Trump May Quarantine Parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut
President Donald Trump said he’s considering an enforced quarantine for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to curb the coronavirus outbreak -- a move that could fall afoul of the U.S. Constitution.
Trump told reporters he’d spoken with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Florida Governor Ron Desantis Saturday morning before departing the White House to send off a Navy hospital ship bound for New York City from Norfolk, Virginia.
The president said “some people” would like him to impose a quarantine on the region, which accounts for more than half the U.S. infections. “It will be for a short period of time if we do it at all,” he said.
Trump followed his comments with a tweet, saying “a decision will be made, one way or another, shortly.” He made a similar remark in Norfolk above the USNS ship Comfort.
In Albany, Cuomo said the issue of a quarantine didn’t come up during his talk with the president and that a mandatory quarantine was “scary.” “I don’t even like the sound of it,” the governor said during his regular Covid-19 televised briefing.
The U.S. had reported more than 105,000 cases of the disease as of Saturday and more than 1,700 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.
The quarantine would be for “two weeks on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” Trump said. It would “restrict travel, because they’re having problems down in Florida, a lot of New Yorkers going down, we don’t want that.”
As he boarded Air Force One in Maryland, the president said states he didn’t identify were asking him to take action to quarantine the New York and New Jersey area.
“They go to Florida and a lot of people don’t want that,” he said.
The president probably would exceed the powers granted him in the Constitution if he were to quarantine New York and nearby areas, said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of public health at Georgetown University.
“Is it const’l? Probably not w/o Cong authority. He hasn’t even consulted @NYGovCuomo,” Gostin said in a tweet, using shorthand for New York’s governor.
At press conferences this week, DeSantis has repeatedly expressed his concern to Trump about travelers from the New York area to Florida, which has always had a large number of part-time residents from the northeast. That includes Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, currently resident in Washington, who in 2019 declared himself a resident of Florida.
DeSantis has said allowing flights from New York area airports to continue normally would have been like allowing such flights from China or Italy earlier in the crisis.
He’s already ordered all arrivals from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-isolate after arrival. But he has often used press briefings to lament that he can’t take more aggressive action to stop or slow flights more broadly, noting only the federal government has such power.
DeSantis’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Rhode Island state police, assisted by the National Guard, on Saturday began searching for people who’d traveled from New York and planned to ask them to self-quarantine.
Asked at the White House about his ambition to urge many Americans to return to work by the U.S. Easter Sunday holiday on April 12, Trump said: “we’ll see what happens.”
(Updates with public health professor from 10th paragraph.)
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