By Maria Caspani
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City will put up COVID-19 quarantine checkpoints at key entry points to ensure that incoming travelers from 35 states with outbreaks comply with the state’s 14-day quarantine mandate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.
The measure underscores the determination in what was once the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak to prevent a resurgence of cases emerging elsewhere. While cases are down 5% nationally, they soared last week in Oklahoma, Montana, Missouri and 17 other states.
On average, 1,000 people die a day nationwide from COVID-19 with the death toll now over 157,000 with 4.8 million cases.(Open tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR in an external browser for a Reuters interactive graphic)
“Travelers coming in from those states will be given information about the quarantine and will be reminded that it is required, not optional,” de Blasio told a news briefing. He added that, under certain circumstances, fines for not observing the quarantine order could be as high as $10,000.
The Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, will begin deploying checkpoints at major bridge and tunnel crossings into New York City on Wednesday.
“This is serious stuff and it’s time for everyone to realize that if we’re going to hold at this level of health and safety in this city, and get better, we have to deal with the fact that the quarantine must be applied consistently to anyone who’s traveled,” de Blasio said.
A fifth of all new cases in New York City are from out-of-state travelers, said Dr. Ted Long, who oversees the city’s contact tracing program.
Teams will be deployed at Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday, he said, to ensure travelers stop to complete a travel form.
“We’re going to offer you things like free food delivery, help with medications, direct connections to doctors by the phone, or even a hotel stay,” Long added.
The city, which once had over 800 deaths in a single day, has reported no coronavirus fatalities for the past three days and the mayor said the city’s infection rate had been under 3% for the past eight weeks.
In March, Rhode Island briefly stopped cars with New York license plates, drawing a rebuke from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Beginning in mid-July, Cuomo deployed enforcement teams to the state’s airports to ensure travelers arriving from areas with high caseloads provided contact information or risk a $2,000 fine.
CHICAGO SCHOOLS GO ONLINE
In Illinois, where COVID-19 cases have risen for six weeks in a row, Chicago Public Schools will start the new academic year conducting all classes remotely, school officials said on Wednesday.
Teachers in the district, the country’s third largest with 350,000 students, had resisted a plan by city leaders to launch a hybrid model in which parents could choose to have their children attend in-person instruction in pods of 15 pupils twice a week.
Los Angeles and San Diego schools also will go online only.
President Donald Trump has called for all schools to open for in-person learning, making it a cornerstone of his campaign for re-election in November.
“My view is the schools should open. This thing’s going away,” Trump told Fox News on Wednesday. “It will go away like things go away and my view is that schools should be open.”
Health experts warn the virus is not going away soon and may get worse during the coming flu season.
Five states are mandating in-person learning: Florida, Iowa, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas, according to Education Week magazine. Virginia and North Carolina are mandating all learning be online while elsewh ere governors, mayors and school district officials have proposed a range of ideas for reopening schools in August and September.
Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Howard Goller.