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Trump Considers Quarantining East Coast Cities

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. That's New York. As of this morning, there were 29,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city. President Trump said today that he is considering imposing a federal quarantine that would restrict travel for millions of Americans on the East Coast as part of the effort to slow the spread of the virus.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I am now considering - we'll make a decision very quickly, very shortly - a quarantine because it's such a hot area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

MARTIN: That's President Trump speaking this afternoon in Norfolk, Va. This could affect more than 10 million Americans. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann is with us now from New York state, where he's been following developments.

Brian, thanks for joining us. What do we know about this quarantine idea?

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Well, we don't really know a lot yet. The president's been asked about this through the day, reporters looking for clarification on how this might work. Trump says he's looking at the idea. It does appear he's talking about some kind of mandatory federal quarantine - unclear how that would be enforced. Speaking in Virginia, he said it would be structured so that some traffic in and out of New York City would still be allowed. Trade would continue in some way.

I should say, Michel, that folks I've been talking to in New York City - they're already really scared right now. More than 200 people have died in New York state in the last day alone. Floating an idea like this is adding a lot of uncertainty about what happens next in people's lives.

MARTIN: And what about other officials? How are other officials there reacting to the president's proposal, especially there in New York?

MANN: Yeah. Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed back against this pretty hard at his daily briefing today in Albany. He sounded like he'd been taken off guard by the suggestion and said the president never discussed it with him.

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ANDREW CUOMO: I don't even know what that means. I don't know how that could be legally enforceable. And from a medical point of view, I don't know what you would be accomplishing. I can tell you I just - I don't even like the sound of it.

MANN: Now, Michel, after that, Trump's acting chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the White House is evaluating all the options, looking at Trump's authority to do this. And the president says this kind of quarantine is something some governors have been asking for - governors who are nervous about people who are leaving New York City and who could in some cases be spreading the virus.

MARTIN: And just, Brian, briefly, if you would, a quick update on the situation in New York. What's happened over the last day?

MANN: Yeah, a lot of people sick - 52,000 statewide confirmed with COVID-19. But there are a lot of hot spots now - not just New Jersey and Connecticut, but also Detroit, New Orleans. So it's really kind of unclear at this point where this virus is going to go viral next.

MARTIN: That was North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann in New York. Brian, thank you.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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