The United States now has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the world
Trump had said ‘heavily infected’ New Yorkers were a threat to other states like Florida
US President Donald Trump decided against imposing a broad two-week lockdown on New York and its neighbours after a strong pushback from local political leaders and warnings of the panic it could spark.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, late Saturday advised residents of the region not to travel except for essential purposes.
“A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump tweeted, about eight hours after he stunned the New York metropolitan region, the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak, with a proposal to place it under quarantine to prevent residents from leaving.
A lockdown of that type would have been the harshest measure yet taken by the US government to slow the spread of the disease.
Trump had indicated earlier that he was responding to worries in other states, particularly Florida, that travellers from the greater New York City area could spread Covid-19 in their communities.
He told reporters that “heavily infected” New Yorkers were a threat to Florida, a popular southern holiday destination for people in the northeast.
But after strong warnings from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Ned Lamont that the move would spark panic and cause further damage to financial markets, Trump reversed course and said there would only be travel warnings for the region.
“On the recommendation of the White House CoronaVirus Task Force, and upon consultation with the Governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I have asked the (US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) to issue a strong Travel Advisory,” he said on Twitter.
The CDC then published its advisory which urged residents of the three neighbouring states “to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”
The United States leads the world with more than 122,000 reported cases. Five other countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.
In the United States there were roughly 2,000 deaths recorded by Saturday night, according to Johns Hopkins University.
New York state has reported in excess of 53,000 cases of the new coronavirus. New York City alone reported a surge of more than 155 deaths Saturday, taking the city’s total to 672, about one-third of the fatalities across the United States.
Neighbouring New Jersey has reported more than 11,100 Covid-19 cases.
Cuomo told CNN earlier that a lockdown on travel in and out of the global financial and trade hub would not be legal or make sense – especially since there are already local controls on movements.
“Why you would want to just create total pandemonium on top of a pandemic, I have no idea,” he said.
He added that locking down the nation’s financial capital would shock the stock market and “paralyse the economy” at a time when Trump has indicated he’s itching to get the economy back on track.
Lamont called New York City, New Jersey and southern Connecticut “the global capital of the world” for commerce and finance.
“If you care as much as the president does about getting this economy going again, you’ve got to be very careful about what you say and what you don’t say,” he said.
Yet Trump appeared to be echoing concerns in other states that visiting New Yorkers could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus.
In Rhode Island, about 210km northeast of New York City, police and national guard members were knocking on doors of homes where cars had New York number plates to remind them of a requirement to self-quarantine.
Florida has a large population of retirees, but has so far only reported slightly more than 4,000 new-coronavirus cases.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a political ally of Trump, issued executive orders this week mandating two-week self-quarantines for anyone arriving or recently arrived from New York and Louisiana, another US hotbed of the disease.
He said police will put up checkpoints along the state line to remind people of the requirement.
“All we are trying to do is keep our residents here safe. If you are coming from one of the epicentres … don’t come here because we are trying to protect our folks,” he said.