Cuomo asks airlines to test passengers
ALBANY (AP)--New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, Dec. 21, he has asked airlines flying into the state from the United Kingdom to make all passengers take a COVID-19 test before they get on the plane.
The Democrat said three airlines with scheduled flights from London to New York -- British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic -- had agreed to comply.
Starting Thursday, Dec. 24, COVID-19 testing will be required up to 72 hours prior to departure for all passengers of Delta and its partner Virgin Atlantic traveling from the U.K. to New York or Atlanta, a Delta spokeswoman said Monday.
Cuomo has been calling on the U.S. government to temporarily halt all flights from the U.K. because of the emergence there of a new strain of the coronavirus.
Numerous nations have already taken that step out of concern that the newly identified strain might be more easily transmitted.
"I think the United States should do what other countries have done, which is halt the travel," Cuomo said, adding that too much was still unknown about whether the mutated virus would pose more of a threat. "I was on the phone with top experts all weekend. We don't know if it's more deadly. We don't know how much more easily it's transmitted."
Cuomo added that he believed he had the legal authority as governor to ask airlines to test passengers in the absence of federal action.
Cuomo said the state's 85,000 nursing home residents began receiving vaccinations Monday morning under a federally run program.
It could take six weeks to vaccinate residents as well as many as 130,000 nursing home staffers, he said. Pharmacy workers who will administer the vaccines will also receive vaccinations themselves.
"The COVID-19 virus is the greatest public health threat our country has faced in most of our lifetimes, and our nursing home and assisted living residents and dedicated health care workers are on the front line of this pandemic," said Stephen Hanse, President & CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living.
Cuomo said the state expects to receive another 630,000 doses by this week from Moderna and Pfizer. He said New York will add EMTs, coroners, medical examiners, funeral home workers and other group home workers to its priority list.
The number of new virus infections has begun to flatten in New York over the past week, according to the latest state Department of Health data.
The state averaged 10,400 new infections each day over the past seven days, up about 3 percent from a week ago and up 12 percent from two weeks ago.