New Yorkers traveling to Florida no longer will be required to quarantine when they arrive in the Sunshine State.
Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly rescinded an executive order Wednesday that stipulated travelers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut must isolate themselves for 14 days to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The change could be beneficial to tattered tourism businesses that are trying to recover from the pandemic, particularly with the fall travel season approaching. But New York still restricts travelers from Florida, which means many New Yorkers who resettled here still face a predicament.
DeSantis restrictions in place March 23 when New York City was a hot spot for the new coronavirus. He did not announce his lifting of the order Wednesday nor explain it. But COVID-19 cases in New York have been declining while Florida’s grow worse.
New cases have been surging in Florida for weeks, although the state finally reported some encouraging news Thursday with the lowest percentage of positive tests in more than a month. The state Department of Health reported 7,650 new coronavirus cases, pushing the overall total to 510,329.
Meanwhile, New York City’s rate has been declining for two months. On Thursday the state reported 703 new cases — one-tenth of the number in Florida.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order requiring travelers from Florida and 34 other states to quarantine for 14 days remains in effect. And New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has set up checkpoints manned by sheriff’s deputies to remind those traveling from Florida and other states that they must quarantine when they arrive.
Florida’s Department of Health never screened visitors who arrived at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, according to airport spokesman Gregory Meyer. Upon landing, passengers had to fill out a “self-isolation” form, which required guests to explain the nature of their visit to the Sunshine State and where they came from, he said.
Airport officials stopped collecting the forms June 27, Meyer said. That was around the time New York’s cases started to decline.
The restrictions in New York make it harder for Floridians who want to travel to the Big Apple for business or pleasure, while New Yorkers who fled here to escape the coronavirus could be stuck as hurricane season intensifies.
Some South Florida businesses have had to figure out how to adapt to the change, according to David New, president of a company called Pizza Packet based in Boca Raton.
New’s company sells single-serve packets of pizza toppings, such as crushed peppers, garlic or oregano. In pandemic times when everything revolves around hygiene, being able to provide customers with single-use packets rather than having to refill plastic containers — which are touched by thousands of hands a day — has been a tremendous resource for his customers, New said.
The problem is, many of his customers are pizzerias in and around New York City. He hasn’t been able to travel there and sell his product in person since February.
“At the start of all this, people used to ask me if I would still go to New York, and I would tell them I have a business to run over there,” New said. “Since we haven’t been able to travel there, it’s more about adapting and doing what needs to be done. If you want the business to grow and get your product out there, you have to adapt and work very quickly with the change. With challenges brings a lot of opportunity.”
He’s been getting by instead by mailing samples of his product out to pizzerias and following up with a phone call or an email.
Thursday’s change was ironic timing for Jerry Driscoll, who lives in Fernandina Beach and was trying to get up to Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains in New York to visit family. He planned to fly from Jacksonville to Albany, rent a car at the airport and drive an hour to Lake George.
But trying to plan around the rapidly changing rules was impossible. Driscoll canceled the trip Thursday.
Driscoll said he was encouraged when he emailed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and they responded. But he checked Trip Advisor weekly and saw nothing but negative reviews written about the hotel where he planned to stay. Apparently they were morbidly understaffed.
Then Southwest Airlines changed his flight three separate times, going from a switch in Boston to a switch in Denver on a flight to Albany. Driscoll said he tried changing the flight time, but then it became Atlanta to Boston to Albany.
“I give up, I surrender,” Driscoll said. “The only constant was my rental car company.”