This post has been updated.
After suggesting earlier in the day that much of the Northeast’s tri-state region could soon be subject to an “enforceable” quarantine, President Donald Trump abruptly reversed course Saturday night.
“A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump said on Twitter, adding that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would instead issue a “strong travel advisory” to be enforced by Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. “Full details will be released by CDC tonight. Thank you!”
The CDC later urged residents of the three states “to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effectively immediately.”
Earlier in the day, Trump told reporters that he was considering an “enforceable” quarantine in parts of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey hit particularly hard by coronavirus. But that move left the state’s leaders wanting more information, and Gov. Ned Lamont said the president’s words could lead to confusion and panic.
“Panic can make the situation worse, lack of clarity can make the situation worse,” Lamont said in a news conference Saturday evening.
“I’m not saying there’s not more that can be done,” the governor said. “When we work together as a region, we work a lot better together. We’re the ones that have to enforce it, we’re the governors.”
At a 6 p.m. news conference, Lamont said he hoped for clarity from the White House Saturday evening -- which he later got. Lamont also gave the latest numbers on the coronavirus in the state. The death toll has increased to 33. Hospitalizations rose to 205 and confirmed cases of coronavirus totaled 1,524.
Earlier Saturday, Trump made news when he told reporters about his quarantine considerations. In remarks on the White House lawn posted on Twitter by NBC News, Trump said he was considering restricting travel.
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) March 28, 2020
“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hot spot,” Trump said, referring to cases of COVID-19. “New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined. I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it, but there’s the possibility that sometime today we could do a quarantine.”
Later in the day, Trump reiterated his earlier comments.
“And I am now considering -- we’ll make a decision very quickly, very shortly -- a quarantine, because it’s such a hot area, of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut,” the president said.
“We'll be announcing that, one way or the other, fairly soon,” he said. “This does not apply to people such as truckers from outside the New York area who are making deliveries or simply transiting through. It won’t affect trade in any way.”
I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing “hot spots”, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2020
Connecticut’s two U.S. senators criticized the president. Sen. Chris Murphy said state residents should continue to follow Lamont’s guidance.
“President Trump should stop tweeting before thinking,” Murphy said on Twitter. “His loose talk of a quarantine will cause unnecessary confusion and panic at an already confusing moment.”
President Trump should stop tweeting before thinking. His loose talk of a quarantine willl cause unnecessary confusion and panic at an already confusing moment.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 28, 2020
And U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told Connecticut Public Radio that Trump’s “governance by tweet” is “completely unclear and uncertain.”
“This kind of vague, amorphous directive, seemingly unworkable and unjust by any medical advice, raises more questions than it answers,” Blumenthal said.
In a statement, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said the president should be more cautious about his word choice. Tong said the president’s “off the cuff comments ... are not helpful.”
At his news conference, Lamont said the state is “keeping an eye out” for out-of-staters coming in and out of Connecticut. Fairfield County continues to be the state’s leading hot spot, with 20 of the state’s 33 coronavirus deaths.
“Andrew Cuomo is never going to be able to put out the fire in New York unless we can put out the fire in Fairfield County,” Lamont said.
Not long after Trump’s remarks, Cuomo said he was unaware of the possibility of a quarantine.
“I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine, I haven’t had those conversations,” Cuomo said in a news conference posted by Guardian News. “I don’t even know what that means.”
This story has been updated.