New York Adds Double Testing & Quarantine Requirement For Travelers

Filed Under: Travel

Update: New York is eliminating its domestic travel quarantine requirement as of April 1, 2021.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the most stringent testing requirement of any US state, which will kick in shortly.

New York’s previous 14-day quarantine policy

First for some context, in June New York rolled out a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those arriving from select states. The idea was that those arriving from states with higher infection rates would need to quarantine, and there was no option to “test out” of quarantine.

The states on this list were constantly changing, which has made travel to New York very difficult… which was probably the goal.

New York’s new coronavirus testing & quarantine policy

New York is introducing a new coronavirus testing policy for travelers. Going forward a 14-day quarantine will be required for anyone arriving from out of state, and there will be an option to “test out” of the quarantine:

  • This policy will take effect on Wednesday, November 4, 2020
  • Travel from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, won’t be subjected to this rule
  • This doesn’t apply to those simply connecting at an airport in New York
  • Essential workers will be exempt from this policy
  • This applies whether you’re a visitor to New York, or a New Yorker returning home

For those who were out of state for more than 24 hours:

  • A COVID-19 test is required in the three days prior to your travel to New York
  • Upon arrival in New York, travelers must quarantine for at least three days
  • On the fourth day of the quarantine, the traveler must get a second COVID-19 test
  • Once the second result comes back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine

For those who were out of state for less than 24 hours:

  • No COVID-19 test is required prior to your travel to New York
  • No quarantine is required
  • However, a COVID-19 test needs to be taken four days after arrival in New York

As Governor Cuomo describes these new restrictions:

“The ship of State is sailing well: New York is the third lowest positivity rate in the nation and New Yorkers should be very proud of what they’re doing. However, travel has become an issue – the rest of the states pose a threat. We’re going to a new plan given the changing facts, and the experts suggest we shift to a testing policy. So there will be no quarantine list; there will be one rule that applies across the country. We bent the curve of this virus by following the data and the science, and we are continuing that approach with these new guidelines.”

My take on New York’s travel restrictions

I have a few thoughts here:

  • First of all, by all accounts New York has done an incredible job managing the pandemic in recent months, so overall the government’s plan is working
  • It’s nice that at last there’s an option to skip a full 14-day quarantine with testing, and double testing four to seven days apart seems like it should be pretty comprehensive in catching most potential infections
  • New York’s goal has clearly been to discourage travel as much as possible, and this policy continues to reinforce that

That being said, here’s the part I don’t get — the 14-day quarantine has more or less been unenforced, and the government will be taking the same approach to enforcement with the new policy.

If I had a dollar for every person I’ve seen blatantly skip New York’s 14-day quarantine on social media, I’d have, well… a lot of dollars. And those are just the people who are public about skipping the quarantine, and doesn’t account for (presumably) an even larger number of people who are doing so quietly.

I can’t help but wonder how many people will actually comply with the new rules. What percent of people are going to get tested twice, and quarantine for at least four days (and in most cases much longer than that, since you have to wait for the results to come back)?

I’d guess a majority of the success with New York’s current travel restrictions comes in the form of causing people to think twice about traveling, rather than actually stopping the spread for those who have traveled.

Bottom line

New York will be adding a quarantine requirement for travelers from all non-neighboring states. With this, travelers will need to get tested before traveling to New York, quarantine for at least three days, and then get tested again. Alternatively, travelers can undergo a 14-day quarantine.

New York has done a great job managing coronavirus, though the state’s approach to travel in particular has confused me a bit, as these restrictions have been ignored on a pretty widespread basis.

Do you think New York has the right approach to travel restrictions? Am I the only one who has noticed a countless number of people obviously skipping the New York quarantine requirement?

  1. You’re right about the number of people ignoring the rule but it also is I think doing the job of discouraging travel.

    I have had countless friends and colleagues who have said they’ve put off trips due to having to quarantine upon return. There are actually people who follow the rules!

  2. We went to St. Lucia last month and weren’t subject to quarantine because it’s on the exempt list for international travel. We’re also essential workers so it wouldn’t have mattered, but we specifically were looking for very safe places to travel, as working through this has created terrible burn out. We were required to test before we left.

    That being said, we were stopped at the airport in Buffalo when we returned to verify we filled out the state form. I tend to agree with the restrictions, as we were prepared to quarantine except for work, and I know I’d feel better if I had to get tested coming from a hotspot.

  3. Nothing more than NY’s attempt to pump up the manufactured stat of percent positivity of COVID. Infections per 100,000 people with percent positivity as a secondary metric to keep the numbers honest would actually protect public health. NY already leads to world in wealthy people with no/few risk factors getting tests. This should pad their lead. Greatest city in the world, or something. Fly to EWR and take a cab. Zero enforcement.

  4. This is amazing. I am so proud to be a New Yorker and have one of the few governors who takes COVID seriously.

    No one should be visiting NY unless you are tested. Period full stop.

    Everyone in NY is very very strict about wearing masks and stoping the spread and this is the right move by the governor. Well done Cuomo and Melissa!!

  5. What I don’t get is the part of requiring a negative test before flying to New York. Cuomo said that you could take the test a day before flying – results take a few days to come back. In all honest the rule won’t be enforced. As someone who may be traveling from NYC to other locations over the next couple of months, I will test upon return and go about my business.

  6. I first have to say that I love NY, it is probably the place I have returned to more than any other destination over the last 20 or so years but my reasons for loving it are all gone, hopefully only temporarily, theater, dining, entertainment, shopping. Until it returns to some semblance of Normal, I have no intention of visiting so they can impose as many restrictions as they want as far as I am concerned. The restrictions and foolishness in NY also create the unintended consequence of raising my property values in Florida.

  7. I interpreted it as one could either quarantine for 14 days OR take 2 covid-19 PCR tests (before the trip and after 3 days of arrival.)

  8. Erik – I see a lot of people say that. But frankly where else in the country (or world) are theater and entertainment open? Shopping and dining are open in NYC (in admittedly modified form), as are museums.

  9. As someone who lives in NY, I think this is a positive development, and a reasonable set of requirements. Having to quarantine for 14 days after traveling is very hard on people who need to leave the state for whatever reason. And it’s not necessary if good, rapid tests are widely available. Now that we have these, it makes sense to switch to a test-based policy.

    I suspect that this policy will not discourage travel as effectively as the 14 day quarantine rules. But maybe that’s the point: we need to slowly get back to some semblance of normal while still keeping virus spread as low as possible, and the way to do that is to ease up on behavioral restrictions (e.g., on travel) by taking advantage of testing.

  10. @Anthony – RE “where else in the country (or world) are theater and entertainment open” – Where in the world – In South Korea. Live theater (including a couple of B’way musicals currently), ballet, classical music concerts. Open and taking place.

  11. Leo – fair enough – but where else in the US or Europe (where the virus is spreading much more). New York is a relative ghost town right now, I agree, but I don’t see theater, live music or other entertainment open really in any other city in the US. It’s not a New York issue alone

  12. Not sure of the current situation but I was traveling through Memphis in early July and multiple music venues were open on Beale street with distancing and masks, etc.

  13. I’m confused as to who is going to pay for these COVID tests. In my case, I had COVID already and my insurance paid for my positive and subsequent negative test – but I saw the claims and the bills were in the thousands. If I were to get another test with no symptoms and as someone who already had COVID I don’t want to be stuck with the bill. And I do have to return to NYC.
    Also, will this be enforced at EWR?

  14. New York is toast. Really feel for the residents but can’t help feeling that with the current governor and mayor they are getting what they paid for.

  15. Said with full understanding that much of our economy relies on tourist dollars and a tremendous number of my friends are temporarily/permanently out of work, NYC is not a ghost town for us residents. I have personally had more joyful experiences in the city than I have in a long time. We have more outdoor social energy than LA, green spaces were full from mid summer through fall, a new breed of mobile street performer performers are out and about entertaining diners, and locals are going to museums more than I can recall. This is a city where, on a 36 degree day, outdoor dining is packed because people won’t let anything stop them from getting brunch.

    We have a long way to go, and I recognize that my good experiences are from a position of privilege, but I can absolutely attest to the fact that rumors of our demise are quite misleading.

  16. Proud? Cuomo has blood on his hands by ruthlessly killing senior citizens by sending COVID patients to nursing homes. There is nothing to be proud about New York’s response.

  17. More than anything else, this is a deterrent for anyone who is contemplating a visit. They’ve basically reduced the traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade and Times Square New Year’s celebration this year to virtual events so I’m sure the usual seasonal tourists will not show up.

    Hard to imagine how they enforce this with NY residents.

  18. @Sanjay FR, “Proud? Cuomo has blood on his hands by ruthlessly killing senior citizens by sending COVID patients to nursing homes. There is nothing to be proud about New York’s response.”


    The total COVID-19 per capita death rate in NY state is second only to NJ, and far above the #3 state (MA).

    The memories of the Cuomo cheerleaders is very short.

  19. That being said, here’s the part I don’t get — the 14-day quarantine has more or less been unenforced, and the government will be taking the same approach to enforcement with the new policy.

    Actually, for the past 4-5 weeks or so, the test & trace corps have been actively calling all out-of-state arrivals to verify your place of stay / residence, and adherence to quarantine. Within the last two weeks or so, they’ve been reaching out via text as well. Now, say what you will about whether you might be able to get away with lying, but I’d consider that a minimal, baseline level of enforcement.

  20. @ Anthony:
    In Hong Kong we have movie theaters and live music opened. I guess you probably trying to say that most of the cities in the world don’t have it opened.

  21. Ali – yes, Asia, which has controlled the virus better than anywhere in the US, can open a lot more. I just get annoyed with all the people that say “New York is a ghost town, the theaters are closed!” Of course, theaters for live plays are closed nationwide…

  22. “New York has done a great job managing coronavirus, though the state’s approach to travel in particular has confused me a bit, as these restrictions have been ignored on a pretty widespread basis.”

    NY state and Cuomo have only done a great job if you ignore the deaths.

  23. I live in DC which is not subject to the (now replaced) 14-day quarantine and traveled to New York last week. I can attest that enforcement, at least for visitors, does exist. The hotel I am staying at required a screenshot of the NYS traveler form showing exemption from the quarantine in order to check in, and a day after I arriving I got a call from NYS regarding compliance with the quarantine. When I explained that I was exempt as a DC resident, my name was taken off the call-back/follow-up list, but otherwise the message was that I would receive further calls from NYS.

    Could this all be abused/circumvented? Undoubtedly. But the effort at enforcement is real.

    Also, NYC is far from a ghost town. The impact on tourist-dependent industries is devastating, and represents severe economic pain for those affected. But at the same time, I feel like New York has been returned to New Yorkers. Sitting in the parks eating a takeout meal is a real pleasure, as is walking down the street without playing human dodgeball, and everyone I have dealt with in a commercial context has actually had the time to engage in conversation.

    This doesn’t make up for lost jobs, but it is wonderful to experience.

  24. Yet again, a poorly thought out and bungled announcement. Nothing about how this will be enforced (or is that on purpose because this is supposed to be another honor system?). Are the airlines responsible for checking to see that people have a certified test before they get on a plane (doubt the airlines want that responsibility)? Has this announcement been passed along to every other state in the country? Who is responsible for informing the passenger from Seattle? And this was just rolled out on a Saturday, 4 days before it’s to go into effect, and no other guidelines to go along with it? Seems like poor planning.

  25. What if you are arriving in NYC and immediately leaving the state (for NJ or PA, e.g.). Are you exempt from the NYS rules? There’s no mention of that.

  26. While I think this has better optics than the previous solution, without actual enforcement (which wasn’t so much of a thing with the previous policy) this is meaningless.

    Sources of “free” testing don’t turn around tests quickly enough, so people will have to pay for testing to make this doable at all … and a short trip will now cost a few hundred dollars more. That could put people off traveling …

  27. “That being said, here’s the part I don’t get — the 14-day quarantine has more or less been unenforced, and the government will be taking the same approach to enforcement with the new policy.” There actually has been a case of someone being caught breaking the quarantine and they got hit with fines. There has been many cases of people being checked up on to see if they were following the rules. Requirement is designed to discourage non-essential travel. Don’t need tourists in NY right now, especially from states that refuse to do the right thing.

  28. “What if you are arriving in NYC and immediately leaving the state (for NJ or PA, e.g.)” If you are transiting through NYC to those other states, meaning you are not stopping for dinner or going sight seeing or anything then you are not subject to the quarantine rules.

  29. Thanks. @Bill. I’ll be picked up and driven to another state. Obviously, I’ll be subject to the rules of that state.

  30. @ Luke….How is it enforced if I drive in to Syracuse to stay with relatives? How do New York officials know I’m there?? Are there police checkpoints at all roads leading in to New York State? I get if you arrive by air or try to check in to a hotel.

    @ Ksa63….Agree 100%.

  31. NJ will actually redirect you into the NYS health form now as far as you are going to a NY address, and I would suspect this rule carries even you land at EWR. I did so and received daily calls for 14 days flying into EWR. I don’t know how NYS will enforce this (have you heard of anyone landed in JFK or LGA getting fined because they did not fill in the health form?) but they will definitely not leave EWR alone.

  32. Flew in from CO last week – Denver to EWR – plane was packed – fortunately sat in first class – couple in front of me had their masks off for over an hour – they were in row 1 – flight attendant did not say anything to them. Finally I asked her to enforce the rules – and she did – but obviously did not want to.
    Received an e-mail asking me to self quarantine and fill out a questionnaire – did not participate. As far as NY – it is a ghost town – that is why the numbers are going down – everyone has left and now lives in NJ – I see the NY plates all over – live at the Jersey shore – they are coming in and buying every house that is available. Same thing happening in PA.

  33. I traveled to Maldives and Croatia a few weeks ago, I do not mind tests going into a different country (as every country has that right) but a different state is ridiculous. I refuse to participate in this outdated system of “states” rights being an excuse to take away rights. Flying into JFK and will take the 14 day quarantine calls, I do not care. It’s basically what I’m doing anyway besides Thanksgiving.

  34. Midtown Manhattan is very quiet- midtown office towers and tourist hotels emptier than usual. Downtown is fine with people going out and around. New people will move here to take advantage of the now lower rents. Tourism everywhere is and should be low until there’s a vaccine. We in NYC do not want to return to April Covid numbers and are willing to try some things that worked in the other countries that have much lower Covid rates…

  35. @Ali – Thanks for the update on HK entertainment!

    @Anthony – Your point (outside of select places in Asia) is valid. Nowhere in the Western world, for now. (I think there are/were live events under a certain limit in Sweden, but that’s about it.)

    I mentioned S Korea because it is an example of “what could have been!” Today they unveiled their new 5-tier social distancing guidelines for the winter (they are now at level 1, the lowest), interestingly cinemas and live theatre will stay open in tiers 1 through 4, which seems to show how their authorities consider arts and culture to be an important priority.

    Going back to our original topic for now (-:
    … Does anyone know for sure whether same-day intl-to-domestic JFK->LGA (or EWR->JFK, etc) transits, for non-NY residents who can show a non-NY address, are explicitly allowed? Not a word on this on the NY State, PANYNJ, and JFK websites.

  36. @Leo and @Bill – Transit passengers at EWR or JFK headed to another state or country are considered the same as someone driving through New York State on the way to another state. Allowed, and not required to quarantine. You will be subject to the health rules of the place you land. If you search online for “Interim Guidance for Quarantine Restrictions on Travelers Arriving in New York State Following Out of State Travel” you will find:

    “The requirements of the travel advisory do not apply to any individual passing through designated states or nations for a limited duration (i.e., less than 24 hours) through the course of travel. Examples of such brief passage include,but are not limited to,stopping at rest stops for vehicles, buses, and/or trains; or lay-overs for air travel, bus travel, or train travel.”

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