President Donald Trump said Saturday that he will not seek to impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey and certain parts of Connecticut, after floating the idea earlier in the day as way to contain the coronavirus from spreading out of hotspots where the disease has taken a particularly heavy toll.
Trump said he decided a quarantine wasn’t necessary after consulting with the White House task force and the governors of the three states. He has asked the Centers for Disease control to issue a strong travel advisory, which will be administered by the governors in consultation with the federal government.
Earlier, Trump said he was considering a two-week quarantine on the three neighboring states and would make a decision later on Saturday, though his authority to impose such a measure was disputed from the beginning.
“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,” Trump told reporters at the White House Saturday. “Short-term, two week on New York, probably New Jersey and certain parts of Connecticut.”
Trump said he spoke with Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning about the coronavirus outbreak. He said that Florida is “having problems” with a lot of New Yorkers visiting the state, worsening the spread of infection.
On Monday, Desantis issued an executive order that requires visitors from the New York tri-state area to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from their time of entry to prevent the spread in Florida. The state has seen an increase in travelers from areas that have issued a “shelter-in-place” order, according to the order.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo issued a similar executive order on Thursday requiring travelers from New York to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Trump later clarified at an event at the USNS Comfort that the potential quarantine on the three states would not affect trade.
“It won’t affect trade in any way,” he said while speaking in front of the hospital ship Comfort.
At a press conference in New York shortly after the conversation, Cuomo said he spoke with Trump Saturday morning but didn’t discuss a potential quarantine on the state. Cuomo said Trump approved four new sites for emergency medical facilities that would add an additional 4,000 hospital beds.
“I spoke to the president about the ship coming up and the four sites, I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine. No, I haven’t had those conversations,” Cuomo said.
“I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable,” Cuomo added. “I don’t even like the sound of it.”
It wasn’t immediately made clear if Trump has the legal authority to declare a quarantine in the tri-state area. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the CDC “is authorized to detain, medically examine, and release persons arriving into the United States and traveling between states who are suspected of carrying these communicable diseases.”
However, states have laws to enforce the use of isolation and quarantine to control the spread of disease within their borders, according to the CDC.
“Our state has already called on residents to stay at home. Further, if interstate travel is absolutely necessary, our state has directed travelers to self-quarantine to prevent against further transmission of the virus,” Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said in a statement. “I have been in close communication with Governor Cuomo and Governor Murphy, and I look forward to speaking to the President directly about his comments and any further enforcement actions, because confusion leads to panic.”
Since Friday, 2,289 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 11,124, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. At least 140 people have died in the Garden State from coronavirus, Murphy said.
“I did not have any part of the conversation with the President yesterday, which was very productive I might add, nothing like quarantine came up,” Murphy told reporters Saturday. “I literally saw the story as I was walking into this room. I’ve got no more color on it.”
As of Friday evening, 23 states across the country have issued stay-at-home orders or advisories that have included the closures of nonessential businesses.
The coronavirus has infected at least 105,573 people in the U.S. and has killed 1,710.