New York Racing Association officials say people traveling from any of the 16 states now facing travel restrictions into New York will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before they are permitted onto the grounds of their racetracks. Testing will occur upon their arrival into New York state.
The requirement adds to a state health department guidance affecting travelers—both visitors and residents returning home—into New York state amid rising COVID-19 infection rates in a growing number of states.
On June 30, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo added eight states—including California—to a list of now 16 states in which travelers from those locations into New York must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The list now includes Florida, as well as Texas and a number of southern and western states.
The order comes just prior to NYRA shifting racing—without spectators—from Belmont Park to Saratoga Race Course, which begins its summer meet on July 16. The prestigious Saratoga meet, in particular, tends to attract horsemen from across the country.
Patrick McKenna, a NYRA spokesman, said individuals connected to the training and care of Thoroughbred horses have already been deemed as “essential” workers under New York’s various COVID-19 employment and business restrictions that are being eased in phases throughout the state.
“As such, trainers, assistant trainers, exercise riders, grooms, hotwalkers, and others would not be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine, but would be required to follow the guidance provided by the New York State Department of Health designed for essential workers traveling to New York state for a ‘period of greater than 36 hours,”’ he said.
Many of the racing industry personnel who will be allowed onto the grounds when Saratoga opens its 2020 meet are already in the state and so not subject to Cuomo’s new inter-state quarantine requirements (enforcement of that requirement remains to play out, but Cuomo has said violators face fines and could be ordered by judges into mandatory quarantine if found not to be following the voluntary isolation order).
Those that do come from any of the 16 states will face testing requirements, NYRA said.
“NYRA will require that anyone traveling from the affected states, most notably Florida and California, produce a negative COVID-19 test and self-quarantine until the test result is returned. Only then will those traveling from the affected states be permitted access to the property,” McKenna said.
Joe Appelbaum, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said his group has worked with NYRA to ensure all travelers to Saratoga are tested in advance for COVID-19. He said most people who will be working at the track are already in New York state, but that those traveling to Saratoga from places like Florida will have to abide by the governor’s executive order.
“First and foremost, we support any actions to keep our population safe here in New York,” Appelbaum said. “The backstretch community has worked incredibly hard to take care of one another and right now we have zero positive cases or workers in quarantine. We are clear-eyed enough to realize we may have cases crop up in the future, but we are focused on our procedures to make sure the impact is minimal.
“At this point, our backstretch community is likely healthier than the general populace of Saratoga County,” he added of the COVID-19 procedures in place for track workers.
It is uncertain how long the self-quarantine order by Cuomo might be in place. New York is imposing the travel restrictions on any states that have positive test rates of more than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or a statewide COVID-19 positive average of 10% or more over a seven-day period.
On June 29, eight new states were added by New York officials: California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee. They joined eight others already on the list: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
The list of exemptions to the travel order is long and includes everyone from travelers with stopovers in New York as they fly to other destinations or truckers delivering products into the states from other states.
For people who are deemed “essential” workers and will stay in New York for greater than 36 hours, the state is urging—not requiring—them to be tested for COVID-19 within 24 hours of entering New York and asked “to the extent possible” to avoid extended periods of time in public or having contact with strangers for at least seven days, according to a state health department guidance issued last week.