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Do I Really Have to Quarantine if I Visit Family for Thanksgiving?

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Q: I’m planning to visit family in Arlington, Va., over Thanksgiving. It’s a nonstop drive, and I’ll be staying with relatives who have been very careful. Do I really need to quarantine when I return to my Manhattan co-op? I can’t imagine it’s any riskier than having dinner with family in Brooklyn or New Jersey.

A: As Thanksgiving approaches and people prepare to travel around the country (albeit less than usual), Covid-19 cases are rising in a large majority of states, including Virginia and New York. The U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 new cases a day, and we have entered what Dr. Deborah L. Birx called a “deadly phase of the pandemic.”

In New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has expressed concern about holiday travel, telling NY1 on Nov. 6, “If you love someone, say, ‘I love you so much that I’m not going to see you this Thanksgiving.’”

Your plan to reduce points of contact with other people along your holiday route will certainly reduce your risk of contracting the virus, or spreading it to others. But an indoor gathering with family is still considered a high-risk activity. So yes, you should take precautions and follow state rules to protect your neighbors upon your return.

Ahead of the holiday, Gov. Cuomo revised New York’s quarantine rules, giving travelers an option to test out of the two-week quarantine period. Under the new guidelines, anyone traveling into New York from a noncontiguous state should take a Covid-19 test three days before departing for New York. Upon arrival, they must quarantine in New York for three days. On the fourth day, they can take another test. If both tests are negative, they no longer have to quarantine. (Travelers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont are exempt, as those states are considered contiguous. More state guidelines can be found here.)

Travelers who have been out of New York for less than 24 hours do not need to quarantine, so you could keep the visit short. But if you do need to quarantine, you shouldn’t leave your apartment for the duration. Have food delivered and leave trash outside your door for building staff to collect.

“Quarantines have generally been self imposed,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a real estate lawyer and partner at the Manhattan law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, adding that most buildings have been operating on an honor system. “But if a building finds out that you’re not quarantining, they could take action or register a complaint with the state.”

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