HOPKINTON R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island State Police troopers and National Guard members began actively stopping passenger vehicles with New York license plates on Friday after Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered anyone traveling from the Empire State to the Ocean State to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Troopers set up a checkpoint on I-95 in Hope Valley where drivers with New York license plates must stop and provide their contact information if they plan on staying in Rhode Island long-term.
Those who do plan to stay in Rhode Island for an extended period of time are ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days before going out in public. Anyone passing through will be allowed to continue on their travels without providing information.
The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the New York metro area has grown to more than 30,000 in recent days, which prompted Raimondo to mandate the self-quarantine order.
“We know New York is a hot spot, we know it’s a dangerous place,” she said.
Tara Koppie traveled to Rhode Island from Staten Island, New York on Friday to pick up a puppy she recently adopted and planned on returning home the same day.
“I was like ‘Oh boy, here we go,'” she said when she saw a sign indicating the mandatory checkpoint.
She said she understands the need to have visitors self-quarantine to stem the spread of the virus, but doesn’t think it’s fair that only New Yorkers are being singled out.
“I feel bad that New York is getting such a bad rap sheet when it’s really all over the place, you know, it shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately right now we have a lot of cases,” Koppie said.
The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) decried Raimondo’s decision, saying it violates the Fourth Amendment.
“Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and can’t, constitute probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver, no matter how laudable the goal of the stop may be,” ACLU of Rhode Island Executive Director Steven Brown said in a statement.
Raimondo rebuffed the claim on Friday, pointing out that laws change during a state of an emergency, and added that she’s receiving federal guidance from the Trump Administration and legal advice from her administration as she makes these decisions.
Some New Yorkers, like Michael Schiavone, traveled to Rhode Island to self-quarantine prior to Raimondo’s mandate. He said he left New York City to stay with his parents in Providence when nearby stores began running low on supplies.
“It made sense to get out of there while I could,” Schiavone said.
As part of the mandate, National Guard members will also be going door-to-door in Rhode Island’s coastal communities starting Saturday to log who in town is visiting from New York and ordering them to self-quarantine.
Anyone who doesn’t self-quarantine as ordered will face a fine, and for subsequent offenses could warrant prison time.
“It’s the law. We are serious about this,” she said.