WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Saturday he is considering a two-week quarantine on New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus from the country’s epicenter, but he added that such a move would not affect trade in any way.
U.S. President Donald Trump is followed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as he departs for a day trip to Norfolk, Virginia, from the White House in Washington, U.S., March 28, 2020.REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said travel to Florida by residents of New York, which has recorded more than 52,000 cases of the disease, is causing problems for Florida.
“We might not have to do it, but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine — short-term, two weeks — on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” Trump said, adding he had spoken to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier in the day.
“A lot of the states that are infected but don’t have a big problem, they’ve asked me if I’ll look at it so we’re going to look at it,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what authorities the President could use to impose a quarantine.
He floated the possibility days after announcing he hoped to reopen American business by Easter Sunday, April 12.
He appeared to soften the expectation on Saturday, saying “We’re going to see what happens,” when asked whether the Easter deadline was still on the table.
The sum of known coronavirus U.S. cases had soared to more than 115,000 on Saturday, eclipsing the toll the disease has taken on China and Italy. At least 1,929 lives had been lost in the United States, according to a Reuters tally.
Trump spoke to reporters before leaving Washington for Norfolk, Virginia, where he bid farewell to the Navy’s USNS Comfort hospital ship as it sailed for New York City to help take the pressure off civilian hospitals.
While most companies are assisting in combating the epidemic, he said he may have to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel one or two companies to produce further medical supplies such as ventilators and masks for hard hit states.
“We have a couple of little problem children, and we’ll use it where we have to,” he said. “But overall, I tell you, the private free enterprise system is at work like nobody has seen in a long time.”
Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Makini Brice; Writing by Joel Schectman; Editing by Diane Craft, Steve Orlofsky and Daniel Wallis