NEW YORK - President Donald Trump backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing Saturday night that a “strong Travel Advisory” be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has placed a 14-day domestic travel restriction on the three states.
Effective immediately, the CDC urges residents of these states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel, unless they are an employee of critical infrastructure industries.
The notion of quarantine had been advocated by governors, including Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who sought to halt travelers from the heavily affected areas to their states. But it drew swift criticism from the leaders of the states in question, who warned it would spark panic in a populace already suffering under the virus.
He didn't say out any specifics other than to say that travel would be restricted out of the quarantine zone and that it would be for a two week period. It was unclear how the order would have been able to be enforced.
The president said he didn't want to do it but was considering it as a possible drastic measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus from the hard-hit area to the rest of the country. He said New Yorkers were going to Florida and bringing the coronavirus there.
President Trump made the comments as he was leaving the White House to head to Norfolk, Virginia to see off the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship that was going to head to New York to provide emergency hospital rooms.
The quarantine would not have applied to truckers driving in and out of the zone to deliver goods, according to the president. He also said it would not have affected the trade of goods.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at a Saturday afternoon news conference that there are 52,318 total coronavirus cases in New York, 7,328 people have been hospitalized, 1,755 are ICU patients and 2,726 have been discharged. The death toll has risen to 728.
When alerted to the president's statement about a possible quarantine, Cuomo said he had no idea what the president was talking about.
"I don’t even know what that means,'' Cuomo said. "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. ... I don’t like the sound of it."
It isn't clear whether the federal government has the power to impose such restrictions on states. Under the country’s constitutional system, states have the power and responsibility for maintaining public order and safety. The federal government is empowered under the law to take measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between states, but it's not clear that means Trump can order state residents to stay put.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.