Yesterday we discussed the fact that the Governor of Rhode Island had sought legal advice as to whether or not she could close the borders of her state to people arriving from New York City, effectively instituting a travel ban on people who live in or had visited Gotham. That turned out not to be possible because of pesky constitutional considerations. But what if a governor wanted to set up such a ban inside of their own state?
That’s a question that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may have to deal with this week. It’s not just people in Rhode Island and Connecticut who are upset about a flood of Big Apple residents invading their neighborhoods. Out on Long Island, residents of the tony coastal region known as the Hamptons are equally bothered. They don’t need a bunch of potentially contagious city slickers coming by and getting everyone sick down at the yacht club. (NY Post)
The Hamptons are so over-run with wealthy New Yorkers panic-buying food and stretching medical supplies that local leaders are now asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue a travel ban from the city.
The move comes after Dr. Deborah Birx, of the White House coronavirus response team, said at a press conference this week with President Donald Trump that cases of the virus were spreading from New York City with people trying to flee the epicenter of the virus.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said, “A new trend is taking place that puts our residents at further risk — people seeking refuge from the metropolitan areas. It is simple math: the more people that come, the greater the spread and the greater the confirmed cases.”
What the local government leaders in the Hamptons are really asking for is a ban on all “non-urgent” travel out of the city heading east for people who don’t own summer homes there and a quarantine order for those coming from the city who do. Neither of these seems practical from a legal standpoint, because of the assumption of freedom of movement for citizens. It’s even more problematic when you consider that they’re asking for the quarantine order to only be applied to certain individuals rather than everyone in the town. The law must be applied evenly to all, at least in more normal times.
I’m not without sympathy for the complaints being made by the residents of the Hamptons. They plan ahead for a lot of vacation traffic during the summer, with the stores stocking up on everything the vacationers might desire and local government resources staffing up to handle the extra traffic. In the winter, most of those summer homes sit empty and far fewer resources are needed.
At the moment, the unexpected guests are cleaning the shelves of the stores of almost everything, particularly gourmet food items. One store owner is quoted as saying that a couple came into his place and left with five shopping carts full of goodies costing over $8,000. In some ways, you could look at this as a boon for local businesses, and I’m sure it will be. But local residents are finding it hard to get the food and other supplies they need.
Of even greater concern is the medical care situation. The closest hospital out there is tiny in comparison to the major medical centers in New York City. They’re ready to handle the normal medical needs of the local community and the occasional boating accident during the summer rush, but they are in no way set up for the potential of hundreds of critically ill COVID-19 patients requiring ICU level care and 24/7 ventilators.
But what can be done? Particularly in the case of all the Big Apple residents who own vacation homes in the Hamptons, you can’t just tell those people that they can’t show up and occupy their own property. Even the ones who are renting homes are entitled to come if they’ve found a landlord willing to lease out their property. I somehow doubt that they’re going to find a willing partner in Governor Cuomo in terms of securing an actual travel ban from the five boroughs to the Hamptons. In the meantime, they’ll just need to boost the supply chains and get things stocked up as if it were already summer.