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Going home for Thanksgiving? Here's what you need to know about traveling from New York

Flying in and out of New York is very different in 2020.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

Seeing the threat of an increase in COVID-19 infections on the horizon, Governor Andrew Cuomo has enacted a litany of travel restrictions in hopes of keeping cases down, especially now that Thanksgiving is here.

Last month, he signed a new executive order allowing travelers to "test out" of the mandatory 14-day quarantine by providing a negative COVID-19 test before and after they arrive, among other rules. But, this week, Cuomo reminded people that this is "not a normal Thanksgiving." He said on Tuesday that he expects a 20 percent increase in the infection rate across New York.

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"I don’t believe it’s about government enforcement we have 98 percent mass compliance not because the government doesn’t just because people decided to do it," he said. "More people on planes, more people on the road, more people shopping, more people going to peoples homes. Let’s say that increases the virus 20 percent above the current rate of increase, just a projection, that’s where we wind up. people are more reckless, could the 20 percent be higher? Yes."

So, to help New Yorkers figure out how to safely travel this Thanksgiving, we've answered some important questions about New York's restrictions.

Do I need to quarantine when I get back to New York?

Yes, if you are traveling from a non-contiguous state (or from a CDC Level 2 or 3 Travel Health Notice country), even if you are driving in, for 14 days. You'll also have to fill out a traveler health form upon entry into New York (if you don't you could be slapped with a $2,000 fine). The New York City Sheriff’s Office said they will be stopping vehicles at random at the tunnels and will ask drivers where they are coming from, if they’ve traveled in the last 14 days, and if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. Cuomo said that anyone caught ignoring stay-at-home orders will face a maximum fine of $10,000.

How do I quarantine?

You must stay apart from others (meaning you cannot go out except to get food, medication and do other essential tasks) and have your own separate quarters with a separate bathroom. New York can help you find a hotel room free of charge to quarantine in for up to 14 days if your home does not have space for you to stay six feet away from others, you share rooms or a bathroom or you live with someone who is vulnerable. More on how to quarantine can be found here.

How can I test out of having to quarantine?

Travelers who were in another state for more than 24 hours must obtain a test within three days of departure from that state. Upon arrival in New York, travelers must quarantine for three days and then take a COVID test on day four. If both tests are negative, they can exit quarantine.

Travelers who were in another state for less than 24 hours do not need a test before their departure from the other state and do not need to quarantine upon arrival in New York, but they must fill out the traveler information form upon entry and take a COVID diagnostic test four days after their arrival in New York.

NYC's health department and contact tracers will find and validate tests, and if a test comes back positive, it will issue isolation orders.

If you leave New York State for less than 24 hours, you do not need to obtain a diagnostic test before departing and do not need to quarantine upon return. You will have to fill out a traveler form upon entry and must obtain a diagnostic test on the fourth day after arrival in New York.

How do I send in my COVID test results?

The health department and contact tracers will get your results from the municipality you were tested in and will contact you if the result is actually positive. It is advisable to carry proof of your negative result with you as you travel.

If I'm traveling in from the Tri-state area do I need to provide a negative test result or quarantine?

If you're coming in from New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, or Massachusetts, you are not subject to the New York State travel guidance.

Do I need to prove a negative test if I'm driving into New York?

If you are from a non-contiguous state and you want to opt out of quarantining, then yes.

What's the safest way to travel for Thanksgiving?

If you must travel, make sure to get tested before and after you arrive at your destination and before and after you arrive back in New York. If you don't or have a positive test result, you must make sure to quarantine for 14 days when you arrive back in New York. Flying poses more risks than driving. However, not traveling at all is the best option for staying safe and protecting family and friends this Thanksgiving, Cuomo says.

"This year, if you love someone, it is smarter and better to stay away," he advised last week. "As hard as that is to say and hear because if I had to predict, you're going to see a significant spike post-Thanksgiving."

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