Governor Andrew Cuomo has written to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf asking him to require that airline travelers to the United States receive a negative COVID-19 test result before being allowed into the country.
And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the City will open 12 additional vaccine hubs across the five boroughs.
"I write to you with an urgent plea. I ask that you immediately take action with the CDC and HHS to require a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure for all passengers arriving from international destinations," reads Governor Cuomo's letter.
"There are currently 70-80,000 passengers arriving at JFK from outside of the United States each week. I have for months deployed as many as 100 personnel to meet domestic flights, and enforce our domestic travel quarantine, but do not have access to arrivals of international flights.
"Those areas of the airport are under the sole federal control of Customs and Border Protection and the CDC. Once an individual is already on U.S. soil, I believe it is too late anyway," it adds.
Governor Cuomo said many other countries acted aggressively in November or December to either ground flights entirely, or to meet flights to enforce strict quarantines and testing requirements.
He said some 120 countries require that every passenger present a negative test result prior to boarding, and dozens more restrict all travel entirely.
"On December 25, you belatedly required a negative test result from travelers returning from the U.K. only.
"But the U.K. variant, 'B.1.1.7' which has so far been estimated at anywhere from 50-70% more transmissible, has now been found in more than 30 other countries," he said.
This strain is so virulent it went from being merely a quarter of all U.K. cases in November to over two-thirds in just one month.
A South African and now Nigerian strain have also been identified, both showing evidence of increased transmissibility.
“While we do not yet know if there is any impact on the ability of these variants to outsmart the vaccines we so urgently developed, we can only hope that we stop it before it surges our caseload beyond the capacity of the U.S. health care system," he said.
Governor Cuomo said the only way to manage this was to control it at the source – prevent any passenger who is positive from getting on the plane.
"We saw from our own genetic testing that the virus that arrived in New York came here from Europe, not China. It was our failure to control the airports that brought this virus to us.
"We have now seen that the action taken on Christmas was too late to prevent the U.K. strain from making its way to New York and other states, and has been circulating," Governor Cuomo said.
"We can still learn our mistake from last spring, we can do what must be done – order all airlines flying into the U.S. from international locations to require a negative COVID-19 test. It is not enough to simply address the U.K.; that ship has sailed. We can, however, prevent the next mutation by following the science. I am willing to assist in any way I can, but only Customs and Border Protection can truly protect us from this next threat," Governor Cuomo concluded in his letter.
And Mayor de Blasio said the first two 24/7 mass vaccination sites will open this Sunday at Bathgate in the Bronx and Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn.
“From our 24/7 mass vaccination sites, to the Vaccine Command Center, we are building the infrastructure we need to vaccinate the highest number of high-risk New Yorkers," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"We’re off to a good start, but with the freedom to vaccinate more New Yorkers and the supplies to get there, we could go even further," he said.
The vaccine hubs that are expected to be opened this Sunday are; Brooklyn at Bushwick@ Educational Campus on 400 Irving Avenue, Queens Hillcrest High School at 160-05 Highland Avenue, in the Bronx at South Bronx Educational Campus on 701 St. Ann’s Avenue.
Below are the other 12 additional vaccine hubs that will open across the city beginning Friday, January 15th from 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM, seven days a week.
Abraham Lincoln High School 2800 Ocean Parkway Brooklyn, Bushwick Educational Campus 400 Irving Avenue Brooklyn, Canarsie High School 1600 Rockaway Parkway Brooklyn, George Westinghouse Vocational HS 105 Johnson Street Brooklyn.
Marta Valle Secondary School 145 Stanton Street Manhattan, Wadleigh Campus/I.S. 88 215 West 114 Street Manhattan. Others are August Martin High School 156-10 Baisley Boulevard Queens, Beach Channel Educational Campus 100-00 Beach Channel Drive Queens, Hillcrest High School 160-05 Highland Avenue Queens, Aviation High School 45-30 36th Street Queens.
Port Richmond H.S. 85 St Joseph's Avenue Staten Island, Staten Island Technical High School 485 Clawson Street Staten Island.
Walton Educational School 2780 Reservoir Avenue Bronx, Adlai E. Stevenson High School 1980 Lafayette Avenue Bronx and South Bronx Educational Campus 701 Saint Ann's Avenue.