US President Donald Trump said Saturday he is considering placing New York state — the worst-hit in the US by the coronavirus pandemic — under quarantine but he was vague about exactly what he meant by this.
“We’d like to see NY quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined,” Trump said as he left the White House on his way to Norfolk, Virginia, to see off a US Navy medical ship en route to New York City to help with pandemic response there.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who spoke with Trump earlier Saturday, said this issue did not come up in those discussions.
“I don’t even know what that means,” Cuomo told a press briefing.
“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,” Cuomo said.
“But I can tell you, I don’t even like the sound of it. Not even understanding what it is, I don’t like the sound of it,” the governor said.
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.
New York remains the worst-hit US city and Cuomo said defeating the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks.”
Cases also have been rising rapidly in cities such as Detroit, where poverty and poor health have been problems for years. The number of infections surged to 1,381, with 31 deaths recorded, as of noon Saturday.
“At this time, the trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center.
“This is off the charts.”
Chopra, who has worked in Detroit for more than 15 years, said many patients have ailments like asthma, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. She also acknowledged that in Detroit, one of the nation’s largest African American cities, there is a distrust among some in the community of the medical system and government due to systemic racism.
“In Detroit, we are seeing a lot of patients that are presenting to us with severe disease, rather than minor disease,” said Chopra, who worried it will be hit with a “tsunami” of patients.
Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Michigan, providing additional money to address the outbreak. He also has done the same for such states as New York, Louisiana and Illinois.