NEW YORK — President Donald Trump on Saturday walked back his plan for a two-week quarantine covering New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, and instead vowed a “strong Travel Advisory” that will be administered by the governors of the three states.
“A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump tweeted. “Full details will be released by CDC tonight. Thank you!”
It was not immediately clear what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Travel Advisory” would involve. The CDC has already issued “guidance” that travelers “who were recently in the affected areas of New York, out of an abundance of caution, should self-quarantine for 14 days.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who on Saturday warned New Yorkers to prepare for a “war” against the coronavirus as the state’s grim death toll climbed — was blindsided by Trump’s earlier bombshell announcement that he was considering a quarantine for the three states.
Trump issued his earlier announcement with no input from Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy or New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The president even suggested the clampdown could go into effect before the end of the weekend across the region, which has emerged as the epicenter of the U.S. branch of the pandemic.
“We’re looking at it and will be making a decision,” Trump said before boarding Air Force One for Norfolk, Va. “A lot of the states that are infected — they’ve asked me if I’d look at it so we’re going to look at it. Maybe for a short period of time.”
Those asking did not include the three local governors. But Trump said Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, one of the president’s most ardent backers, was pushing the plan to impose restrictions on the trio of Northeast states. DeSantis has griped about New Yorkers coming down to the Sunshine State during the crisis.
Trump’s bizarre quarantine threat came as the number of coronavirus victims in New York climbed above 52,000, the most in the U.S., with 728 deaths statewide linked to the infection. About 7,300 people were hospitalized Saturday in New York, including about 1,800 in intensive care.
“These are still people who we lost. We lost because of this virus,” Cuomo said Saturday. “If they didn’t have the virus, they would be with us today.”
In New York City, the reported death toll grew by 155 people from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., health officials said. The city’s grim tally since the pandemic began rose to 672 deaths as of Saturday afternoon, up from 450 on Friday afternoon.
The city reported 30,765 cases on Saturday afternoon, up 5.5% since the 10 a.m. report of 29,158 cases, and 15% since the Friday night report of 26,697 cases.
Cuomo said the state was trying to “go on offense” after being “behind the virus from Day 1.” Yet he warned the worst was yet to come, with models predicting the pandemic will hit the city and state hardest in about three weeks.
One piece of good news: the number of intensive care admissions dipped to 172 from more than twice that the day before. And the number of those hospitalized also dropped Friday, while the number of positive tests in the city rose only slightly.
Cuomo delayed the presidential primary to June 23, which will coincide with the votes for other offices. And the state deadline for filing state income taxes was delayed until July 15, the same date as the feds.
Cuomo echoed de Blasio’s warning from a day earlier that stricter measures may be imposed on New York City parks and playgrounds if young people do not respect the guidelines mandating social distancing and prohibiting contact sports including basketball.
The governor also defended New York’s request for 30,000 ventilators, calling it a number produced by health experts. He said the price of the device has soared by nearly 100% since the crisis erupted.
Preparing New Yorkers for a long fight, he reminded people the state has only been dealing with coronavirus for less than four weeks. The first case in the state was identified 27 days ago and public schools closed 10 days ago.
“It seems like forever,” he said. “Keep it in perspective in this disorienting time.”
Cuomo conceded that he was among the millions of people detached from the familiar pattern of daily routines.
“You know how I knew it was Saturday?” the governor said. “Because my alarm clock said Saturday. It’s literally one day blending into another.”
The governor urged Americans to seek to find a “silver lining” in the crisis by cherishing time with loved ones. He spoke wistfully of long conversations with his elderly mother and his daughters.
“You have the advantage of time,” he said. “Those moments are priceless. You will not have them ever again in life.”
In another piece of good news, Trump approved four new sites for field hospitals in all the boroughs except Manhattan, with some of the new facilities designated for “COVID-only” patients. The Navy hospital ship Comfort is also expected to arrive in the city on Monday.
Trump later tweeted about his possible coronavirus lock down of parts of the Northeast, referring to the tri-state areas as “developing hot spots,” with QUARANTINE spelled in capital letters.
The blindsided governors of New York and New Jersey appeared puzzled by the president’s sudden declaration.
“This would be a federal declaration of war on state,” said Cuomo, who spoke with Trump earlier Saturday. “That’s not a quarantine, that would be a lockdown. Then we would be Wuhan, China. I don’t even believe it is legal.”
Murphy, who spoke Friday with Trump in a conversation where quarantine was never mentioned, said his state planned to stay the course despite the president’s remarks.
“Until further notified we’re going to keep doing exactly what we’re doing, because we believe the data and the facts are on our side,” said Murphy.
Trump also threatened to sue Rhode Island if reports were true that the state was stopping cars with New York plates to enforce their own quarantine rule.
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