Travelers venturing into New York City on Thursday found a new line of defense against the coronavirus manning checkpoints in all five boroughs –- armed sheriff’s deputies.
Drivers heading into Gotham via the tunnels and bridges were pulled over at random. Commuters arriving at Penn Station and the Port Authority were scrutinized. And visitors disembarking at area airports were being required to fill out forms and provide contact information.
The questions from the deputies and other officials at the COVID-19 checkpoints were always the same: Where have you been? Where are you headed?
The display of muscle was aimed at enforcing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s travel order, which requires people who have spent at least 24 hours in the dozens of states (and Puerto Rico) where the coronavirus has been spreading like wildfire to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the area.
That includes New Yorkers returning home, officials have said.
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Cuomo’s move comes as the national death toll from COVID-19 was closing-in on 160,000 and NBC News revealed that in the previous week, one person died of the virus every 80 seconds and the pace of the fatalities was increasing.
The U.S. has now logged nearly 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases, with most of the new cases and deaths in the South and in the Sunbelt. But states in the Northeast like New Jersey and Connecticut that were hit hard at the start of the pandemic –- and were able to flatten the curve –- have reported upticks in new cases.
The number of new cases in New York, by contrast, has been trending downward in the past two weeks, NBC News analysis showed. But still, local officials are not taking any chances.
“New York City is holding the line against COVID-19, and New Yorkers have shown tremendous discipline,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. “We’re not going to let our hard work slip away and will continue to do everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy.”
New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito said his deputies, backed by other law enforcement agencies, “will undertake traveler registration checkpoints at major bridge and tunnel crossings into New York City.”
“The entire team will strive to ensure the deployment balances the critical public health and welfare needs of the residents of the city with the legal protections entitled to all people,” Fucito said.
As of Thursday morning, New York has reported 424,399 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 33,561 deaths. New Jersey has reported 186,696 cases and 15,843 deaths. And in Connecticut, officials have reported 50,225 cases and 4,437 deaths.
In other developments:
- President Donald Trump said, without evidence, that a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready by Election Day.
- Former First Lady Michelle Obama said on her podcast that the pandemic, which has been especially cruel to people of color, coupled with the racial strife in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, has left her suffering from low-grade depression. “Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting,” she said Wednesday. “I’d be remiss to say part of this depression is also a result of what we’re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial unrest that has plagued this country since its birth.”
- The Notre Dame-Navy football game, a yearly tradition since 1927, will not be played this year. Touted as the “longest, continuous intersectional rivalry” in college football, the tradition-rich game was originally set for Dublin, Ireland, on Aug. 29 but then moved to Annapolis when the pandemic struck. But the game rescheduled for Sept. 5 was sacked by scheduling changes aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, The Capital Gazette reported.
Nigel Chiwaya is a data reporter for NBC News.
Corky Siemaszko is a senior writer for NBC News Digital.
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