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Travelers from COVID hot spots confused by contact tracing form at NYC airports — and unworried about threat of $2,000 fine


Gov. Cuomo’s crackdown on travelers from coronavirus hot spots got off to a shaky start on Tuesday.

People flying into New York’s airports from 22 states where COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising were supposed to fill out contact tracing forms that tell officials where they came from, where they were going, how to contact them and whether they had symptoms of the disease.

If someone from a state heavily stricken with COVID-19 declines to fill out a form they could be hit with a fine of up to $2,000, according an order the governor issued Monday. If they fail to self-quarantine for two weeks, they could be fined up to $10,000, per a June 24 executive order by Cuomo.

Port Authority officials were not sure how many people flew into LaGuardia and Kennedy airports Tuesday, but many passengers said they were unaware they were required to fill out the forms — and some who were aware didn’t take them seriously.

“You could rip it up and throw it away if you wanted to,” said Victoria Williams, 27, a traveling nurse who flew into LaGuardia from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “I think it (the $2,000 fine) is just a tactic to get people to pay attention to their health and not trample over health and safety rules.”

Rita Vinnik, 32, said she lives in New York, but had fled to Los Angeles when New York became the world’s coronavirus epicenter. She booked a Tuesday flight into JFK because of the high case count in southern California.

“There’s a vague threat from Cuomo that we are going to get fined,” she said, acknowledging that she planned to quarantine in her apartment for two weeks. “But there is no aggregated way of tracking.”

Cuomo spokeswoman Caitlin Girouard said airlines sent pre-flight emails to flyers notifying them of the form requirements.

“New York does not accept feigned ignorance as an excuse,” said Girouard.

Spokespeople from airlines that fly into LaGuardia and Kennedy said crews on New York-bound flights made announcements of the new requirements. But that message wasn’t relayed to all the travelers at the airports Tuesday.

“They didn’t give us any type of form or sheet until we got out and then they were trying to cradle everybody,” said Andrea Richino, 20, a New Yorker who landed at LaGuardia after visiting her brother in New Orleans.

“Everybody separated and started walking towards baggage claim and they were like, ‘Did anybody give you guys forms?,‘ and we were like, ‘What forms?‘”

A state worker passing out the forms at JFK Airport said if people declined to fill them out then they’d be given an affidavit — but had no idea what would happen if someone rushed by without providing information for either.

Workers were also not checking whether the forms were properly filled out. Passengers simply put them into boxes in the terminals and moved on.

Still, some flyers were aware of the new travel restrictions and made plans to comply.

Megumi, 34, who declined to provide her last name, said she returned to New York from Oklahoma through LaGuardia because she plans to move at the end of July and wanted to make sure she had enough time to quarantine.

“I was there when Oklahoma wasn’t even on the list,” she said. “But now Oklahoma is on the list, so I have to quarantine for 14 days here.”