U.S. President Donald Trump has said he is considering imposing a quarantine on New York in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’d like to see [it] quarantined because it’s a hotspot,” he told reporters. “I’m thinking about that.”
He spoke as confirmed cases in the state increased to more than 52,000, around half of the total in the US.
But the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said he had not discussed such measures with the president.
“I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine,” he told reporters shortly after he had spoken with Mr Trump by phone.
“I haven’t had those conversations,” he added. “I don’t even know what that means.”
New York state has the highest number of cases of Covid-19 in the US.
Speaking before he left to visit a Navy hospital ship in Virginia, Mr Trump said that “New Jersey [and] certain parts of Connecticut” could also be quarantined under the measures.
“We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine — short term [for] two weeks,” he said.
But Mr Cuomo, who was holding a daily press briefing at the time of Mr Trump’s comments on Saturday, expressed concern at the idea.
“I don’t know how that can be legally enforceable,” he said. “And from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing.”
“But I can tell you I don’t even like the sound of it,” he added. “Not even understanding what it is, I don’t like the sound of it.”
Mr Trump did not provide further details about what a quarantine on New York or other badly hit US cities would look like.
But he said it would be aimed at slowing the spread of the virus to other parts of the US.
“They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that,” he said as he left the White House.
Similar quarantine measures in other countries have involved widespread closures, bans on public gatherings and major restrictions on travel in and out of the affected area.
New York has banned any major gatherings in the state and ordered everyone to remain at home in an effort to slow the spread.
The White House has said anyone leaving New York City should self-isolate for 14 days. On Friday, the governor of nearby Rhode Island deployed National Guard troops to stop cars with a New York license plate to remind them of the state’s restriction that they quarantine.
Soldiers are going door-to-door in coastal vacation communities to ask if any residents had recently visited New York City.
How can it be enforced?
The quarantining of entire states would mark a significant and ominous ramping up of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus.
There have been rumours, for the past two weeks, that a mandatory, national quarantine could be implemented, but this is the first time Mr Trump has indicated that state borders could be closed.
The initial response of Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, suggests an attempt by the federal government to quarantine the state could be problematic.
While the president does have sweeping powers, especially during a national emergency, it is the role of state and local governments to take the lead in preventing the spread of disease.
Mr Trump said there would be a decision very soon and that trade between states would not be affected. But if he goes ahead, such an order could be challenged in the courts.