LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County officials, like their counterparts across the state, are scratching their heads over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that visitors from nine states with high COVID-19 infection rates quarantine for 14 days.
The executive order issued on Wednesday also applies to New York residents returning home after visiting Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington state.
Cattaraugus County Administrator Jack Searles said the state has offered little guidance or definition on how to proceed with the governor’s directive.
“We’re in an interesting quandary,” Searles told the Olean Times Herald on Friday. “We are not hearing a lot of definition as to how these people will be identified.”
The two main routes for out-of-state visitors coming into the county are the highway system and Buffalo International Airport, he said.
“It seems like there needs to be some interaction where they would get some kind of notice” to the county Health Department, Searles said. “We are still waiting for guidance.”
He said the state expects county health departments to monitor these visitors or residents returning from one of the states with high coronavirus infection rates.
In addition, the visitors and returning residents will require contact tracing. “How are we going to get this information?” Searles asked.
In the clearest case, county employees returning from one of the states with a high infection rate would be the easiest ones to keep track of, Searles explained.
The precautionary quarantine could turn into a mandatory quarantine if ordered by a court. Violations could result in fines ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, according to the executive order.
“We are in a quandary,” Searles repeated. “We are looking for more definition as to what this means and how it will be implemented by the state.”
The county administrator said it was unclear about how people would be notified of the new state policy. Would it apply to campers or people traveling through the area?
“We need some assistance from the state, but we are not getting much guidance,” Searles said, adding the policy went into effect at midnight Wednesday.
County officials have no idea about how many people would be traveling from these states, he said. How will information on the Identification of people to be quarantined get to the right sources?
“There is a tremendous amount of frustration going on across the state on this,” Searles said. “Particularly county health departments.”
Besides the added number of people in quarantine, the county’s contract tracers could get a lot of new work to find people those in quarantine were in contact with. Searls said many of the county’s new contact tracers were returning to work across many county departments, “their normal jobs. Who is going to be able to do this additional contact tracing.”
The state is considering inspectors to perform random checks on out-of-state travelers who are supposed to quarantine for 14 days. They could comb lists of people on flights returning from the nine states. Other possible ways of finding travelers would be from hotels notifying the state and police stopping cars with license plates from those states.
Searles said it appears that much of the work will be done by individuals returning from these states by self-identifying themselves to the Health Department. “I hope that will occur,” he added.
Meanwhile, two more COVID-19 positive county residents were reported on Friday, raising the total of confirmed coronavirus cases to 93.
The 92nd confirmed case is a female resident who resides in the southeast part of the county, who had no significant travel history to an area with a high COVID-19 infection rate. She is a direct contact of a positive COVID-19 person and reports being asymptomatic.
The 93rd confirmed case is a female resident who also resides in the southeast part of the county, who had no significant travel history. She is a direct contact of a positive COVID-19 person and was also asymptomatic.
Allegany County officials reported no new cases Friday.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)