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Trump reverses earlier call for quarantine on New York residents

Cuomo responds to Trump's remark on possible quarantine

Hours after President Trump said he was considering an "enforceable" quarantine of all residents who leave the New York metro area, including possibly parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, Mr. Trump tweeted that a "quarantine will not be necessary." Mr. Trump tweeted that he has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state governors to create a "travel advisory."

Earlier Saturday, Mr. Trump said  that he is considering declaring an "enforceable" quarantine affecting some residents of the New York metropolitan area, possibly including New Jersey and Connecticut. He called the region a "hot spot" of the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the country.

"I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing 'hot spots', New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly," Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn, Mr. Trump told reporters that he had spoken to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis about the pandemic. Mr. Trump said DeSantis, a Republican, told the president that he wanted to stop the flow of New Yorkers who may be infected with the new COVID-19 virus into the state.

"We'd 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. I'm thinking about that right now," Mr. Trump said. "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 parts of Connecticut."

Mr. Trump also said "I'll speak to the governor about it later."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a few hours later on CNN that he had not spoken to Mr. Trump about a quarantine, but said it would be a "preposterous idea."

"I don't believe that any federal administration could be serious about physical lockdowns of states or parts of states across this country," Cuomo said. "I don't believe it's legal. I think it would be economic chaos. I don't think the American people would stand for it and I think it makes absolutely no sense and I don't believe any professional would support it."

Mr. Trump reiterated in his remarks before the send off of the USNS Comfort that he was considering a quarantine of the area. The Comfort is a naval hospital boat which is carrying over 1,000 beds and 1,200 medical personnel to New York City.

"I am now considering, and will make a decision very quickly, very shortly, a quarantine, because it's such a hot area," Mr. Trump said. "We'll be announcing that one way or another fairly soon."

Mr. Trump also said that the quarantine would not affect truck drivers passing through the region, or trade in anyway.

The chief of the National Guard, General Joseph Lengel, has said there is no consideration being given to using the military to enforce a quarantine. However, he has also said that the National Guard troops called up by state governors can be used to support law enforcement operations — but they are under control of the governor.

Using active duty troops to enforce a quarantine would require the president to suspend the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the use of the armed services for law enforcement.

Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters shortly after Mr. Trump's first remarks on it that he had not spoken to the president about quarantining the metro region. Cuomo also said he didn't know what an enforceable quarantine means, but "I don't even like the sound of it."

"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'd be accomplishing," Cuomo said.

The governor added that there were no geographical constraints when the state required people in the city of New Rochelle to stay home.

"So we never set any geographic constraints, right? Mandatory quarantine is a scary concept, because it sounds like you're saying to people can't leave this district. We never did that," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that he spoke with Mr. Trump Saturday morning about four temporary hospital sites in New York City. Cuomo said there have been 728 deaths in New York, an increase of over 200 from the previous day. There are over 50,000 cases of coronavirus in New York alone, with New Jersey following with 8,825 cases. 

Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey also said he had not received any information from the administration about a potential quarantine.

"Until further notice, we're going to keep doing what we're doing," Murphy said in a press conference.

In a statement, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont indicated that he did not believe a federally mandated quarantine would be necessary.

"Regarding the President's consideration of a quarantine of New York, as well as parts of Connecticut and New Jersey, 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," Lamont said.

"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," Lamont continued.

Meanwhile, DeSantis announced Saturday checkpoints along major interstates, such as I-95 and I-10, to check for drivers for New York and New Orleans.

David Martin contributed to this report.

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