April 20, 2024


Get Into Fashion

Feds should require international travelers to test negative for coronavirus

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is calling on U.S. Customs and Border Protection to require international travellers to test negative for the coronavirus before boarding flights to the United States, or allow the state’s Port Authority to take on that role.

The governor’s request comes as a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus is spreading in the United Kingdom and has been discovered in New York. The governor called on airlines to require confirmation of a passenger’s negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding, but Cuomo does not have authority to mandate airlines to take those precautions and thus was only able to convince a select few airlines to confirm a negative test voluntarily.

New York confirmed its first case of the U.K. variant on Monday in a man who worked at a jewelry store in Saratoga Springs, and Cuomo and state health Commissioner Howard Zucker have both acknowledged that the variant could be contributing the rapid rise in cases across the state and elsewhere.

“As governor, I do not have the legal authority to say international travelers must test negative,” Cuomo said Wednesday during a coronavirus task force briefing via Zoom. “We don’t want tens of thousands of people coming into our airports every day from countries around the world who were not tested.”

Infection rates remain high in communities across New York, with a statewide positivity rate of 8.41 percent as of Tuesday, according to data from the governor’s office. Hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and intubations all were up on Tuesday. There also were 161 deaths from the illness.

Cuomo said the state’s strategy will continue to be slowing the spread of the virus, while increasing vaccination rates and stopping the spread of the mutated virus.

Cuomo’s administration has come under fire in recent weeks for its roll out of the vaccine, but on Wednesday the governor placed blame on the lack of supply and criticized the federal government’s approach to vaccinations in nursing homes.

“We are not satisfied with the federal government doing vaccination for nursing homes,” he said, remarking that the state took over the efforts to speed up the process. “We believe we’ll have all nursing home residents vaccinated within the next two weeks — and that is a big deal.”

So far, New York has received roughly 900,000 doses of the vaccine, with about 300,000 coming in each week, Cuomo said. That does not even cover half of the 2.1 million health care workers who are first in line for the shot, he said. Once health care officials are vaccinated, New York will move to the second stage, dubbed “1b,” of the vaccine plan, which will include other essential workers including first responders, teachers, public transit, as well as New Yorkers over the age of 75. There are 1.3 million people over the age of 75 in New York, Cuomo said.

Once New York gets to the stage of vaccinating the general public, which the governor anticipated to be around March or April, that’s when the state will launch its educational efforts to inform the public of the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, Cuomo said.

“We will have thousands of points of distribution,” he said of general public vaccine access. “We need the supply, that’s what it comes down to and that’s what we are working on.”