Checkpoints aim to keep COVID-19 cases low in NY

Cyril Josh Barker | 8/13/2020, midnight
Recently beefed-up travel restrictions and checkpoints across the city are designed to keep COVID-19 cases low in the Big Apple ...
George Washington Bridge Image by 1778011 from Pixabay

New Yorkers are always looking to get away for much anticipated summer vacations to destinations across the country. However, recently beefed-up travel restrictions and checkpoints across the city designed to keep COVID-19 cases low in the Big Apple are putting a damper on travel for everyone.

It’s no surprise that Americans are itching to travel in the midst of months of stay home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One popular travel website reports that over 80% of adults are taking quick, local trips as opposed to longer vacations. Half are going by car, over 40% are heading to less crowded places, and 30% are going up to 250 miles away from where they live.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo added Hawaii, South Dakota and the Virgin Islands to the growing list of states on the travel advisory, which now includes 33 states. Alaska, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington were taken off of the list. People who have traveled to New York from the states on the advisory list must quarantine for 14 days.

New York is seeing a less than 1% rate in positive COVID-19 tests with daily deaths from the virus in the single digits on most days. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio want the downward trend to continue and that means keeping tabs on those who enter the city and state coming from states with high infection rates.

Cuomo said the two things threatening the success of the low rates of COVID-19 spread in New York are lack of compliance and the virus coming into the state from places with high infection rates.

“New York went from one of the worst situations in the country, to an example for the rest of the nation to follow,” Cuomo said. “Our numbers continue to remain low and steady, which shows this virus will respond to an approach based on science, not politics. In order to protect this progress, we must keep up our efforts—we cannot go back to the hell we experienced a few months ago.”

Enforcement teams have been stationed at airports throughout the state since last month requiring travelers flying in from states with high infection rates to complete a Department of Health (DOH) travel form. Those who don’t fill it out are subject to a $2,000 fine.

Mayor Bill de Blasio raised the stakes last week by implementing COVID-19 traveler registration checkpoints at key entry points into the city. Incoming travelers by car, bus and train are required to fill out the DOH travel form being distributed by the New York City Sheriff Department and ordered to quarantine for 14 days. Checkpoints are located at Penn Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal and six bridges. Vehicles are being stopped at random at bridge checkpoints. Reports indicate that over 350 cars had been stopped in the first two days the checkpoints were put in place.

Violating the quarantine comes with a major penalty. Those who are stopped at checkpoints who don’t quarantine are subject to a $10,000 fine.

“New York City is holding the line against COVID-19, and New Yorkers have shown tremendous discipline,” said de Blasio. “We’re not going to let our hard work slip away and will continue to do everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy.”

The checkpoints have come under criticism over issues of privacy and driving away tourism and revenue to the city.

In a statement, New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said law enforcement should not be involved in taking information at vehicle checkpoints.

“We know that law enforcement should not have any role in contact tracing—it is ineffective and raises serious questions on inequitable enforcement and what information will be mandated,” she said.