International flights could pose coronavirus threat to NY, other U.S. hot spots

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International air travel to the U.S. has been cut down but not cut off as fears grow about officials' abilities to enforce quarantines for citizens who are still allowed to travel from international coronavirus hot zones.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents coming from certain European countries, China and Iran are permitted to return through 13 designated airports. Two of those airports, JFK Airport in New York and Newark Airport in New Jersey, are in areas where coronavirus case counts are still high and many early cases are blamed on international travel.

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“Three million European visitors came on flights to JFK or Newark airports between January, February, March," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. "The Europe travel ban started mid-March. By that time, three million Europeans had come. So that's another lesson we have to learn."

TSA officers wear protective masks at a security screening area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Monday, May 18, 2020, in SeaTac, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Cuomo seemed to downplay his state's role in ensuring the problem doesn't resurface as TSA reported traveler numbers double what they were a month ago.

"So when you come in from overseas, passport control, etc., that's all a federal function. ... There is coordination, but they determine who comes, who doesn't come. That's purely federal and they determine what procedures and practices are in place for those who do come," Cuomo said.

However, it's local and state health departments' job to monitor travelers who must quarantine for 14 days according to CDC recommendations.

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"CDC works with the local and state health departments by offering guidance and support on these and other COVID-19 related operations," a CDC spokesperson told FOX Business.

Parts of the U.S. with low coronavirus case counts are mandating quarantines for domestic visitors with varying success. Florida began cracking down on air travelers fleeing hard-hit New York and New Jersey in March and requiring them to fill out forms so their quarantines could be monitored. The state had collected 37,400 such forms as of Tuesday, according to a press release.

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