Rhode Island plans to send the National Guard out to knock door-to-door in an attempt to hunt down anyone who has arrived in the tiny state from New York City during the coronavirus pandemic. State police, meanwhile, have begun pulling over cars with New York state plates.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said anyone traveling there from New York will be ordered to undergo a 14-day quarantine and could face fines or even jail time if they’re found to not comply.
“Right now we have a pinpointed risk,” Raimondo said at a news conference Friday. “That risk is called New York City.”
Rhode Island, which had some 162 confirmed cases by late Friday compared to New York State’s total of more than 44,000, joined a host of other municipalities and states trying bar entry to New Yorkers living in the epicenter of the US’ coronavirus outbreak.
The Hamptons, counties north of the city, and governors in Florida, Maryland, Texas and South Carolina have all also ordered New Yorkers to keep out or undergo mandatory two-week quarantines.
Cuomo said he was opposed to such restrictions, at least within the state.
“I don’t like it socially or culturally,” Cuomo said during a radio appearance Friday on WAMC. “I don’t like what it says about us as one state, one family. Also, I don’t believe it’s medically justified.”
In Rhode Island, Raimondo maintained she’s within her emergency powers to impose the aggressive measures and said she had consulted with state lawyers.
“I know it’s unusual. I know it’s extreme and I know some people disagree with it,” she said.
“If you want to seek refuge in Rhode Island, you must be quarantined.”
But the American Civil Liberties Union said giving police power to stop cars simply for having New York license plates is an “ill-advised and unconstitutional plan.”
“While the Governor may have the power to suspend some state laws and regulations to address this medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution,” said Steven Brown, the executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, in a statement.
“Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and cannot, constitute ‘probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver, no matter how laudable the goal of the stop may be,” Brown added.