NYC Quarantine Would Pose More Questions than Answers


A quarantine of New York City would be a frightening reality. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Ava Lichter, Contributing Writer

I used to love going out in Manhattan on a Sunday before noon. The only other people awake were tired, like me, and maybe walking their dogs or making the trek to our local bagel place to get breakfast and avoid conversation with all other humans. It was a time before the streets were crowded with tourists and brunch-goers.

Now, it’s like every single day is Sunday morning. I never thought I could hate a quiet street in the city, but when that’s all there is, my level of enthusiasm declines rapidly. Everyone is isolated in their apartments, and while we might have bragged that the pavement and rooftops were better than front yards, I think even the most devoted New Yorkers would consider the idea of quarantining in suburbia. It might be worth it for some more space and the possibility of going outside for fresh air without a side of anxiety.

It is undeniable that New York City is the epicenter of coronavirus in the United States, and it is uncertain what our next steps will be.

One possibility is an enforced quarantine of the New York region, meaning nobody in and nobody out. President Donald Trump voiced this extremely serious prospect by saying that “there is a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short term, two weeks, in New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut.”

After this idea was criticized by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Trump backtracked, saying that instead of enforced quarantine, there would be a strong travel advisory. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did issue a travel advisory for the tri-state area, but those are not enforced physically or with fines. Cuomo strongly criticized the idea of an enforced quarantine, calling it “a declaration of war on states.”

I don’t have an issue with the idea of more stringent proposals or even a full lockdown. Other countries such as Italy and Spain have implemented such measures, so it would not be out of the question for at least hotspots in the United States to have enforced lockdowns. The issue I have with this is the way that it is being planned and announced.

This was announced prematurely to the public without any consultation with state or local government. These kinds of announcements that cause panic among the residents of a city and stir up rumors of such intense measures are unacceptable, especially when those plans do not come to fruition. In my mind, it is a huge breach of protocol to announce a plan like that without any type of definite measures in place, or even a yes or no on whether it would actually happen.

The next part of what makes this distressing is that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce a quarantine of that scale. The logistics of locking down what is essentially the capital of the world, and a city of 8 million, are complicated, to say the least. The questions of who would be allowed to break the quarantine and under what circumstances would need to be addressed. The needs of the millions of homeless people living on the streets would have to be met.

Despite the dozens of unknowns, this announcement was still made to the public. It was a far cry from the clear and concise updates coming from state governors such as Cuomo or California Gov. Gavin Newsom. I believe that this kind of leadership is what should be practiced by every member of our nation’s government, not announcing half-baked ideas to the public that cause widespread confusion and anxiety. 

It seems clearer each day that our leadership is coming from state legislators, not the federal government. I think that it makes some sense that there might be different rules in each state surrounding the coronavirus, because not every state is experiencing this pandemic in the same way as hotspots such as New York and Detroit.

However, the one thing we know about this virus is that it can and will spread. Different places will reach their peaks at different times, but the reality is that everyone will experience this disease hitting them at some point, so enforcing extreme measures only in hotspots might be too little too late. 

Don’t get me wrong, a quarantine of New York would be absolutely horrifying. There would be a lot of things that would need to be addressed before it could happen, and it would be hell on earth for the many New Yorkers that live in tiny cramped apartments made bearable only by the plethora of activities that the city has to offer. That said, if enforced quarantine is what we need to do to stop this disease from running rampant and killing more people than it already has, I have no doubt that we would do it.

Ava Lichter, FCRH ’22, is an English major from New York, N.Y.