May Escape Oversight
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – If you’re planning a vacation to what Governor Cuomo has increased from 22 to 41 “hot spot” states, cancel it, county Public Health Director Heidi Bond suggests.
“I had a vacation planned to North Carolina,” she said. “But it’s best not to travel right now, and I cancelled it.”
With 15 new cases of COVID surfacing since July 1 – four in Oneonta; one in Cooperstown – officials are ramping up messaging about quarantining after travel.
“One of the cases we had was a resident who went to Florida and tested positive when she came back,” said Bond.
Travelers who fly into New York State are required to sign a state Department of Health traveler form, which states that they will quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state. Failure to sign the form can result in a $2,000 fine and mandatory quarantine.
From there, Bond said, the state notifies the counties where the travelers are headed so that local health departments can follow up.
“Most people are cooperative,” she said. “But sometimes, people don’t get back to us, and those quarantines can be difficult to enforce.”
Some have called in to report on a neighbor or family member refusing to self-quarantine, and Bond’s staff is now asking the caller for names, addresses and phone numbers to make it easier for a contact tracer.
“This way, we can see who has traveled and follow up with them,” she said.
Similarly, those who travel by car could go undetected unless the self-reported, which the governor’s executive order requires.
On Monday, July 20, Cooperstown Village Board voted to draft a letter to be sent out to all short-term rental properties – hotels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnbs – requiring them to inform travelers from the 41 high-risk states of the two-week quarantine requirement. Only eight states are exempt from Cuomo’s order.
“These businesses have an obligation to tell their guests about their quarantine responsibilities,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. “The state was reporting who was flying in, but travelers who were driving in were the weakest link, unless they self-reported.”
The village has created a FAQ – frequently asked questions – that is posted on the village website, and on sites tourists would check; it includes links to the state mandates.
Failure for businesses to comply could have heavy ramifications. “If we found out that a business was letting people stay without notifying them of the quarantine, we would take that into consideration when issuing their short-term rental registration next year,” she said.
If someone suspects that a business is not adhering to requirements, notify local law enforcement, rather than confront the non-compliant person themselves, the mayor said.
In Oneonta, Mayor Gary Herzig said that the city currently does not have a system in place for tracing out-of-state travelers.
“If someone is lying and breaking the law by not quarantining, unfortunately we won’t know,” he said. “But if someone informs us that someone they know has returned from a hot spot, we can do an inquiry into that person.”
In the fall, both colleges have plans to quarantine students from hot spots when they arrive on campus.
“This is a critical time for us,” he said. “There is no room for error.”
Sounds more and more like North Korea, doesn’t it? Squeal on your neighbor and you’ll be considered a “Good Comrade”.