WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said he would issue a “strong travel advisory” for New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut to stop the spread of Covid-19, backing away from the quarantine on those hard-hit areas he had floated earlier in the day.
In an announcement on Twitter, Trump followed up on a suggestion he first raised on Saturday at the White House but avoided the harshest outcome.
“A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump said.
The travel advisory will be issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump said, with full details to come later on Saturday.
Earlier, Trump told reporters that “some people” would like him to impose a quarantine on the greater New York area, which accounts for more than half the US infections.
“It will be for a short period of time if we do it at all,” he said.
Among those people was likely Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who spoke with Trump on Saturday morning.
DeSantis, a Republican and a Trump ally, has repeatedly expressed his concern about travellers coming from the New York area to Florida, which has always had a large number of part-time residents from the northeast.
“How is it fair to them to just be air-dropping in people from the hot zones, bringing infections with them and seeding the communities with new infections that they are trying to stamp out?” DeSantis said at a press briefing on Saturday.
The Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut spoke out after Trump suggested a shutdown of movement from some or all of the states “for a short period of time, if we do it at all.”
New York’s Andrew Cuomo said on CNN that the move would amount to a “federal declaration of war” against the states – one that’s apparently been forestalled for now.
Targeted quarantines would shock the US economy, especially if they involved New York City, the nation’s financial centre – the opposite of what Trump has said he wants, Cuomo said.
Thin edge of wedge
He also suggested that if New York and other northeastern states were quarantined first, other areas, like Louisiana, would inevitably follow.
Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey said quarantine wasn’t raised when he spoke with Trump on Friday, while Connecticut’s Ned Lamont warned that confusion over individuals’ movements could lead to panic.
Lamont urged the White House to provide clarity before “thinking out loud.”
Before Trump’s decision was released, the New York Attorney-General’s office said it was evaluating its options “in the event the President orders a military-style forced quarantine against New York State,” according to a spokesperson.
“The coronavirus crisis does not mean our Constitution is suspended, and the Attorney-General remains vigilant against any actions that may violate the rights of New Yorkers,” the spokesperson said.
Confirmed US coronavirus cases rose above 120,000 on Saturday, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
The US now has the most Covid-19 cases in the world and has had over 2,000 fatalities – more than 500 in New York City alone.
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