Reason Roundup

Nearly 2,800 People Quarantined in New York City To Prevent Spread of Coronavirus

Plus: Man jailed for licking ice cream that wasn't his, decriminalizing polygamy in Utah, and more...


Mandatory quarantines on the upswing in New York. As residents of more and more U.S. cities test positive for the coronavirus, any hope of keeping it contained seems to have passed America by. And while the disease itself may still be nothing to panic about, government reactions to the coronavirus—a.k.a. COVID-19—are starting to ring some pretty big alarm bells.

Already, thousands of Americans are being told to "self-quarantine"—and could find themselves facing hefty fines if they venture outside.

In New York's Westchester County, where a lawyer this week tested positive for the virus, more than 1,000 people are being asked to voluntarily self-quarantine and "two or three dozen" have been ordered to complete a mandatory quarantine, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In New York City, 2,773 people are under quarantine, officials with the Health Department announced yesterday. Most of these people—who have not tested positive for coronavirus but may have been exposed—are completing voluntary "home isolation." One woman who tested positive for the coronavirus, along with her spouse, were put under a mandatory quarantine order.

Both mandatory quarantine orders and voluntary quarantine requests are likely to increase, according to officials. "We're going to get more and more mandatory as needed," said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference yesterday.

Enforcing these orders are health department employees who are also "sworn peace officers with the legal authority make arrests, use physical force and conduct searches," notes the New York Post. "Breaking involuntary confinement can result in fines of between $200 and $2,000 per day in the city and up to $2,000 per incident elsewhere."

The paper also points out that "voluntary" quarantine orders aren't really all that voluntary:

City and state laws don't provide any penalties for violating voluntary quarantine, which is the "preferred method" of isolating carriers or potential carriers of contagious diseases, according to an official Public Health Legal Manual published in 2011.

But if people refuse to comply, they can be subjected to involuntary quarantine by order of the health commissioner in New York City, or by local boards of health elsewhere in the state.

These health police in New York City can also sanction certain folks for refusing to get tested for the coronavirus.

New York City said this week that testing is mandatory for all teachers, health professionals, and emergency responders at risk of catching COVID-19. Those who won't take the test will be put on mandatory quarantine at home or at "such other location determined by the Department," according to an order from the Health Department.


  • In California, authorities are requiring that private health insurance companies cover coronavirus testing "free" of cost to those who qualify, whether tests are administered at a doctor's office, an urgent care center, or an emergency facility.
  • The Trump administration is expanding the number of temporary seasonal work visas available by 35,000.
  • A man in Texas was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for licking a container of ice cream in a Walmart. He has also been ordered to pay the ice cream manufacturer, Blue Bell Creameries, $1,565 in restitution.
  • Andrew Yang has started a nonprofit that will run a universal basic income experiment in New York State.
  • "Today's prohibition on polygamy has created a shadow society in which the vulnerable make easy prey," said Utah lawmaker Deidre Henderson, the sponsor of a newly-approved bill to decriminalize polygamy. "Because of the very real fear of imprisonment, losing employment, not being treated fairly, and having their children taken into state custody, we now have an environment where crime often goes unreported, victims are silenced, and perpetrators are empowered."
  • Even Vox co-founder Ezra Klein, the poster boy for faith in big government, has some reservations about the 2020 presidential candidate options: