New York — which once held a gigantic lead over other states in confirmed COVID-19 cases — has been experiencing a vast decline in reported cases. The tables have turned, and other states are seeing a sharp, even alarming, uptick in COVID-19 cases as they reopen their economies.

To help reduce the spread of the virus, some states have enacted a mandatory 14-day quarantine on people traveling to the state from out of town.

For example, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have said that people coming into the state from COVID-19 “hotspots” must quarantine for 14 days. In New York, those who violate the order can face fines of $2,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second violation, and up to $10,000 if they cause harm.

Note that a COVID-19 “hotspot” is a state with a positive test rate of greater than 10 per 100,000 residents or a positivity rate of 10% or more, each over a 7-day rolling average.

New York Puts the Brakes on Paid Sick Leave

Along with imposing mandatory quarantine on certain out-of-towners, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently issued an executive order, which says that New York employees who voluntarily travel to COVID-19 hotspots after June 25, 2020, are ineligible for the state’s COVID-19 paid sick leave benefits.

The decision came on the day Cuomo authorized the New York Department of Health to investigate possible coronavirus exposure at a Westchester County high school graduation ceremony. One of the attendees, who had recently traveled to Florida, tested positive for COVID-19 and subsequently had contact with four other attendees who tested positive thereafter.

According to Cuomo, "New Yorkers have controlled the spread of this unprecedented virus by being smart and disciplined, and our progress to date is illustrated by the current low numbers of new cases and hospitalizations."

He added, “If we are going to maintain the progress we've seen, we need everyone to take personal responsibility — that's why I'm issuing an executive order that says any New York employee who voluntarily travels to a high-risk state will not be eligible for the COVID protections we created under paid sick leave."

These protections are established in a New York law that took effect on March 18. The law mandates all employers in New York to provide job-protected paid sick leave to employees under mandatory or precautionary quarantine/isolation ordered by a government entity because of COVID-19. New York employees needing a government order for quarantine/isolation can obtain one from their local health department.

New York’s revocation of paid sick leave for employees who travel to high-risk states is similar to an existing New York law that deems employees ineligible for paid sick leave if they travel to a country with a Level 2 or Level 3 travel health notice from the CDC.

Work-Related Travel Is Exempt

New York employees traveling to COVID-19 hotspots for work, or because their employers require them to, will retain their New York COVID-19 paid sick leave benefits.

High-Risk States

The following states reportedly meet the definition of a COVID-19 hotspot, as of July 14, 2020:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin

COVID-19 hotspots are subject to change, as confirmed cases increase or decline among states.

Other Paid Sick Leave Laws May Apply to New Yorkers

Although New York employees will lose their state COVID-19 paid sick leave benefits if they voluntarily travel to COVID-19 hotspots, they must receive any other COVID-19 paid sick leave benefits they’re entitled to under company policy or by law — including the federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act.