we’re not looking to target out-of-state residents.”

“In fact, what we’re looking to do is educate people who have spent time at COVID-19 hotspots, regardless of their residence when they come into New York,” Fucito said.

He said there will be a "random component" to the checkpoints so that they're effective and fair.

“To avoid discrimination, it is so many vehicles,” Fucito said. “Let’s say, it’s every sixth vehicle or every eighth vehicle. We determine something in the beginning of the day, and we stick to that pattern throughout the day. And that is how the checkpoint would be conducted at different locations.”

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Fucito said sheriff deputies would use their license plate readers to help them count vehicles to stop at random.

“The deputies would conduct a stop, introduce themselves and explain the nature of the stop and go into what’s needed—the information they need to file and the information they need to know about the quarantine when coming into New York,” Fucito said.

He said there would be "a full-fledged checkpoint where it is viable" and "individualized stops when we think it would be more suited to avoid having a traffic condition."

But Rob Ortt, the New York State Senate Republican leader, slammed de Blasio's decision to implement checkpoints.

"It’s deeply concerning that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is using law enforcement resources to set up coronavirus checkpoints at city entry points to enforce Governor Cuomo’s quarantine rules for travelers, with fines as high as $10,000," Ortt said in a statement. "The Mayor should instead focus his energy on assisting the city's struggling small businesses and developing a clear plan to safely reopen the schools."

He added, "Most importantly, in a city where crime is running rampant thanks to bail reform, defunding the NYPD and Democrat pro-criminal attitudes, New York City residents would be best served if law enforcement resources fought violent crimes on the city's streets instead of fining people for driving in cars."

Under the state's quarantine order, travelers who have visited 35 states or territories with high COVID-19 transmission rates are required to complete a state Department of Health traveler form and quarantine for a period of 14 days upon entering New York City. The list is subject to change.

U.S. states and territories impacted by the quarantine order as of Aug. 5 include: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

According to the state, failure to quarantine is a violation of state law and individuals who fail to quarantine are subject to a $10,000 fine. Individuals who refuse to fill out state Department of Health traveler form are subject to a $2,000 fine.

Non-essential workers subject to the state's travel quarantine must:

  • Stay at their residence or in a hotel room, leaving only for essential medical appointments or treatment or to obtain food and other essential goods when the delivery of food or other essential goods to their residence or hotel is not feasible;
  • Not invite or allow guests, other than caregivers, into their quarantined residence or hotel room; and
  • Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and seek appropriate medical advice or testing if COVID-19 symptoms arise.

Essential workers subject to the state's quarantine must:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and self-quarantine and seek medical advice or testing if they show symptoms of COVID-19; and
  • Limit their activities involving contact with other persons for fourteen (14) days to the purposes that exempted them from the self-quarantine requirement to the extent possible.
  • If staying longer than 36 hours in New York state, seek diagnostic testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible upon arrival (within 24 hours).

Dr. Ted Long, head of the Test and Trace Corps, said Wednesday that the city is taking steps to support people who are in the 14-day quarantine.

“We want to give you anything that you need to get through this two week of mandatory quarantine period as easily as possible,” Long said. “That includes things like food delivery; help with figuring out your medications and getting them delivered; a direct connection to a doctor on the phone; or even a hotel stay if that’s what you need to safely separate to keep your family and New Yorkers safe."

Starting Thursday, the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit will also begin outreach at Penn Station to educate travelers about the state's quarantine orders, de Blasio said.