WASHINGTON / NEW YORK, Mar 28 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Saturday he may ban travel to and from the New York area to limit the spread of the coronavirus from its epicenter in the United States, an idea the governor of the State considered anti-American and that it does not help.
After the death toll from the virus has tripled in three days and the total surpassed 2,000, Trump said he could impose a quarantine on New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut to protect other states.
“They are having problems in Florida. Many New Yorkers are falling. We don’t want that, ”Trump told reporters.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the travel ban would cause chaos.
“If you start shutting down areas across the country, it would be totally weird, counterproductive and un-American,” he said on CNN. “It doesn’t make any sense and I don’t think any serious professional or governmental authority endorses it.”
Since the virus first appeared in the United States in late January, Trump has vacillated between minimizing the risk of infection and urging Americans to take action to stop the spread.
The number of known cases surpassed the 120,000 mark, a world record.
Trump has also been reluctant to invoke emergency powers to order American companies to produce much-needed medical supplies, despite pleas from governors and hospital workers.
On Saturday he appeared to tone down his previous comments calling for a swift reopening of the US economy by mid-April. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.
It was unclear whether Trump would have the ability to block travel by land, air and sea from a region that is the economic engine of the eastern United States, with 10% of the population and 12% of GDP.
New cases of coronavirus in China moderated after the government imposed strict isolation from Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease.
The death count continues to climb in Italy, where authorities have blocked travel across the country and prevent people from leaving their homes for anything other than essential activities.
As of Saturday afternoon, the number of cases in the United States stood at 115,842, with at least 1,929 deaths, according to a Reuters tally. The total in the United States dwarfed that of China and Italy on Thursday.
Even if it were possible, an isolation in the New York area could come too late for the rest of the country.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Southern California was on track to match New York’s infection numbers in the next week.
In New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations late last month fueled an outbreak, the number of coronavirus patients “has been staggering,” said Sophia Thomas, a nurse at the DePaul Community Health Center.
American health workers are demanding more protective suits and medical supplies to cope with the waves of patients that are already pushing the capacity of hospitals to the limit.
On Saturday, nurses protested outside the Jacobi Medical Center in New York, saying that supervisors asked them to reuse their masks, putting their own health at risk.
Doctors are also especially concerned about a shortage of respirators, machines that help patients breathe and are badly needed for those suffering from COVID-19, a pneumonia-like respiratory illness caused by the highly contagious coronavirus.
Additional reporting from Jonathan Stempel, Gabriella Borter, and Brendan Pierson in New York, and Joel Schectman, Andy Sullivan, and Michelle Price in Washington; written by Andy Sullivan; translated by Gabriel Burin; Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida