Sunday, March 29, 2020 by JD Heyes
After seeing cases of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) explode in nearby New York, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo issued an executive order mandating that any visitor from The Empire State be placed in a 14-day quarantine.
What’s more, to enforce her order, she ordered the Rhode Island National Guard to go door-to-door in coastal areas to inform any New York residents who had come to the state of the mandatory quarantine order.
As part of her crackdown on New York, Raimondo also instructed Guard troops and state patrol officers to inform visitors from New York at checkpoints around the state they are required to self-quarantine or face penalties.
Police officers were watching Rhode Island’s highways, bridges and bus stops. National Guard troops were trudging through resort towns with clipboards, knocking on doors. They were all hunting for fleeing New Yorkers and their telltale Empire State license plates.
The states are increasingly finding themselves pitted against one another, as they bid for scarce medical equipment, angle for federal aid and demand that nonresidents self-quarantine.
Raimondo’s orders, though, went farther than any other governor, at least so far. In addition to being fined, New Yorkers who continually break self-quarantine orders could also face arrest and jail time.
“That’s a law — that’s an order,” Raimondo, a Democrat, said Saturday. “It comes with penalties. It’s not a suggestion.”
The Times said she sent troops and officers to all main highways coming into the state, as well as Amtrak stations and the main airport, in order to stop people coming from New York State and inform them of her order.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) of Florida followed suit; he said his administration would establish a checkpoint on Interstate 95 near the Georgia line to stop New York drivers and tell them to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“I want to be crystal clear about this: If you’re coming to Rhode Island from New York you are ordered into quarantine. The reason for that is because more than half of the cases of coronavirus in America are in New York,” Raimondo said Saturday, noting further that her actions were not meant to be discriminatory.
Except that they are, and they were.
The moves drew ire from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called them “reactionary” and unconstitutional. He threatened to sue the small state if the policy wasn’t rescinded, adding that “we can work it out.”
“I understand the goal … but there’s a point of absurdity, and I think what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity,” said Cuomo, also a Democrat. “We have to keep the ideas and the policies we implement positive rather than reactionary and emotional.”
By Sunday, Raimondo had repealed her original order insofar as it applied only to New York. So she reissued another order and expanded it to all out-of-state residents, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.
The paper reported that Cuomo thanked Raimondo for reversing the policy. “We thank them for their cooperation,” he told reporters.
However, Raimondo made it clear that Cuomo’s reading of her action wasn’t exactly right, noting she made her decision to expand her order before speaking with the New York governor.
“If he feels it’s important for him to take credit, go ahead,” she said. “I’m going to keep working here to keep Rhode Islanders safe.”
Her actions come as Trump administration health officials warned anew Sunday that they expect tens of thousands more Americans to get sick from coronavirus.
The president’s top coronavirus task force doctor, Deborah Birx, said Sunday every city in the U.S. will face an outbreak.
“This is the way pandemics work, and that’s why we all are deeply concerned and why we’ve been raising the alert in all metro areas and in all states. No state, no metro area will be spared,” she said.