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Cuomo: Pa. Travel Quarantine ‘Not Practically Viable’

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Mayville on Tuesday to visit a COVID-19 testing site on Vista Drive. P-J photo by Cameron Hurst

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said Pennsylvania — along with Connecticut and New Jersey — meet the criteria for the state’s travel advisory, though due to the “interconnected nature of the region and mode of transport between us, a quarantine on these states is not practically viable.”

The state is discouraging, to the extent practical, non-essential travel to and from these states while they meet the travel advisory criteria.

As of Tuesday, 43 states have met the criteria for the travel advisory, which requires individuals who have traveled to New York from areas with significant community spread of COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days.

“We are now in a situation where 43 states meet the criteria for our travel advisory. This is really a bizarre outcome, considering New York once had the highest infection rate,” Cuomo said. “There is no practical way to quarantine New York from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut. There are just too many interchanges, interconnections, and people who live in one place and work in the other. It would have a disastrous effect on the economy, and remember while we’re fighting this public health pandemic we’re also fighting to open up the economy. However, to the extent travel between the states is not essential, it should be avoided.”

A visit from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to Mayville on Tuesday came before the governor’s announcement. She originally called a media report from Monday “speculation.” She did note that officials will continue to “watch the numbers,” but echoed Cuomo’s sentiments.

“The governor addressed the challenges of contiguous states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut where there is such interaction,” Hochul said. “There’s an interconnectedness that you don’t have with other states so we’ve been working together.”

Hochul added, “All I’m doing is asking everyone to make sure they keep wearing their masks and being social distant and hopefully our neighbors in Pennsylvania are doing the same.”

In an email statement to The Post-Journal and the OBSERVER, Hochul’s communications director Haley Viccaro clarified her remarks, noting that her statement Tuesday morning was consistent with Cuomo’s messaging.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s statement was consistent with what the Governor has said previously, that states along our border propose unique challenges to stopping the spread of COVID-19 given their interconnection,” she said. “That was reflected in the Governor’s press release today saying, ‘Neighboring states Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania now meet the criteria for the travel advisory – however, given the interconnected nature of the region and mode of transport between us, a quarantine on these states is not practically viable.’ And was met with New York State highly discouraging, to the extent practical, non-essential travel to and from these states while they meet the travel advisory criteria.”

Viccaro added, “We will continue to deliver the data, science and facts as they develop, and the state’s coordinated response is ongoing.”

Hochul visited the county seat on Tuesday to tour a rapid testing center located on Vista Drive and meet with interim county executive PJ Wendel and public health director Christine Schuyler.

“I had a briefing for about a half hour and had an opportunity to assess the situation in Chautauqua County as well as have a conversation about the state resources being deployed here,” she said. “I also wanted to personally see one of our testing sites. There’s another one in Dunkirk at the other end of the county where we’re able to do rapid testing.”

Hochul commended the work being done in the county to help prevent the coronavirus’ spread even as the county continues to help mitigate a cluster outbreak at Tanglewood Manor and Memory Garden last week.

“The good news is that it’s not community-wide spread,” she said. “We’ve been able to identify specific places. … That’s the beauty of our strategic targeting. We call it microtargeting. We can identify the specific areas of where the clusters are occurring through the immediate contact tracing.”

She added, “I give all the credit to the county public health department for tracking down individuals who may have been exposed and then we quarantine them. That’s how we’re going to stop the spread but also make sure that they have the resources that they need. That’s why we’ve sent more test kits here. We’ve sent more testing machines, like these rapid testing machines that were in short supply not that long ago. We’re making sure we’re finding instances here in Chautauqua County to make sure it doesn’t go beyond specific locations and spread to the larger community.”

“I appreciate the lieutenant governor,” Wendel said. “She’s been a huge partner for us and with us throughout this pandemic and we can’t say enough. I’m happy that she came down and saw what we’re doing. We had a great conversation as to what’s happening here in Chautauqua County and I appreciate her time coming down here and spending time here with us to see what a great job we’ve done here in Chautauqua County.”

Schuyler also appreciated Hochul’s sentiments and visit.

“I must say that I am really thankful that the lieutenant governor came today and met with us and just had an open conversation about how things were going, what we need, what we’re lacking and how we feel,” she said. “That’s the first time as a public health official that I have felt heard and that we have felt that the governor’s chambers are reaching out to who really are the front-line workers for eight months now, day-in and day-out without a break 24/7 and that is your local health departments.”

Hochul, Wendel and Schuyler are encouraging the public to take advantage of rapid testing sites in Mayville, Jamestown and Dunkirk.

“We’ve talked about our numbers being low and we have to prove it,” Wendel said. “We need everybody to get tested in Chautauqua County. So I’m urging everybody to please utilize the free testing we have here. Get tested and be able to show ourselves and the governor that our numbers are low here in Chautauqua County and that we’re doing the right things by following social distancing and keeping this at bay.”

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