Rhode Island cracks down on visitors from New York
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island National Guard will go door to door in coastal communities starting Saturday to ask people if they are visiting from New York and informing them of Rhode Island’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for people from there, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday.
The measure, while extreme, is necessary because the New York City area is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and is needed to control its spread, she said.
The order came the same day state police started pulling over vehicles with New York license plates to get contact information for drivers and passengers and to inform them of the quarantine order.
People who break the order faces fines and even arrest for subsequent violations, the Democratic governor said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island on Thursday questioned the constitutionality of pulling over vehicles for no other reason than having a New York plate.
But Raimondo said Friday she has consulted with lawyers and is in line with White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
While Rhode Island’s response to the outbreak has been solid, the state is unprepared for a huge surge in cases such as experienced in New York and New Orleans, Raimondo said.
Because of that, she extended the state’s social distancing guidelines that include no public gatherings of more than 10 people and limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery service only until April 13.
The state’s two casinos will remain closed indefinitely while visitors will not be allowed at the state’s nursing homes and hospitals until further notice.
MORE COVID-19 CASES
There were 38 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island on Friday, bringing the state’s total to more then 200, Raimondo said. Twenty-eight people are hospitalized.
For most people, the virus 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, or death.
Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic bishop is asking all the state’s Catholic churches to ring their bells for 5 minutes starting at 9 a.m. every Sunday and continuing until the coronavirus crisis is over.
“This symbolic gesture will speak to our whole community of the presence of God, will help to unite the diocese spiritually, and will signal hope for our people, reminding them that their churches are still there, eager to welcome them home in the very near future,” Bishop Thomas Tobin said in a statement.
Tobin earlier barred face-to-face Masses.