Unlocking the World

Travel to New York City during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN StaffUpdated 5th May 2021
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)
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on May 5.
(CNN) — 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 is on the cusp of reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced, setting May 19 as the date the state will drastically ease restrictions on businesses, gatherings and venues.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is targeting July 1 for New York City's "full reopening," including "full-strength" business at stores, theaters and restaurants.
New York City was the US epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, 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 dropped substantially, leveled off and are now declining again.

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

New York is subject to US government rules, meaning travel from Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, India, 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.

What are the restrictions?

New York state recently changed its rules for incoming travelers.
As of April 10, asymptomatic travelers entering New York from another country, US state or territory are no longer 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.
All travelers, with limited exceptions, must continue to fill out the state's Traveler Health Form upon entering New York.
Every air traveler entering the US 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, and to provide documentation of their lab results or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19.

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 32,700 total confirmed and probable deaths, and almost 933,000 total confirmed or probable cases, were registered as of May 5.

What can visitors expect?

New York's busy streets fell quiet at the start of the pandemic and recovery has been slow in the year since, although many areas, including Brooklyn, are busy again.
According to eased rules set to take effect on May 19 in the state, capacity limits will be adjusted to a new distance-based maximum capacity.
So instead of limiting a restaurant's indoor dining to 50% capacity, for example, the space will be free to welcome as many guests or groups of guests as can be spaced six feet apart.
For social gatherings in public spaces, capacity limits for indoor events will increase on May 19 from 100 people to 250 people and outdoor event capacity limits will go from 200 people to 500 people.
Broadway is set to fully reopen in September, and tickets go on sale May 6.
Museums are open, but some are mandating timed reservations. Many are gradually increasing capacity as the city eases restrictions.
The state of New York has launched the Excelsior Pass, which allows people who have received a negative test or a vaccination in New York state to provide proof of their status. The digital pass is not a requirement for venues or events that require testing or vaccinations to enter, so a traveler from another state could use their own vaccination card or lab test result to enter.

Useful links

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.
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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.