Connecticut is now officially a disaster area, as declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, now that the state’s COVID-19 cases have exceeded 1,993. The disaster declaration will unlock crucial federal funding needed to fight the pandemic, which is good news.
Over the weekend, however, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey narrowly dodged a bullet — a “quarantine” that President Donald Trump said he was considering on Saturday, but later changed to a “strong travel advisory.” He also extended the social distancing period to the end of April, which is clearly a good move.
What all of this illustrates, though, is that it is difficult for the average person to keep up with exactly what is being asked of us.
For instance, for some time now we have been told to stay home except for “necessary” ventures outside. But what, precisely, is “necessary”? Trips to get food or medicine seem necessary. To gas up the car? Probably. Going to work if you’re engaged in an “essential” occupation? Yes.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s March 23 “Stay Safe, Stay Home” order excludes any business or entity providing essential services or functions, such as healthcare, food, law enforcement, the news media and similar critical services.
But what is an “essential” service or job? A very long list can be found at ct.gov/coronavirus.
Fortunately, these questions seem to be working themselves out as we get used to the new normal.
Lamont said Saturday that the president’s words about a quarantine could lead to “confusion” and “panic,” and that “lack of clarity can make the situation worse.”
This is not to say that the president was wrong to consider a quarantine of the tri-state area. But now we have to figure out what this travel advisory actually means.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement Saturday saying that residents from these states should “refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.” However, the CDC’s statement also said the governors of the three states have “full discretion” to implement the advisory.
At a minimum, we are being strongly urged to refrain from any unnecessary travel out of state.
In view of the stakes involved, that doesn’t seem too much to ask.