US states introduce travel restrictions as coronavirus cases soar

Alaska and Hawaii tell arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days

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Donald Trump giving one of his daily briefings on coronavirus from the White House
Donald Trump giving one of his daily briefings on coronavirus from the White House Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

American states have begun to bring in their own travel restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus as the New York mayor warned half of the city's population will get infected. 

Both Alaska and Hawaii, two of the most isolated US states, have implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors and residents flying in from elsewhere. 

The Florida governor has also signed an executive order saying anyone arriving from New York or two states which border it, New Jersey and Connecticut, must self-isolate for a fortnight.

Donald Trump, the US president, has so far not opted to bring in nationwide domestic travel restrictions, though he has issued guidelines which urge people to avoid discretionary travel. 

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Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City - which has become the centre of the US outbreak - has issued a stark warning about the projected spread of the virus

“It’s a fair bet to say that half of all New Yorkers and maybe more than half will end up contracting this disease,” Mr De Blasio said. That equates to more than four million people.

Grim news continued to emanate from New York state, which now has more than 37,000 cases. In America more than 70,000 people have tested positive with the death count now exceeding 1,000. 

In New York City a three-week-old baby was diagnosed with coronavirus, the youngest person infected in the US. Thirteen people died from the virus in the city on Wednesday alone. 

The city’s morgues will be at capacity by next week, according to a Homeland Security briefing reported on by Politico. Temporary morgues are now being erected, something last seen widely in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

A photograph of three nurses posing with black rubbish bags fashioned into overalls in one Manhattan hospital, Mount Sinai West, has been shared widely online. 

An assistant nursing manager at that hospital, Kious Kelly, who contracted coronavirus two weeks ago died on Tuesday night. A spokesman for the hospital strongly denied staff did not have proper equipment or protection, according to The New York Post. 

Alarming rises in the number of confirmed cases were being seen across America on Thursday, especially in the city of New Orleans and the state of New Jersey. Some people in all 50 US states have tested positive for the virus. 

In Washington DC, the Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package without a single vote against it around midnight on Wednesday. 

Ninety six of the 100 senators voted for the legislation, with four absent for health reasons. Donald Trump tweeted: “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!”

The bill is expected to be voted through by the House of Representatives on Friday, with Mr Trump then signing it into law. 

The direct payments to Americans outlined in the legislation - $1,200 for most adults, $500 extra for each child - are due to arrive for many in about three weeks’ time. 

Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, offered a bleak economic assessment during a rare television interview broadcast on Thursday, saying: “We may well be in a recession.” 

Mr Trump yesterday indicated he could replace his strict nationwide guidelines, which are up for review next week, with a system where different parts of the country get different rules. 

The president said in a letter to governors of America's 50 states that he was looking at categorising every US country in the nation either "high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk". 

Debate continues to rage about the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis as it was announced a remarkable 3.3 million people asked for unemployment benefit last week - four times higher than the previous record. 

A Politico report revealed a 69-page “pandemic playbook” written by Barack Obama’s White House in 2016 and left for the Trump administration which contained advice that appears not to have been followed. 

The document listed questions to be asked when a virus is determined to be a “credible threat” - about two months ago for this outbreak. 

They included checking if there is enough protective equipment for healthcare workers and if not ensuring the US government stockpile is used to fill the gap. 

Such moves have only taken place in recent weeks, adding to concern that the Trump administration did not act quickly enough at a national level to counter the spread. 

A spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council said: “We are aware of the document, although it’s quite dated and has been superseded by strategic and operational biodefence policies published since.” 

Meanwhile Dr Anthony Fauci, one of Mr Trump’s top health officials given his role as director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned against setting artificial deadlines when responding to coronavirus. 

"You’ve got to be realistic and you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline,” Dr Fauci said on CNN. 

He added: “So you’ve got to respond to what you see happen, and if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say, one week, two weeks, three weeks, you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.” 

The comments clash with Mr Trump’s remark earlier this week that he would like to get the US economy open and “raring to go” by Easter, which falls on April 12 - less than three weeks away.