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The top response coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, warned people who have been in the New York City metropolitan area to self-quarantine for the next two weeks if they've left town as the contagion continues to spread within the nation’s largest city.
Birx said on Tuesday that people living in New York City – arguably the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States with more than 13,000 confirmed cases in the city alone – should isolate themselves from others if they have left the city for an area with fewer infections.
"Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn't spread to others,” Birx said.
Birx noted that 60 percent of new cases in the country are coming from the New York metropolitan area.
Her message was reiterated by Vice President Mike Pence, who said the federal government is dealing with New York as “a high-risk area” and will continue to surge resources to the region. Pence said that public health officials are seeing one infection for every 1,000 people in the New York area compared to 0.1 or 0.2 per 1,000 people in places like Washington state – where the first major outbreak occurred in the U.S.
“Take the guidelines that we’ve issued and avoid nonessential travel,” Pence added.
The warning against traveling outside of the region – and self-isolating if a person does – by the coronavirus task force comes a day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordering anyone arriving on a flight from the New York region to submit to self-quarantine for two weeks.
DeSantis said in an address from his Tallahassee office that more than 100 such flights arrive daily in the state and he believes each contains at least one person infected with the new coronavirus.
He did not say specifically how the self-quarantine would be enforced, but he said “it is actually a criminal offense if you violate the quarantine order.” Florida law says it is a second-degree misdemeanor to violate a quarantine order that could result in a 60-day jail sentence.
DeSantis said people could be “held accountable if they buck the law.”
“In New York [City], when they did the stay-at-home order, what did people do? A lot of people fled the city and they are going to stay with their parents or fly [out],” DeSantis said during a press conference at a retirement community of 80,000 residents north of Orlando. “We are getting huge amounts of people flying in. We are looking at how to address those flights.”
Fox News’ Frank Miles contributed to this report.