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November 11, 2020

NYS Issues New Guidelines Allowing Out-of-State Travelers to "Test Out" of Mandatory 14-Day Quarantine

Effective November 4, 2020, New York has new guidelines allowing travelers entering the state to “test out” of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. These guidelines update the state’s October 8, 2020, travel advisory guidance and apply to New Yorkers returning from out-of-state travel as well as individuals traveling to New York from other states. 

Specifically, to bypass the 14-day quarantine period, travelers who were in another, non-contiguous state (or country with a CDC Level 2 or 3 travel health notice) for more than 24 hours must:

  • Obtain a COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to arrival in New York
  • Quarantine upon arrival to New York in accordance with Department of Health guidelines for a minimum of three days, measured from the time of arrival
  • Obtain another COVID-19 test on day four of the quarantine

If both tests come back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test. Local health departments will validate tests, if necessary, and if a test comes back positive, will issue isolation orders and initiate contact tracing. Foreign states will be notified of all positive tests regarding their residents who test positive in New York to ensure appropriate contact tracing.

Essential workers and travelers from states contiguous with New York (i.e., Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont) are exempt from New York’s travel restrictions. Travelers who were in another, non-contiguous state for less than 24 hours do not need a COVID-19 test prior to their departure from the other state and do not need to quarantine upon arrival in New York. However, these travelers must fill out the state’s traveler health form upon entry and must obtain a diagnostic test on the fourth day after arrival in New York.

Although essential workers remain exempt from these restrictions, New York has updated its guidelines for “long-term” essential workers (i.e., first responders and essential workers traveling to New York for a period of greater than 36 hours, requiring them to stay several days). Those essential workers must now seek diagnostic testing for COVID-19 on day four after arriving. This is a change from the previous guidance, which indicated essential workers 1) should seek testing as soon as possible (within 24 hours) to ensure they are not positive, 2) should monitor temperature and symptoms, wear a face covering when in public, maintain social distancing, and clean and disinfect workspaces for a minimum of 14 days, and 3) to the extent possible, are required to avoid extended periods in public, contact with strangers, and large congregate settings for a period of at least 14 days. Notably, these previous requirements are not included in the new guidelines.

The new guidelines indicate the travel advisory exemption for essential workers does not apply to teachers, school employees, and child care workers despite the fact that these workers are, in fact, essential. Instead, teachers, school employees, and child care workers must quarantine for a minimum of three days after returning to New York from a designated state or country due to the nature of education and child care services and the risk and difficulty of adherence to the guidelines that govern such exemptions, and they must be tested on day four after arriving in New York.

Also, it should be noted that New York’s COVID-19 travel advisory web page, available here, does not reflect the above revisions relating to essential workers, but we anticipate the web page will be updated shortly.  

In terms of enforcement, the new guidelines confirm the NYS Department of Health expects all travelers to comply and adhere to the quarantine rules. In addition, state and local health departments reserve the right to issue mandatory orders of quarantine, if needed. And, pursuant to Executive Orders 205.1 and 205.2, any individual in violation of a quarantine order may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 or imprisonment up to 15 days pursuant to Section 229 of the Public Health Law.

In addition, as a reminder, it is important for employers to keep in mind NYS Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 202.45, which, among other things, modified the New York COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Act to clarify that employees who voluntarily travel to high-risk areas “shall not be eligible for paid sick leave benefits or any other paid benefits,” provided the travel was not taken as part of the employee’s employment or at the direction of the employer. Nonetheless, under these circumstances, employees would still be eligible to use accrued leave provided by the employer. To the extent that employees do not have enough accrued leave, unpaid leave must be provide for the duration of the quarantine imposed by Executive Order No. 205.

We recommend employers immediately update any existing travel restriction policies accordingly, and note that, pursuant to the New York COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Act, in order for any employer to deny such paid sick leave benefits to employees based on voluntarily travel, the employees must be “provided notice of the travel health notice and the limitations . . . prior to such travel.”

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Chris Harrigan, partner, at charrigan@barclaydamon.com, or another member of Barclay Damon’s Labor & Employment Practice Area.

We also have a specific team of Barclay Damon attorneys who are actively working on assessing regulatory, legislative, and other governmental updates related to COVID-19 and who are prepared to assist clients. Please contact Yvonne Hennessey, COVID-19 Response Team leader, at yhennessey@barclaydamon.com or any member of the COVID-19 Response Team at COVID-19ResponseTeam@barclaydamon.com.

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