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Demanding Answers: Why Won't Anyone Enforce Airport Quarantine Rules In New York Or New Jersey?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - International flights that have been blamed for bringing the COVID-19 coronavirus to the United States are not only continuing but are about to increase as the Tri-State Area reopens.

CBS2's Lisa Rozner uncovered when it comes to making sure passengers don't again spread the disease, compared to other states, we have little to no enforcement.

Next month, airlines United and Lufthansa will restart more European routes from Paris to Newark Liberty Airport and Zurich to John F. Kennedy Airport.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said 3 million European flyers to our area caused the outbreak.

"The problem had nothing to do with us, but we were then tasked with resolving it," he said.


Currently, JFK and Newark are among 13 U.S. airports accepting international flights.

Customs and Border Patrol does an "enhanced screening," asking arriving passengers about medical history, current condition and in some cases have their temperature taken.

But since January, the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention says only 100 travelers at both airports have had further evaluation.

Most are asymptomatic and are released. The Department of Homeland Security says they "must self-quarantine for 14 days" and local and state public health officials will ensure compliance.

When asked about how New York is making sure people remain quarantined for 14 days, Cuomo noted "it's not a state role" and expanding on his position during Thursday's COVID-19 briefing.

MORE: Gov. Cuomo On Catching COVID-19 At Airports: 'The Feds Are Letting Us Down, So I Have To Step In

Other states are enforcing it, demanding that travelers comply or face up to $5,000 fines.

Hawaii issuing wanted photos of those missing from their quarantine address after arriving at the airport.

In Florida, state police require traveler's signatures, and Texas police ask for a contact number and address.

CBS2 asked New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan about enforcing quarantines.

"That would really fall upon local law enforcement jurisdictions," said Callahan. "We rely heavily on that personal responsibility for people to do the right thing."

MORE: Flights From Countries Hard Hit By Coronavirus Still Coming, So Are Precautions In Place?

Port Authority airports have international flights coming in everyday, so CBS2 asked the executive director about it as well.

"The Texas and Florida regulations apply to domestic travelers," said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of NY & NJ. "That is completely different from international travelers. That is a matter that the Constitution clearly puts the responsibility and the authority with the federal government."

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Brian Kelly of The Points Guy website known for giving international travel advice has heard from people across the United States about "how quick and easy it is to get through with very little testing."

Emergency physician Dr. Robert Glatter, who treated travelers at Lenox Hill Hospital, says more must be done.

"People can be asymptomatic without fever and spread this virus," he said. "We need to implement a very rigorous way to look at travel, and how people travel and somehow link this electronically."

As for local enforcement, municipalities CBS2 contacted including the New York City Department of Health said it was on the CDC to track travelers.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, when asked whether states should take matters into their own hands, didn't directly answer that question but instead called for more comprehensive testing lead by the feds.

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