HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut political leaders had mixed views — and lots of questions — after President Donald Trump said Saturday a coronavirus quarantine might be needed for residents of their state, as well as New York and New Jersey. But the president backed away from the idea late Saturday and tweeted that a travel advisory would be issued. It urges residents of the three states to avoid any nonessential travel for two weeks. Meanwhile, New Haven worked with local universities to set up temporary housing for first responders — and Yale reversed an initial answer that it couldn’t do so for weeks.
Trump told reporters at the White House he was wighing the idea of a quarantine to prevent people in the tri-state area from traveling for a short time, but he later said a travel advisory would be issued.
Taken by surprise, some Connecticut officials wondered what such a quarantine would mean and how it would work. Others said they were open to any ideas on preventing the virus’ spread.
Gov. Ned Lamont said Trump’s comments created some confusion, and that he hoped the White House would clarify what it wants by the end of Saturday evening.
He got his wish. Trump tweeted late in the day that he’d spoken to all three governors and at the recommendation of his task force was asking the Centers for Disease Control to issue a travel advisory for the area. The CDC said it was urging residents of all three states to avoid any nonessential travel for two weeks.
“Confusion can lead to panic,” Lamont, a Democrat, told a news conference. He said such a quarantine order would be impossible to enforce, ”given the spiderweb of roads.”
In broaching the idea, the president cited requests from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a fellow Republican and outspoken Trump supporter. DeSantis has complained that people have come to his state from New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, and ordered them to isolate themselves on arrival for 14 days.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. said the idea raises “very significant questions,” calling it unclear how such a quarantine would be enforced and whether it would have any meaning.
“The specifics and impact are completely unclear and uncertain,” he said, noting that Lamont has already directed the state’s residents to self-quarantine.
Since Trump has said he wants the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter, Blumenthal suggested the quarantine idea “just adds to the confusion.”
In Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, Mayor Joe Ganim said he wouldn’t dismiss anybody’s ideas for stronger measures to contain the outbreak. Bridgeport is 50 miles (80 km) from New York City and is within Fairfield County, which counts over 750 of the more than 1,200 coronavirus cases reported statewide.
“I’m open to doing whatever it takes to stay ahead of this,” said Ganim, a Democrat. “We are evaluating and deliberating and open to ideas from the president, our governor, and other mayors.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker also said officials need to look at “all kinds of ways to make sure that people stop interacting with each other.” But he cautioned that a forced quarantine could have unintended consequences.
“Does that cover health care workers? Does that cover someone that works at a gas station that a health care worker may need to get gas to get to the hospital?” the Democrat asked. “If the president does end up implementing this, I think we have to be cautious about how we implement it.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.