Visitors from coronavirus hot spots will have to quarantine for 14 days if they set foot in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, the governors of those northeastern states said Wednesday.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas have high, current infection rates to warrant this new quarantine advisory, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Residents of those states are not being barred from coming to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, so Wednesday's action is largely advisory.
"This is the smart thing to do. We have taken our people ... through hell and back," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told reporters via a remote feed in a briefing hosted by Cuomo in Albany.
"And the last thing we need to do is to subject our folks to another round, and this virus is risky enough on its own in terms of the potential to flare back up."
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said regionwide planning is essential to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
"The Northeast region has taken this seriously and that’s allowed us, as a region, to power through and get our positivity rates very low," Lamont said. "But we're not an island. As we look at the rest of the country, we've seen not just spikes, but community spread."
Those nine states from the South and West are now on the quarantine list based on rolling, seven-day averages of infection rates, according to Cuomo.
"The states themselves can change as the infection rate changes. And we'll update daily what states are above that infection rate," Cuomo said.
"Again it’s just common sense and it’s the spirit of community. If you're in a place that has a high infection rate, we understand that and we'll help you in any way we can."
Track this summer's U.S. coronavirus hot spots across here
When a reporter asked if Wednesday's announcement was more symbolic than practical, Cuomo insisted there'll be teeth to the enforcement.
"No, you violate the quarantine, you will then have to do a mandatory quarantine and you’ll be fined," he said.
But officials admitted that no would-be out-of-state visitors will be prevented from entering the region.
"That is not a quarantine, that is a blockage. That is what the federal government threatened to do to us at one point and I said that would start a civil war," Cuomo said. "That is a blockage. That has not been done since the Civil War."
Cuomo insisted that quarantine scofflaws could be found by hotel clerks, colleagues at business meetings and police who pull over motorists to find they've come from one of the states on the quarantine list.
Fines could range between $2,000 and $10,000.
"If you’re violating a quarantine, you can be subject to a judicial order and mandatory quarantine," Cuomo said. "You could have to pay the costs of quarantine. There are also fines that can go along with violating the quarantine."
The advisory falls far short of actions by countries employing aggressive tactics to track visitors and make sure they're staying in lockdown.
In Hong Kong, for example, authorities in the semiautonomous Chinese region use wrist monitors and phone apps to make sure visitors stick to two weeks in quarantine.
And in South Korea, officials launched aggressive testing and tracing practices to limit the coronavirus spread. The nation has also employed GPS data from mobile phones, credit card transactions and security camera footage as part of its effort.
CDC releases new death toll projections
On Wednesday, the CDC projected that the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could reach up to 150,000 by July 18. In its weekly national forecast, which is based on 20 computer models, the CDC said the number of new deaths in 13 states over the next four weeks will exceed the totals from the previous four weeks.
According to the CDC, the states are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
For other states, new deaths are expected to be similar to the number seen in the previous four weeks or to decrease slightly.
Spike in California prompts renewed reminders to wear masks
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday pleaded with constituents to wear masks in public after the state reported its greatest one-day spike in confirmed coronavirus cases.
An additional 7,149 reported cases brought the state's total of inflected to 190,222.
While some of that number could be explained by increased testing, Newsom was quick to point out that the rate of positives has gone up to 5.1 percent over the past 14 days.
"You're not invincible from COVID-19," Newsom said. "Quite the contrary, this is a disease that easily spreads, very easily spreads. And if you're not (concerned) about yourself because you're like, ‘I got this. I'm strong. I'm young. I'm healthy. Don't worry about me, I'm tough.’ Well, consider others.
"I don't care what your political stripe is. I don't care what your background is. Everybody needs to be loved and everybody loves. You know what? Everybody cares about somebody and somebody else. If that's the case, demonstrate it. Prove it. Protect others by wearing a face covering."
Face coverings now required in North Carolina
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday mandated that face coverings have to be worn in almost any public setting, indoor or outdoor.
People with medical conditions who could be harmed by a mask, children younger than 11 and anyone walking or exercising not within 6 feet of another person would be the only ones exempt.
"Overwhelming evidence that is growing by the week shows that wearing a face covering can greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially from people who have it and don’t know it yet," Cooper said. "This is a simple way to control this virus while we protect ourselves and the people around us."
Fighting the coronavirus — as a social cause
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, praised California's response to the pandemic and likened the battle against the coronavirus to a social justice crusade.
"Californians have risen to the occasion on social issues so well in the past, you’ve been the leaders in the country on those things," Fauci told the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday.
"This is an issue that really has social responsibility associated with it."
As businesses begin to reopen, California has posted increased numbers of positive tests in recent days. But California still ranks in the lower half of states in terms of per capita deaths and confirmed cases.
Florida continues to struggle with the coronavirus
The Sunshine State reported 5,506 more positive cases Wednesday, marking yet another one-day high since the pandemic struck three months ago.
The new COVID-19 cases pushed the state's total to 109,014, according to figures released by the Florida Department of Health.
And even more alarming, the number of available hospital beds in intensive care units statewide dropped to below 20 percent, according to state data posted at 1:06 p.m. ET. Only 1,329 out of 6,900 spots, 19.26 percent, were free as of early Wednesday afternoon, the Agency for Health Care Administration reported.
Florida also reported another 44 deaths related to the virus Wednesday, bringing the state's total to 3,281.
Face coverings mandatory in Washington state
Starting Friday, face coverings will be mandatory throughout the state of Washington,
"Any covering that will cover the nose and mouth will do in this case," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters Tuesday. "What you choose is your choice. We're just appreciative if everyone could think of this as the new part of etiquette in our state."