Rhode Island Authorities Conduct Door-to-Door Checks-ins of New Yorkers Fleeing Coronavirus

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. States are pulling back the welcome mat for travelers …
David Goldman/AP Photo

Rhode Island police and members of the Rhode Island National Guard went door to door over the weekend to inform New Yorkers who fled the state to escape the outbreak that they must self-quarantine for 14 days as the state, and nation as a whole, continues in its efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) on Friday identified travelers from New York City as a massive risk to the Ocean State — an assertion New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) took issue with, ultimately threatening to sue.

“Right now we have a pinpointed risk,” Raimondo said at Friday’s news conference. “That risk is called New York City.”

She called for a mandated 14-day quarantine for New Yorkers flocking to the state. Rhode Island State police also set up checkpoints to stop cars with New York license plates.

On Saturday, police and members of the Rhode Island National Guard patrolled beach communities, knocking on doors of homes with cars donning New York license plates.

“So today, we’re actually going to be going driveway to driveway to identify New York vehicles in driveways,” Westerly Chief of Police Shawn Lacey said on Saturday.

He said the police department had received several calls of residents spotting New York license plates, and the department has been responding accordingly.

“If somebody has a concern of New York vehicles parked in a particular driveway or address that aren’t usually there, or the people that own the house and are in, we have no problem with them notifying us,” Lacey said.

“We will send an officer to that house to notify them of the mandated quarantine,” he continued.

“This is more of an educational tool to make people aware,” he added. “I think our presence being out there it’s going to make people aware of what’s going on.”

While Cuomo took issue with Raimondo’s target of New Yorkers, she ultimately expanded her order to all travelers flocking to the state.

“All out-of-state passenger vehicles will be required to stop at one of the information centers on the highway and secondary roads,” Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. James Manni said.

The order does not apply to commercial vehicles, and those passing through the state will be able to proceed. However, those staying are told of the mandated 14-day quarantine and are required to give authorities their contact information, which is transferred to the Department of Health.

“We are very hopeful that the people follow these directions and will voluntarily stop at the information stations,” Manni said.

The door to door checks have also been expanded to all travelers, but “they are still determining which communities they will focus those check-ins,” TurnTo10 reported.

“I spoke to the governor of Rhode Island yesterday, and we had a conversation,” Cuomo said over the weekend. “I don’t think the order was called for. I don’t believe it was legal. I don’t think it was neighborly.”

“I understood the point, but I thought there were different ways to do it and the governor of Rhode Island was very receptive and I thank her very much for reconsidering her position,” he said.

“I did talk to the governor of New York yesterday. It was after I had already taken my action and we chatted about it,” Raimondo said of their conversation, subtly dismissing Cuomo’s seeming claim to victory.

“If he feels it’s important for him to take credit, go ahead I’m going to keep working here to keep Rhode Islanders safe,” she added. “I think it’s odd that Governor Cuomo is focused on this sort of politics at a time we are fighting disasters.”

Residents of Rhode Island are currently under a stay-at-home order, which expires April 13.

Rhode Island had nearly 300 cases of the coronavirus and three virus-related deaths as of Sunday.

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