As the number of new coronavirus cases surged in many areas of the United States, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut – once at the epicentre of the outbreak – will require visitors from states with high infection rates to quarantine on arrival.
The announcement on Wednesday came a day after the country recorded the second-largest increase in novel coronavirus cases since the health crisis began in early March. There were nearly 36,000 new infections nationwide on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally.
States subject to the 14-day quarantine are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Utah, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a briefing.
“This is a smart thing to do,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said via video at a joint news conference in New York City. “We have taken our people, the three of us from these three states, through hell and back, and the last thing we need to do right now is subject our folks to another round.”
While the United States appeared to have curbed the outbreak in May, leading many states to lift restrictions on social and economic activity, the virus is moving into rural areas and other places that it had not initially penetrated deeply.
The virus is also renewing its surge in states that opened up early to ease the devastating effect of the restrictions on local economies.
The New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area was able to lower its infection rate after locking down much of its economy and moving slowly to reopen.
With little federal guidance and decisions largely left to local officials and businesses, however, the pace of reopening in the rest of the country continues to look like a patchwork.
Florida, one of the first states to reopen, on Wednesday experienced a record increase of more than 5,500 new cases. Oklahoma, which never ordered a statewide lockdown, on Wednesday posted record new cases for the sixth time this month.
On Tuesday, Arizona, California, Mississippi and Nevada had record rises. Texas set an all-time high on Monday.
The surge in cases nationwide on Tuesday was the highest since a record of 36,426 new infections on April 24.
The new quarantine order also applies to tri-state residents returning from the targeted states, to be determined by the number of new cases per 100,000 people or the per cent testing positive, Cuomo said.
Visitors found violating the order, which takes effect from midnight, could face fines of $1,000 for a first violation and $5,000 for repeat offences, he said.
Such quarantines are not unprecedented. Hawaii requires visitors from the U.S. mainland to self-quarantine for two weeks. Florida and Texas at one point required people coming in from New York area airports to quarantine for two weeks.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its support for a lawsuit challenging Hawaii’s quarantine, saying visitors are being denied rights granted to most island residents.
While some of the increased numbers of cases can be attributed to more testing, the numbers do not correlate.
The average number of tests has risen 7.6 per cent over the last seven days, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, while the average number of new cases rose 30 per cent.
The percentage of positive tests is also rising.
At least four states are averaging double-digit rates of positive tests for the virus, such as Arizona at 20 per cent. By contrast, New York has been reporting positive test rates of around 1 per cent.
The European Union hopes to reopen borders from July but will review individual nations’ COVID-19 situation fortnightly, according to diplomats and a document laying out criteria that could keep Americans and Russians out.
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