Donald Trump
Donald Trump Reuters

US President Donald Trump on Saturday night backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing that a "strong Travel Advisory" be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak, The Associated Press reports.

Trump announced he reached the decision after consulting with the White House task force leading the federal response and the governors of the three states. He said he had directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government."

"A quarantine will not be necessary," added the President.

The notion of a quarantine had been advocated by governors, including Ron DeSantis of Florida, who sought to halt travelers from the heavily affected areas to their states. It drew swift criticism from the leaders of the states in question, who warned it would spark panic in a populace already suffering under the virus.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has criticized the federal government's response as his state became the country's virus epicenter, said roping off states would amount to "a federal declaration of war."

Cuomo added the prospect of a quarantine didn't come up when he spoke with Trump earlier Saturday, adding that he believed it would be illegal, economically catastrophic, "preposterous" and shortsighted when other parts of the U.S. are seeing cases rise, too.

"If you start walling off areas all across the country, it would be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, anti-social," the told CNN. He added that locking down the nation’s financial capital would shock the stock market and "paralyze the economy" at a time when Trump has indicated he’s itching to get the economy back on track.

The federal government is empowered to take measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between states, but it's not clear that means Trump can ban people from leaving their state. It has never been tested in the modern era - and in rare cases when any quarantine was challenged, the courts generally sided with public health officials.

On Wednesday, Cuomo noted that social distancing appears to be slowing the spread of the coronavirus in New York, but also warned that projections showed that hospitalizations were doubling every 4.7 days.

The governors of Florida, Maryland, South Carolina and Texas already have ordered people arriving from the New York area to self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival. In a more dramatic step, Rhode Island police have begun pulling over drivers with New York plates so that the National Guard can collect contact information and inform them of a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration advised individuals leaving New York to self-quarantine for 14 days to avoid potentially spreading the coronavirus.

Trump’s decision came as the death toll in the US from the coronavirus topped 2,000 on Saturday night.

On Friday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States reached 100,040, the highest number in the world.

The US on Thursday officially became the country with the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.