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Coronavirus Live Updates: Travelers Are Flouting Quarantine Rules

2020-08-16 16:04:30

Travelers to New York say they’re quarantining. Their social media says otherwise.

With New York State’s coronavirus infections at a small fraction of the levels they reached during a devastating spring, the effort to prevent a resurgence includes a 14-day quarantine for travelers entering New York from states where positive test results for the virus exceed 10 percent.

The quarantine, mandated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, applies to over 30 states, along with Puerto Rico. And this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced checkpoints at bridges and tunnels throughout the city where people would be informed about the restrictions.

But in the absence of broad enforcement, many travelers to New York seem to be making their own rules.

Social media has been capturing the exploits of these quarantine scofflaws as they risk generating another outbreak in a state that has lost more than 32,000 residents to the virus, twice as many as any other state.

Olivia Awe, a figure skating coach and pastry chef, noticed on social media that an acquaintance from college was returning to New York City after temporarily living with her parents in Florida. The acquaintance stopped in Virginia, another high-risk state, on her way back, to attend a wedding that did not require masks.

After the woman arrived in New York, Ms. Awe said she saw a post from the woman on social media saying she had received a piece of paper about the need to quarantine. Soon after, there were posts of the acquaintance bar hopping, eating out at restaurants and hosting a group of people at her apartment.

“This person is putting so many people at risk and putting our state at risk,” Ms. Awe said.

New York’s approach stands in contrast to countries and regions that strictly monitor new arrivals or bar them completely. In many Asian countries, everyone is tested upon arrival and then required to quarantine for 14 days, sometimes in government facilities or wearing electronic monitoring devices. Western Australia, which includes the city of Perth, has been closed even to domestic travelers since April. Travel between provinces in South Africa will be allowed starting Monday for the first time since March.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the House Democratic leadership are considering cutting the chamber’s summer recess short in order to deal with the crisis unfolding in the United States Postal Service, two people familiar with the talks said on Saturday. While the House is not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 14, Democratic leaders could call lawmakers back in the next two weeks.

Accounts of slowdowns and curtailed service have emerged across the country since Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor and an ally of President Trump’s, took over as postmaster general in May. Mr. DeJoy has been pushing cost-cutting measures like reduced hours and the elimination of overtime pay that he says are intended to overhaul an agency sustaining billion-dollar losses.

Mr. Trump has tried to pin Postal Service funding troubles on Democrats, and he rails almost daily against voting by mail. Voting-rights advocates and postal workers have warned that the growing crisis could disenfranchise millions of Americans who plan to cast their ballots by mail in November because of the pandemic.

Among the legislative options under consideration is a measure that would require the Postal Service to maintain current service standards until after the pandemic ends. Lawmakers are also discussing adding language that would ensure that all ballot-related mail is treated as first-class mail.

While Democrats have been fighting to include funding for the Postal Service in a coronavirus relief package, it is unlikely that party members will act on a stand-alone funding bill, said the two people, who asked for anonymity to disclose details of private discussions.

Read the latest from our politics desk on the crisis.

In other developments around the U.S.:

global roundup

South Korea warns of another outbreak tied to a church.

Health officials in South Korea reported 279 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, warning of a resurgence of infections, many linked to a church that has vocally opposed President Moon Jae-in.

South Korea had battled the epidemic down to two-digit daily caseloads since April. But the number of new cases has soared in recent days, with 103 on Friday and 166 on Saturday, most of them worshipers at the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, the capital, and another church in the surrounding province of Gyeonggi.

President Moon on Sunday warned of a surge in infections in coming days as health officials rush to test thousands of ​church ​members and their contacts. He called the crisis at Sarang Jeil the biggest challenge faced by health officials since a similar outbreak five months ago at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the central city of Daegu, about 150 miles southeast of Seoul.

Members of Sarang Jeil were reportedly among thousands who attended an antigovernment rally in Seoul on Saturday. On the same day, Kwon Jun-wook, the deputy director of the government’s Central Disease Control Headquarters, warned of “early signs of a large-scale resurgence of the virus.”

Over the weekend the government tightened social-distancing rules in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, limiting indoor gatherings to below 50 and outdoor gatherings to below 100. The new rules also bar spectators from professional baseball and soccer games and empower the authorities to shut down high-risk facilities like bars, karaoke rooms and buffet restaurants if they do not take stricter preventive measures.

Virus fears also prompted South Korea and the U.S. on Sunday to delay an annual joint military drill, rescheduling it to begin on Tuesday after a South Korean Army officer who was expected to participate tested positive.

In other developments around the world:

  • The Australian state of Victoria has extended its state of emergency until Sept. 13. The state of emergency, which gives health officials broad powers to quarantine people, restrict movement and declare lockdowns, has been in effect since March. Victoria, which is the center of the outbreak in Australia, on Sunday reported 279 new cases and 16 deaths.

  • New Zealand on Sunday reported 13 new cases, all but one of them locally transmitted, amid a new outbreak in Auckland, its most populous city.

  • South Africa, reporting a drop in cases from 12,000 a day to about 5,000, will lower its alert status to a so-called Level 2 at midnight on Monday. Bans on the sale of tobacco and alcohol will be scrapped, travel between provinces will be allowed, and bars, restaurants and taverns will return to normal business, subject to strict hygiene regulations.

Nursing homes have been a center of America’s coronavirus outbreak, with more than 62,000 residents and staff members dying from Covid-19 at such homes and other long-term care facilities — about 40 percent of the country’s virus fatalities. Now, the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington for federal help that could increase its profits.

It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But instead of relying only on trade associations, some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration. Among these companies are some with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds.

One of the industry’s biggest goals is for the federal government to block residents and their families from suing nursing homes for wrongful deaths and filing other malpractice claims — even those that have nothing to do with Covid-19.

Senate Republicans introduced legislation last month that would make it virtually impossible for families whose relatives died from neglect or the coronavirus to hold nursing homes accountable in court. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said the legislation — which would also apply to a range of other industries — must be included in any new economic stimulus package.

The industry has successfully lobbied at least 20 states to gain immunity from lawsuits in state courts. But the federal Safe to Work Act would also apply to deaths that occurred months before the virus began spreading.

“The industry is using this epidemic to win a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Toby Edelman, a senior lawyer at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit legal assistance group for the elderly.

“I think one of the greatest fears for anyone is becoming a Covid hot spot or cluster location,” Ms. Fox said, “and to some extent we’re always prepared for the worst.”

Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Jesse Drucker, Alyson Krueger, Aimee Ortiz, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Will Wright.


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