Rhode Island and New York Clash Over Governors' Orders
COVID-19 has overwhelmed the world, the most dramatic pandemic since the Spanish Flu in the early twentieth century. Within less than a few weeks, schools and universities have shut down, the number of unemployed American citizens has risen to 16.6 million, and almost every state has issued some degree of a stay-at-home order.
The United States now has the largest number of confirmed cases globally with close to 500,000 cases and 20,000 deaths. New York has become the epicenter in the United States with over 87,000 confirmed cases.
Despite Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) efforts to promote and enforce social distancing and quarantining, the death toll continues to climb. New York’s number of cases and deaths has led to fear and panic in its surrounding states, as many wealthy New Yorkers have opted to leave the state in favor of second homes in smaller and less condensed areas.
However this raises concern for these smaller communities because during their off-season, these communities’ economies shrink to handle just the year-round community. These communities typically have less resources as well to handle a large influx of residents in the midst of a crisis.
In an effort to combat this, Governor Gina Raimondo (D-RI), along with her mandated stay-at-home announcement, additionally mandated that all New Yorkers coming into the state need to quarantine in their homes for at least fourteen days. This measure intended to protect coastal and island communities such as Newport, Westerly, and Block Island, as well as general Rhode Island resources. These communities tend to serve as popular tourist spots during the summer months with many vacation homes owned by full-time New Yorkers, whose homes typically remain mostly empty during the winter months. This fourteen-day quarantine is enforced to protect residential Rhode Islanders from getting infected by potentially infected out of state travellers.
Consequently, asylum seeking New Yorkers have been pulled over by Rhode Island state troopers and homes with cars showing New York license plates in the driveway have been approached by police to inform the residents of this mandated fourteen day quarantine.
However, issues of discrimination based on statehood arose following Raimondo’s announcement. This announcement was heavily criticized for unfairly targeting New Yorkers who are attempting to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This outrage went as far as Governor Cuomo threatening to sue the state of Rhode Island over this decision over harassment and discrimination of New York citizens.
Governor Raimondo has since updated the mandated fourteen day quarantine to include any non-Rhode Island residents. Raimondo also announced that any Rhode Islander who leaves the state for non-essential reasons must be quarantined for the fourteen day threshold.
As the pandemic continues, it is possible for other gubernatorial mandates to be designed to curtail residents from more affected areas to enter less populated and/or affected areas. However, with no federal mandate in place to limit or prevent unnecessary domestic travel, it is improbable that any state order limiting specific residents won’t be struck down in court of law.