Seyfarth Synopsis:The list of states subject to quarantine requirements for individuals traveling into the New York area has increased to nineteen from the original eight. And a new set of FAQs helps illuminate some of the travel restrictions, although ambiguities remain for “essential” workers.
As previously reported, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have imposed requirements that call for a 14-day quarantine for individuals who travel into their states from states with significant recent spikes in positive COVID-19 tests.
The list of affected states has now increased to nineteen. As of this writing, the states are:
The respective Departments of Health in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will continue to monitor national testing results and will issue revised lists as appropriate. The new list reflects the second increase from the original eight, when the restrictions were first imposed in late June.
Just before the Independence Day weekend, New York’s health department issued FAQs concerning the travel restrictions. While most are consistent with the initial understanding of the quarantine rules, they contain a few points worth highlighting:
Requirements for “essentialworkers” remain ambiguous
The initial quarantine order and DOH guidance were ambiguous about whether New York-based “essential workers” would be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return from an affected state. While the documents contain special rules for such workers that the State said were “based on the duration of time in designated states, as well as the intended duration of time in New York,” the text of those exceptions suggested that they would apply only to workers based outside New York who travel into the State to perform essential work.
The new FAQs do not illuminate the apparent ambiguity on this subject. On the one hand, they state that “there are specific protocols for essential workers … to allow such workers to work upon their return to New York” (emphasis added), suggesting that the special rules apply to New York-based essential workers who leave and then return. On the other hand, the specific modifications of the 14-day quarantine requirement appear to apply only to workers who plan to spend a relatively brief time in New York, not return permanently.
In any event, the FAQs do make clear that “all essential workers” (emphasis in original)–like all workers generally–must abide by quarantine restrictions if they have “a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19” or “close or proximate contact with a person with COVID-19.”
No paid sick leave for voluntary travelers
The text of the initial directive setting forth the quarantine requirement left open the possibility that New York employees who voluntarily travel to a listed state and then observe a 14-day quarantine upon their return could receive paid sick leave for the quarantine period under New York’s COVID-related leave law. Governor Cuomo quickly issued an Executive Order stating that paid leave is not required under those circumstances.
The FAQs reiterate the limitation in the latter Executive Order. They state:
If I am not an essential worker, can I travel to one of the designated states for vacation or to see family?
Yes. However, upon your return you will be required to quarantine when you enter New York for 14 days from the last day you were in a designated state(s). In addition, pursuant to Executive Order 202.45, any New York State resident who voluntarily travels to a designated state for travel that was not taken as part of the person’s employment or at the direction of the person’s employer, will not be eligible benefits under New York’s COVID-19 paid sick leave law.
A negative COVID test does not end the quarantine
Travelers who receive a negative diagnosis on a COVID test after their return must still abide by the full 14-day quarantine period. The FAQs state:
If I have a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test, does that mean I can come out of quarantine?
No. Symptoms of COVID-19 can appear as late as 14 days after exposure. Therefore, a negative test cannot guarantee that you will not become sick. The full 14 days of quarantine are required.
Enforcement prospects in New York are serious
New York took a stronger enforcement approach than New Jersey or Connecticut when the travel restrictions were first announced. The FAQs reiterate that the Empire State wants travelers to take these restrictions seriously:
How will my quarantine be enforced?
The NYS Department of Health expects all travelers to comply and protect public health by adhering to the quarantine. However, the NYS Department of Health and the local health departments reserve the right to issue a mandatory quarantine order, if needed. Pursuant to Executive Order 205, anyone who 7 violates a quarantine order may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 or imprisonment up to 15 days per PHL 229.
In contrast, the Connecticut health department continues to state that “[i]t will be up to individuals to abide by the advisory,” and the New Jersey health department states that “[t]he self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected.”
Employers should reach out to the authors of this Legal Update or their Seyfarth contact to discuss implementation of this advisory in the workplace. To stay up-to-date on COVID-19 developments, click here to sign up for our daily digest. To stay up-to-date on Paid Sick Leave developments, click here to sign up for Seyfarth’s Paid Sick Leave mailing list. Companies interested in Seyfarth’s paid sick leave laws survey should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.