The leaders of New York City have taken another step in the direction of abject authoritarianism by announcing on Wednesday that the city will set up checkpoints to determine visitor's state of origin before allowing them in.
As the number of COVID-19 cases stabilized in New York and fatalities from the disease fell sharply, Cuomo pivoted from mismanaging the epicenter of the crisis to blaming most of the rest of the country for not doing a good enough job. The governor identified 34 states and Puerto Rico as being so poorly managed, in fact, that visitors from those regions would be required to quarantine for two weeks before visiting the Empire State.
Questions about the ability to identify domestic travelers and enforce said quarantines immediately arose, with Cuomo saying he would employ government officials to collect questionnaires from airline passengers traveling from the restricted areas. The governor and his administration threatened multi-thousand dollar fines for violations and forced quarantine for those who refused to comply.
While questions about the ability to enforce a quarantine on air travelers remained, the more obvious issue for New York City officials was how to quarantine visitors entering the city by any means other than air travel. On Wednesday, that question was answered with the announcement that many key entry points into the city would be equipped with a checkpoint.
One of NYC's busiest travel hubs, Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, will have a fully operational checkpoint by Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday. The order for travelers from airplanes extends to those by car, bus, and train, the city said. Failure to comply with the order to fill out a surveillance form could result in a $2,000 fine. Failure to comply with the order to quarantine for two weeks if coming from a "hot spot" could be considered civil disobedience and result in a fine up to $10,000.
It's not a travel ban to NYC per se, one could opt to quarantine for two weeks or risk getting the fine. But it's a ban in every other sense of the word, as most visitors to New York will pass on their trip until the ridiculous quarantine is lifted. It stands to reason that few reasonable leisure or business travelers have the time or resources to sit on their hands for two weeks while they satisfy an unscientific "health" requirement.
But as Cuomo and de Blasio casually tell travelers to the nation's largest city that they're not welcome because they come from another state, depriving them of their own free will, they seem to have totally forgotten their own reaction to the threat of quarantine against people traveling from New York.
In March, as New York was experiencing a surge in cases of COVID-19 and the fatality rate spiked on a daily basis, thanks in large part to Cuomo's deadly nursing home policy, some states considered banning travelers from New York. At one point, some suggested that the entire state of New York go on lockdown in an attempt to shield the rest of the country from out-of-control virus blazing through the state.
"It would be chaos and mayhem," Cuomo said of the proposed quarantine in March, as scores of his own citizens were getting sick and dying. "I don't think it is plausible. I don't think it is legal." Cuomo said the mere suggestion of quarantining New Yorkers was frightening and said, as governor, he would refuse to seal the state borders.
"This would be a federal declaration of war on states," he said of the suggestion. When neighboring Rhode Island threatened to quarantine New York travelers from entering the state, Cuomo threatened to sue.
Cuomo called it a declaration of war to do exactly what he is doing now. pic.twitter.com/eFYePdvRUa— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) August 5, 2020
It's not entirely clear what has changed in Cuomo's interpretation of the law, now that he is the one who feels that New York is under threat by most of the rest of America. Even as New York's case rate has slowed, their death toll remains higher than any other state by a large margin.
More than 32,000 New Yorkers have succumbed to COVID-19, with more new deaths recorded on Wednesday in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Of all the states on the quarantine list, California comes closest to the staggering number of deaths with 9,700.