Seyfarth Synopsis: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have imposed quarantine requirements for individuals traveling from states with significant community spread of COVID-19. While all three directives are substantively the same, enforcement may differ among the states. And New York has gone one step further by providing that New York employees who voluntarily travel to high-risk states are ineligible for paid leave under the state’s COVID-19 emergency leave mandate.
The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut last week issued a joint travel advisory that calls for a 14-day quarantine for individuals who travel into their states from states with significant recent spikes in positive COVID-19 tests.
The affected states are those that have a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. As of this writing, eight states meet those criteria:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The advisory will be adjusted to include new states (and presumably remove others) as circumstances warrant. Each state’s respective Department of Health will monitor testing results and issue revised lists as appropriate. (For New York, click here. For Connecticut, click here. For New Jersey, click here.)
Although the advisory is a coordinated effort by the three Governors, the prospects for enforcement appear to differ among the states. New Jersey has issued guidance on the advisory stating, “The self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected. Travelers and residents returning from impacted states typically will not need to check-in with public health officials, unless otherwise they are involved in contract tracing efforts or required to do so by their employer or any other federal, state or local law or order. It is expected that individuals will follow the recommendation to self-quarantine.” Connecticut’s FAQs on the advisory similarly provide, “This is an advisory and we are strongly urging visitors to Connecticut to take this step. It will be up to individuals to abide by the advisory.”
However, pursuant to New York’s Executive Order on the advisory, “Any violation of a quarantine or isolation order issued to an individual pursuant to the Commissioner of the Department of Health's travel advisory by a local department of health or state department of health may be enforced pursuant to article 21 of the public health law, and non-compliance may additionally be deemed a violation pursuant to section 12 of the public health law subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.” According to anecdotal accounts since the advisory was issued, passengers arriving in New York on flights from the restricted states are receiving temperature checks upon arrival and may be asked or required to participate in tracing efforts.
The quarantine requirements will not be applicable to certain essential workers who are required, by virtue of their employment, to travel into the Tri-State area from one of the affected states for a brief stay, or under other specific circumstances as provided by the respective health commissioners.
Impact on Paid Sick Leave
While New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut all have statewide Paid Sick Leave laws either in effect or scheduled to go into effect in the coming months, New York is the only state to have a separate COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave law in effect at this time. Before the current quarantine order, the New York law provided that employees would not be eligible for paid leave if they voluntarily travel to a country for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a level two or three travel health notice. Governor Andrew Cuomo has now signed another executive order providing that employees will be similarly ineligible for paid sick leave under the statute if they voluntarily travel to one of the affected states as well.
Employers are not generally in the habit of monitoring their employees’ personal travels outside working hours. In the Tri-State area, that may be changing, at least for the immediate future during the recent spike in positive tests in states where cases were previously less prevalent. For employees working remotely, a 14-day quarantine following travel may not be much of an imposition, for them or their employers. But for employees who have been, or with state re-openings soon will be, expected to return to the workplace, the new quarantine restrictions may pose yet another COVID-related hurdle to the resumption of normal operations.