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

CNN logo CNN 14 hrs ago CNN Staff
a man on a bench in front of a building: NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29: A man looks out at the Manhattan skyline in a Brooklyn neighborhood on September 29, 2020 in New York City. New York City faces a severe financial crisis as unemployment has risen to 16% and thousands of wealthy residents who make up a vital tax base have fled the city. New York City lost 24,000 residents to Coved-19, more than any other city in America and one of the highest metropolitan losses in the world. Vital sectors like tourism, retail and cultural activities are still struggling as the city attempts to get past the epidemic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) © Spencer Platt/Getty Images NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29: A man looks out at the Manhattan skyline in a Brooklyn neighborhood on September 29, 2020 in New York City. New York City faces a severe financial crisis as unemployment has risen to 16% and thousands of wealthy residents who make up a vital tax base have fled the city. New York City lost 24,000 residents to Coved-19, more than any other city in America and one of the highest metropolitan losses in the world. Vital sectors like tourism, retail and cultural activities are still struggling as the city attempts to get past the epidemic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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

Starting Monday, December 6, all inbound international travelers will be required to test within one day of departure for the United States, regardless of vaccination status. This does not affect domestic travel.

It's part of a general tightening of US travel rules because of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Other key highlights:

-- A federal mask mandate for airports, planes and other public transportation has been extended until March 18, 2022.

-- A travel ban on eight nations in southern Africa is in place (see below).

Nearly all pandemic restrictions were lifted in June in New York state (including New York City) as 70% of New Yorkers 18 or older had received the first dose of their Covid-19 vaccination series.

However, a "Key to NYC" vaccination requirement became effective in August. It requires proof of vaccination for patrons and employees of the city's indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues.

Some of the venues of interest to travelers that are part of the requirement include restaurants, nightclubs, concert halls, museums, performing arts theaters, movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, casinos, cabarets, fitness centers, pools and coffee shops with indoor dining.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has endorsed CDC guidance recommending masking indoors, regardless of vaccination status, but has not issued a mask mandate.

What's on offer

This is the ultimate city break. New York has 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 sweep of Central Park to the busy Lower East Side.

Who can go

Fully vaccinated travelers from all but eight nations are now allowed entry into the United States, including New York City. The eight nations are under a US travel ban because of the Omicron variant.

On November 29, the United States restricted travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe because of the emerging Omicron variant. Citizens of those nations or foreign travelers who have been to any of them in the past 14 days may not enter the United States, but US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been to those nations may still enter.

Unvaccinated travelers from abroad are no longer allowed to enter the United States, with very limited exceptions. Among those exceptions are unvaccinated children younger than 18.

Until the stricter new rules take effect December 6, all travelers 2 and older entering the United States are also required to have a negative Covid-19 test result taken within three days of departing for the United States.

New York doesn't have any restrictions on domestic travelers.

What are the restrictions?

Asymptomatic travelers entering New York from another US state or territory are not required to test or quarantine.

New York officials still recommend quarantine for all travelers who are not fully vaccinated or have not recovered from Covid-19 during the previous three months. Testing three to five days after arriving in New York is also recommended for these travelers.

Every air traveler entering the United States needs a negative Covid-19 test result. Passengers are required to get a viral test within three days before their flight to the US departs (until the new rules come into effect December 6) and to provide documentation of their lab results or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19.

What's the Covid situation?

As of December 2, roughly 34,850 total confirmed and probable deaths and roughly 1.16 million total confirmed or probable cases were registered. There's been a test positivity rate of about 2.53% in the past 28 days. This rate has been ticking up in recent weeks.

What can visitors expect?

Restaurants, movie theaters and other venues are open -- but their indoor spaces are open only to fully vaccinated patrons. Patrons younger than 12 will be allowed inside with a face mask requirement except when they are eating and drinking.

The city is strongly recommending masking indoors, but has decided not to make it a mandate. The "Key to NYC" vaccine mandate has been in full effect since September 13.

An in-person New Year's Eve celebration is set to take place this year in Times Square. Attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination.

Broadway has reopened, but you must be vaccinated to attend a show, and masks are required except when eating and drinking. You can see a listing of shows at Broadway.com.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, like all NYC museums, requires visitors 12 and older to be vaccinated, and children 2 to 11 must wear a mask. Masks are required indoors at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The subway system continues to operate on a 24-hour basis.

Among the many locations you can get rapid Covid-19 testing are these spots frequented by tourists:

-- LaGuardia Airport, in the Terminal B parking lot

-- John F. Kennedy International Airport, in the departures level of Terminal 1, Row H Area; also at the Terminal 5 AirTrain stop

-- Staten Island Ferry, St. George Terminal on Staten Island (next to the North Shore Esplanade exit)

-- Times Square (701 Seventh Avenue between West 47th and West 48th streets)

Useful links

New York State Covid-19 microsite

Nycgo.com

CDC Travel Health

Our recent coverage

There are two new attractions added to the NYC roster. Read about Little Island, which sits in the Hudson River, and a spectacular observatory at One Vanderbilt tower.

Check out our New Yorker's guide to eating out safely during the pandemic, or read about the bar Dante, which was named the second best in the world this year.

Consider a post-pandemic stay at the first hotel on Roosevelt Island, a sliver of an island in the East River with a notorious past.

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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