Donald Trump said today that he is seriously considering a quarantine for New York, New Jersey, and parts of Connecticut in an effort to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined,” he said outside the White House.
“I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine — short term, two weeks for New York, probably New Jersey and certain parts of Connecticut.”
He later said that truckers hauling freight into New York City and other areas would not be affected, nor would those people transiting or passing through the states.
Trump added that this would be “an enforceable” quarantine, meaning the involvement of law enforcement in making it work.
Governor Cuomo seems to have been taken by surprise by the president’s quarantine idea.
“I spoke to the president about the ship coming up and the four sites, I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine,” Cuomo said in a press conference. “I haven’t had those conversations, I don’t even know what that means.”
“I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable and from a medical point of view I don’t know what you would be accomplishing,” he added. “But I can tell you I don’t even like the sound of it, not even understanding what it is I don’t like the sound of it.”
Trump also said, “It would be primarily a restriction on residents of those states traveling to other parts of the country.” The president has been in contact with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who has issued a mandatory 14-day quarantine order for travelers from New York. Rhode Island is going so far as tracking down visitors from New York City to make sure they are in quarantine.
But what would it mean exactly to quarantine a whole state or region? And what did the president mean by “enforceable”? Will police be searching cars at roadblocks demanding identification? One thing seems clear; it won’t be voluntary.
New York currently has more than 46,000 positive tests for the coronavirus. What’s it going to look like in 2 weeks? In a month? If Trump can get ahead of worst of it by ordering people in three states to remain in place, he might be able to bend the curve of the infection sooner.
Cuomo questioned the legality of a quarantine, but in a national emergency, you would hope that the president had that kind of authority. Regardless, a quarantine would be a drastic step that may be necessary to protect the rest of us.