New York’s governor to Florida travelers: How do you like them apples?

Tribune Content Agency

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Three months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed a travel quarantine on visitors from the New York Tri-State Area, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is mulling his own preemptive move.

The New York governor says he is considering a requirement that all Florida travelers self-quarantine for 14 days, a remarkable reversal of fortune for two closely aligned states that have made coronavirus headlines this week for very different reasons.

Cuomo made his final daily coronavirus briefing on Friday, an emotional send-off that enumerated data showing New York state’s impressive progress against the pandemic.

He made no specific mention of a Florida quarantine, but warned, “We have to watch for a second wave. We have to watch out for possible infections coming now from other states.”

The prospect of being caged for 14 days when they go home has New York ex-pats and snowbirds grousing.

“That’s what payback looks like,” said Bob Valentine, of White Plains, N.Y., laughing. “Personally, it’s not good for me, but these politicians are acting like kids, right?”

Valentine, standing outside Gilbert’s restaurant in Fort Lauderdale in a New York Giants cap, is in South Florida working for a cousin’s painting company. He’s been living in Dania Beach since January, is in no rush to go home, but looks forward to being told to quarantine.

“That would be me, myself and I in charge of that quarantine,” he said laughing.

New York state, once home to the country’s frightening coronavirus epicenter, on Friday reported an all-time low 1,284 COVID-19 hospitalizations and its lowest weekly infection rate, less than 1 percent. State health officials on Friday reported 796 new cases of the virus.

In stark contrast, the Florida Department of Health on Friday confirmed 3,822 new cases of COVID-19, the latest in a string of record-setting daily infections.

As New York looks to begin Phase 2 reopening status on Monday — after what Cuomo described as “111 days of hell” — Florida may be poised to become the new ground zero of COVID-19.

Among 10 states that saw a record number of new COVID-19 cases this week, Florida was singled out for potentially becoming “the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission,” according to projections from scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania.

“The risk there is the worst it has ever been in our projections. Miami and Florida’s southeastern counties now join the Tampa/Fort Myers area and Orlando for a fairly widespread transmission event that we forecast will continue throughout the state,” said scientists from PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Wednesday.

If Cuomo follows through on his travel restrictions, it would mirror DeSantis’ executive order on March 23 that called for a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone arriving from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. The rule remains in effect.

As the coronavirus took hold in the region, the inextricable relationship between the New York metropolitan area and South Florida grew beyond the seasonal flights of snowbirds.

When the pandemic prompted shelter-in-place orders to go into effect in March in New York City, many residents left town. Their top destination, outside the city’s suburbs, was Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, according to a New York Times study, published in May, of New Yorkers’ requests to have mail forwarded.

Last month, DeSantis said limiting travel from the Tri-State Area was the right move.

“Had we not done the quarantine, you would have had way more cases, hospitalizations, the whole nine yards,” he said at a news conference. “I have no doubt that that quarantine saved lives. I think it dissuaded some from coming down.”

The coronavirus wildfire in New York also forced snowbirds already here to rethink going back up. With the quarantine script flipped, Empire State expats who lingered here longer are trapped, perhaps unprepared for the soaring temperatures and thickening air of a South Florida summer, which begins on Sunday.

“It’s just BS. I’m gonna wait and seen what happens. Florida’s not a bad place to sit it out,” said Jack Russo, by phone from Pompano Beach. A retired machinist, Russo lives part time in Pompano Beach and part time in Howard Beach, in the New York borough of Queens.

For ex-New Yorker Donna Galati, of Pembroke Pines, the odd turn of events would be another chapter in a “very screwed up, strange year.”

A Long Island native, Galati makes frequent trips to the New York metropolitan area — she and her husband work in the horse-racing industry. Galati was speaking from the car on her way to start a new job at Monmouth Park, the New Jersey racetrack just across the state line from New York.

Galati says she’ll do what she’s asked to do if the quarantine went into effect, but resents the implication that she’s some kind of super spreader because of her Florida license plate.

“I don’t know how they’re going to enforce something like that. It’s up to the person to (quarantine),” she says. “Everyone’s situation is different. I’m coming from Florida, but this is the first time I’ve left my house in three months.”


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