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New York City travel during Covid-19: What you need to know

CNN logo CNN 2/17/2021 CNN Staff
a man on a bench in front of a building: NYC was hit hard by the first wave of the pandemic. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images NYC was hit hard by the first wave of the pandemic.

If you're planning to travel to New York City, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

New York City was the US epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, with hospitals struggling to cope with the influx of patients. After an easier summer, it experienced a rise of infections at the end of 2020 into January and new lockdown measures were imposed. Those numbers have been coming down.

What's on offer

This is the ultimate city break: the greatest city skyline in the world; culture from the Guggenheim to MoMA; spectacular food, from Chinese delicacies in Flushing to Italian delights in the Bronx; and the green (or snowy) sweep of Central Park to the busy Lower East Side.

Who can go

New York is subject to US government rules, meaning travel from Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, Iran, Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom is not permitted. Exemptions are available for US citizens, family members or permanent residents. Travel from all other countries is allowed.

All air travelers entering the United States are now required to have a negative Covid-19 test result.

Travelers from out of state are allowed into New York State, but must undertake a Covid-19 PCR test within three days before arrival, then self-isolate for three days, and take another test. Those who choose not to take tests must quarantine for 14 days. Those from states contiguous to New York are exempt from the testing regime but must fill out this form.

What are the restrictions?

New York City has stringent measures for those traveling both domestically and internationally. Those from contiguous states are not subject to testing or quarantine restrictions, but travelers from all other US states must undertake a PCR test within three days before arrival, then self-isolate for three days, before taking another test.

International travelers from destinations with Level 2 risk and higher, as defined by the CDC's Travel Health Notice, must follow the same rules. Full instructions can be found on the Covid-19 travel advisory site.

And as of January 26, every air traveler entering the US needs a negative Covid-19 test result. Passengers will be required to get a viral test within three days before their flight to the US departs, and to provide documentation of their lab results, or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19.

All those staying in hotels and short-term rentals in New York must complete a Traveler Health Form before their arrival.

Travelers who leave New York State to a noncontiguous state for less than 24 hours do not have to take a test before returning. However, they must fill out a traveler health form and take a test four days after their return.

What's the Covid situation?

After months of falling daily cases in New York City, the number of infections started to climb again in the autumn of 2020, with a record high in early January before starting to decline again. More than 28,000 deaths were registered as of February 17.

What can visitors expect?

New York's busy streets fell quiet at the start of the pandemic and recovery has been slow in the months since, although many areas, including Brooklyn, are busy again.

Indoor dining, which had been paused since mid-December, was allowed to resume at 25% capacity on February 12.

Outdoor dining continues, with restaurants and bars building ad hoc structures. Tent enclosures and heating are being used over the winter. Bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m.

Museums are open, but have started mandating timed reservations, in a bid to comply with lower capacity rules. MoMA, the Museum of Natural History and the Whitney are all operating a policy of prebought tickets only. Visitors should expect temperature checks on arrival.

Nonessential retail is open. Masks are mandatory in public, however, and social distancing guidelines must be adhered to at all times.

Useful links

New York State Covid-19 microsite

CDC Travel Health

New York State Traveler Health Form

Our recent coverage

Check out our New Yorker's guide to eating out safely during the pandemic, or read about bar Dante, which was named the second best in the world this year. Want to eat great Indian food? You'll find it across the water in New Jersey. Or salivate over New York cheesecake in our list of the world's best desserts.


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