Passengers getting off planes coming from outside New York are now being greeted by New York National Guard soldiers and airmen assisting the state health department in enforcing New York's COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Since Oct. 16, soldiers and airmen at airports across the state have been ensuring that passengers fill out a questionnaire that enables them to comply with an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in June. That order mandates that non-essential travelers coming from states with a high level of community spread of COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days when entering New York.
As of October, all but a few states in the United States are on the list.
"Our responsibility is to assist travelers from any of those states [and] make sure they fill out the questionnaire forms and submit them to the state Department of Health officials located in the airport," Air National Guard Master Sgt. Adam Winters, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the team at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Buffalo, New York, explained.
The team at the Buffalo Niagara airport consists of airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York, and soldiers from the 105th Military Police Company in Buffalo. One hundred Guard Soldiers and Airmen are assigned to the mission at the state's airports which include John F. Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City, along with the smaller airports in Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Rochester.
The soldiers and airmen are there to greet travelers and request proof of completion of the travel advisory health forms, Winters explained. Travelers are asked to prove that they completed an online app on their phones or fill out and submit a form.
"We are not peace officers for this mission and are only trying to enforce the executive order that has been issued by the governor," Winters said. "Guardsmen are taking consideration for each passenger by explaining the executive order and ensuring that this is for the overall safety of all travelers."
The travel advisory helps track possible positive COVID-19 cases and allows the health department to reach out to anyone who may have been in contact with someone with a positive case. That way, proper measures are taken to preserve the well-being of New York state residents and visitors, according to the New York State Department of Health.
"It's rewarding to help with the pandemic the best we can," Army Spc. Kassandra Bissell said. "We are assisting the Department of Health to keep the public safe."