New York has become the undisputed epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, accounting for nearly half of all confirmed cases in the entire country. And while that figure may be misleading – New York has conducted far more testing than, say, Florida – it is nonetheless highly alarming for surrounding states.
Among those states is Rhode Island, which has begun taking dramatic measures to track the influx of New York residents into the state. These measures include having police pull over cars with NY license plates and sending National Guard members door-to-door, asking residents if they’ve arrived from New York.
The draconian measures hit a sour note with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is threatening to sue the neighboring state.
“I understand the goal,” he said, “but there’s a point of absurdity, and I think what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity. We have to keep the ideas and the policies we implement positive rather than reactionary and emotional.”
In a statement last week, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said that her state was taking no chances.
“I want to be crystal clear about this: If you’re coming to Rhode Island from New York you are ordered into quarantine,” she said. “The reason for that is because more than half of the cases of coronavirus in America are in New York.”
According to the AP, the National Guard in Rhode Island began going to houses in the state’s coastal communities this weekend, looking for New Yorkers to inform them that they are under quarantine for the next 14 days. Similarly, Rhode Island State Police set up a checkpoint on I-95 to pull over drivers with NY plates. The drivers were reportedly asked to provide the police with contact information and they were also told to quarantine themselves for the next two weeks.
In her statement, Gov. Raimondo warned that New Yorkers caught violating the terms of the quarantine could be subject to both fines and jail time.
Update: According to The New York Post, Raimondo has backed down from her executive order under threat of litigation from Cuomo. “Facing the threat of a lawsuit from New York, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo repealed a controversial executive order penalizing New Yorkers for traveling into the state mandating that they self-quarantine for 14 days amidst the coronavirus outbreak,” reported the paper.