How will spring travel affect COVID-19 cases here in the Twin Tiers?


BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM) — In January and February, the United States saw a spike in COVID-19 cases due to holiday travels. With spring right around the corner, New York State is preparing for snowbirds to return from warmer states and a possible increase in COVID-19 case numbers.

Officials at the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport are not expecting a busy spring travel season due to the New York State Travel Restrictions. Public health experts say traveling from another state could cause more cases, but residents should not panic.

“It is a restriction that’s necessary,” said Dr. John Moore, Weill Cornell Medicine Professor. “It is sensible and most people follow. Why not do it? Why take a risk of harming your neighbors or your family if you are seeing them for the first time after spending the winter down south?”

While variants are more transmissible, they are not necessarily more lethal. The same COVID-19 precautions will ensure health safety.

“They’re still stoppable by masks,” Dr. Moore said. “They’re still stoppable by social distancing. They’re still stoppable by sensible behavior and they are still stoppable by vaccination, so nothing has changed.”

How will travel impact the number of active cases since different states have varying COVID regulations?

“You shouldn’t fear your neighbors, but if you’re socially distancing or wearing a mask, you won’t catch the virus from them,” Dr. Moore said. “If you go and hang out in a bar, then you’re running a risk.”

At the airport, this is usually a busy time of year, but 2021 will be different.

“We were seeing about 12 thousand passengers a month coming back,” said Tom Freeman, Director of the Elmira/Corning Regional Airport. “This year we are expecting probably about three-thousand.”

The slowdown in travel is partially due to the travel restrictions imposed by New York State; which said anyone who has spent 24 hours or more outside of New York will need a negative COVID-19 test three days before returning.

Travelers are expected to quarantine for three days and expected to get another test on their fourth day. If both tests are negative, they do not have to continue isolating. The only exception to this rule is for travelers from contiguous states, as they are exempt from the restrictions.

“The COVID restrictions on travel into New York, I think people are just going over toward Scranton and Allentown, and flying or driving or finding some other way around the travel ban,” Freeman said.

“That’s appropriate. People should respect that because it has good reasoning behind it,” Dr. Moore said.

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