Coronavirus: Rhode Island forces all travelers from other states into self-quarantine

Jon Campbell
New York State Team

ALBANY – Rhode Island has repealed its quarantine order that applied only to those who traveled from the state of New York, broadening it to apply to all out-of-state travelers a day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to sue.

The updated order late Saturday came after Cuomo and the American Civil Liberties Union publicly criticized Rhode Island authorities for stopping cars with New York license plates and going door to door searching for New York travelers, who were told to self-quarantine for 14 days in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the United States with more than 52,000 confirmed cases and 728 deaths as of Saturday morning

But on Saturday evening, Cuomo argued Rhode Island's actions violated the Constitution and vowed to sue the state.

More:Cuomo rips attempts to ban New Yorkers' travel to other states, vowing to sue Rhode Island

By the end of the day, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo repealed her New York-specific order, which she first issued Thursday. Instead, she issued a new order requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for any person traveling to Rhode Island from any other state.

"Any person coming to Rhode Island from another state for a non-work-related purpose must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days," according to Raimondo's updated order. 

"This quarantine restriction shall not apply to public health, public safety or health care workers."

On Sunday, Cuomo thanked Raimondo for reversing the policy of stopping New York cars as they travel through Rhode Island.

"We thank them for their cooperation," Cuomo said.

More:Coronavirus in New York: Check our interactive map of cases by county

Targeting New Yorkers in the spread against coronavirus

Members of the 1207th Rhode Island National Guard unit stand at the Westerly, R.I., Amtrak station Friday, March 27, 2020, to inform passengers from New York of the 14-day quarantine restrictions if disembarking in Rhode Island ordered by Gov. Gina Raimondo. At the time of the photo, no passengers had disembarked at the station.

New York residents have been the target of several attempts to restrict travel as New York City continues to deal with the country's worst coronavirus outbreak.

A similar executive order remains in effect in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed anybody traveling to the state from an "area with substantial community spread" to isolate or quarantine for two weeks.

DeSantis' order, which he issued Tuesday, specifically points to the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as an area with significant community spread.

"Florida is experiencing an increase in individuals fleeing to Florida from states where 'shelter-in-place' orders are being implemented, including from the New York Tri-State Area," DeSantis wrote in his order.

Trump backs off quarantine order for NY, NJ and Connecticut

Rhode Island Air National Guard Tsgt. William Randall, left, and Westerly police officer Howard Mills approach a home while looking for New York license plates in driveways to inform them of self quarantine orders, Saturday, March 28, 2020, in Westerly, R.I.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Saturday floated the idea of implementing an "enforceable quarantine" for the Tri-State area, immediately drawing the ire of Cuomo and other governors.

By the end of the day, Trump backed off the threat, instead having the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue a "strong travel advisory" that suggests residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut avoid unnecessary, nonessential domestic travel for the next two weeks.

New York has had a stay-in-place policy since last week that shuttered all nonessential businesses and closed all schools.

But Cuomo argued that banning interstate travel was untenable and likely illegal, comparing it to something not seen since the Civil War.

"If you start walling off areas all across the country, you would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, anti-social," he said on CNN.

"It wouldn't even be productive."

Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.