Cuomo requesting airlines help prevent spread of new COVID strain from UK

Photo via Flickr/Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew Cuomo, blasting what he believes to be federal negligence in preventing the new variant of COVID-19 from entering the United States from the United Kingdom, said his administration has turned to negotiations with airlines to keep the infection rate down in New York.

The governor said British Airways has already agreed to include New York and New Jersey airports in screening passenger’s for COVID-19 positivity prior to travel which 120 other countries but the United States have participated in alongside a number of others who have banned travelers from the UK altogether.

Delta and Virgin have also been contacted by the governor’s office, according to Cuomo, but an agreement has not been received as of press time.

“We’re not going to be victimized again. There are three airlines that come from the UK and fly into our airports, our airports are run by the Port Authority of New York, New Jersey. The three airlines, British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic daily are bringing several thousand passengers per day. I am asking those airlines to Add New York state to the list of the 120 countries that require tests before the flights leave the UK for New York,” Cuomo said on Monday. “If they do not agree voluntarily the New York State will pursue other options.”

While UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible than the current one, British health officials are operating on the “assumption” that the newly developed vaccines will be effective against this new challenge.

With up to 38,000 New Yorkers currently having the first injection of the Pfizer vaccine, Cuomo expects 630,000 new doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna elixirs to be delivered to the state this week. Total hospitalizations are undergoing a surge with 6,331 and positivity rates are on the rise with 9,007 across New York, amounting to a rate of 5.75%.

The death toll on Sunday came to 109 New Yorkers.

According to Cuomo, vaccines are being distributed based on population density, meaning New York City and Long Island are getting a greater share.