US President Donald Trump is considering quarantining New York, Connecticut and New Jersey in desperate efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The move will restrict travel to and from the three states, which are some of the hardest-hit by the outbreak.
"We'd like to see New York quarantined because it's a hotspot — New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined. I'm thinking about that right now," he said yesterday.
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"We might not have to do it but there's a possibility that sometime today we'll do a quarantine — short term two weeks for New York, probably New Jersey and parts of Connecticut."
The president dismissed the idea that he would deploy the National Guard to enforce the quarantine rules.
"We're not going to need that,' he said.
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back at the president's plans in a press conference yesterday.
"I don't even know what that means,'' Cuomo said during a briefing . "I don't know how that could be legally enforceable, and from a medical point of view, I don't know what you would be accomplishing. ... I don't like the sound of it."
The president made the comments as he touched down in Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews around noon Saturday and spoke to reporters.
"We're looking at it," he said about the possible quarantine of the three states.
"We're looking at it and will be making a decision. A lot of the states that are infected - they've asked me if I'd look at it so we're going to look at it. Maybe for a short period of time."
"It would be for a short time" for parts of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, he said.
However, when asked if he would shut down the New York City subway he said: "No we wouldn't do that."
He said he would talk to New York state Governor Cuomo about the measures later today.
Trump also took the opportunity to praise the work Congress had done to pass the US$2 trillion emergency bailout package, which he signed into law Friday.
"We have great oversight - a lot of oversight. We have a lot of people watching. It's a wonderful thing we've done for the workers and for the citizens," he said.
"A lot of people are going to work. It will bring back the economy I think very fast."
His comments on a possible quarantine seemed to backtrack on his previous claims that he wants to get the economy and normal life back up and running as soon as possible.
Trump said this week that he wanted the US "opened up and raring to go" by April 12 for Easter.
The number of deaths in New York state reached 728 Saturday, as the US's epicenter for coronavirus struggles to bring the pandemic under control.
The death toll in the city rose to 450 as of early yesterday morning as its healthcare system is threatened with imminent collapse.
On both Thursday and Friday, another 85 people died of the virus, or an average of one New Yorker every 17 minutes. There are 26,697 confirmed NYC cases as the national total soars over 100,000.
Queens is emerging as the epicenter of the epicenter in New York City with 8214 cases, a one-day increase of 32 per cent.
In just the past week, one funeral home in Queens has held service for close to a dozen people who have died from the virus, and is expecting to do more.
Manhattan patients are testing positive at a significantly lower rate than the outer boroughs with no neighborhood reporting over 40 per cent of patients confirmed positive.
The city's healthcare system is buckling under the strain of the rise in cases.
Medical emergency calls were up 40 per cent to about 6,500 a day, shattering historical records and leading to up to 170 callers being put on hold at a time, according to EMS union officials.
Inside the city's hospitals, healthcare workers faced unspeakable scenes of suffering and death.
"Hell. Biblical. I kid you not. People come in, they get intubated, they die, the cycle repeats," said Dr Steve Kassapidis of Mount Sinai Queens, in an interview with Sky News. "9/11 was nothing compared to this, we were open waiting for patients to come who never came. Now they just keep coming."
"The hospitals look like a war zone," Dr Emad Youssef of Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn told CBS News. "People lining up out of the hallway, through the EMS bay, through the ambulance bay, with masks on themselves, with oxygen on their nose."
Neighbouring state New Jersey has also been grappling to bring the outbreak under control, with 8825 confirmed cases and 108 confirmed deaths.
Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order mandating that all non-essential retail businesses close their stores and almost all state residents stay home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The order affects some 9 million residents in the state and exempts those who work in essential services such as healthcare and the food industry, the governor said at a news conference.
It banned all gatherings including weddings and parties, Murphy said.