ALBANY, N.Y. – This isn’t a civil war, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
New York’s governor on Saturday ripped suggestions by President Donald Trump that he might institute a ban on New Yorkers’ travel to other states amid the coronavirus outbreak, and Cuomo threatened to sue Rhode Island if it continues to seek out New Yorkers entering its borders.
“I don’t believe that any federal administration could be serious about physical lockdowns on parts of states across this country,” Cuomo said on CNN. “I don’t believe it’s legal. It would be economic chaos.”
Late Saturday, Trump apparently backed off the idea, tweeting that he has decided against imposing a quarantine on New York and the surrounding area.
“On the recommendation of the White House CoronaVirus Task Force, and upon consultation with the Governor’s of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I have asked the @CDCgov to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government,” Trump announced late Saturday on Twitter. “A quarantine will not be necessary. Full details will be released by CDC tonight. Thank you!”
Soon after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance urging residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut “to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”
The CDC said the governors of the tri-state area “will have full discretion to implement this Domestic Travel Advisory.”
Trump had said earlier Saturday that he is considering imposing an “enforceable” quarantine on New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, areas hard-hit by the new coronavirus.
“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hot spot,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn as he departed for Norfolk, Virginia.
“I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it, but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine.”
Coronavirus:Trump says he’s considering 2-week quarantines on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut
Cuomo said he talked to Trump on Saturday morning just before his comments at the White House, saying the Republican president didn’t mention the idea.
Nonetheless, Cuomo tore into the suggestion, saying it would be something not seen since the Civil War to restrict movement across states.
“It would be a federal declaration of war on states,” Cuomo said, adding he doubted Trump, a native New Yorker, would take the drastic steps.
Still, governors have started to take action to limit New Yorkers’ travel into other states, fearing they might bring the virus with them. New York had about 52,000 positive cases of coronavirus on Saturday, by far the most in the nation, along with 528 deaths.
Governors in Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina this week ordered people arriving from the New York area – including New Jersey and Connecticut – and other virus hot spots to self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival.
Rhode Island State Police on Friday began pulling over vehicles with New York plates so that National Guard officials can collect contact information and inform them of a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.
The Providence Journal reported authorities were already going door to door in summer communities looking for New York license plates and telling people to quarantine for 14 days.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island contended the order violated the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search, and Cuomo also doubted the legality of the state’s move, saying New York might have to sue.
“We’re talking to Rhode Island,” Cuomo said. “If they don’t roll back that policy, I’m going to sue Rhode Island.”
But Cuomo said he hopes the situation can be resolved without any lawsuits, saying he could simply turn around and ban people from other states from New York, which would lead to chaos among states.
“I think it was reactionary. I think it was illegal,” he said. “We’ll work it out amicably I’m sure.”
The fight over New Yorkers’ traveling away from their homes is playing out intrastate, as well.
Some upstate counties do not want downstate New Yorkers visiting their weekend homes or renting houses to those looking to get out of New York City, where the majority of the state’s cases are.
Cuomo has said he has no plans to restrict travel within the state. He has already ordered most businesses shuttered and closed all schools for another two weeks.
Contributing: USA TODAY. Follow Joseph Spector on Twitter: @GannettAlbany