The National Guard conducted door-to-door checks with Rhode Island police to track down New Yorkers traveling into the state
- The National Guard in Rhode Island is assisting police with monitoring anyone who has traveled from New York into the state to enforce self-isolation orders.
- Members of the National Guard conducted house-to-house searches with police on Saturday to seek out those who have recently been in New York, which has emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US.
- State police in Rhode Island have also begun pulling over cars with New York registrations traveling on I-95 and advising them to self-quarantine in accordance with the order.
- The measures have triggered criticism from civil-liberties advocates, who have accused Rhode Island officials of violating people's Fourth Amendment rights.
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The National Guard assisted Rhode Island police with house-to-house searches on Saturday to seek out anyone who has traveled from New York and force them to self-isolate.
Senior Master Sgt. Janeen Miller, the police department's public affairs superintendent, told Insider that authorities were acting on behalf of the state's health department.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo issued an executive order on Thursday establishing interstate stops and stationing officers at bus stops and train stations to identify New Yorkers and order them to self-quarantine.
"The Rhode Island National Guard has already been collecting contact information from passengers of mass transit, such as bus, trains, and planes," SMSgt Miller said.
She continued: "Basic contact information is collected and handed over exclusively to the RI Department of Health, where it is used to conduct health and wellness follow-ups and contact tracing should someone fall ill. This contact information is not handed over to any other agencies and is not kept by the Rhode Island National Guard."
The order applies to anyone who has been in New York within the past two weeks and will remain in place until at least April 25. The order does not apply to public health, public safety or health care workers.
On the same day authorities were conducting the searches, Raimondo announced she was signing a stay-at-home executive order for the state after the first two coronavirus deaths in the state were announced.
New York has emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US with nearly 30,000 cases.
The National Guard was deployed to all 50 states in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The Trump administration stressed that the deployment did not equate to martial law, and that the troops served as an additional resource that governors could assign depending on the needs of communities.
A Rhode Island trooper previously confirmed to Insider's Haven Orecchio-Egresitz that state police in Rhode Island began pulling over cars with New York registrations traveling on I-95 and advising them to self-quarantine in accordance with the order.
"We're stopping vehicles with NY registrations in an effort to get ahead of the medical pandemic going on, due to New York's high rate of the COVID-19 cases," on Friday. "They're being advised that if they're residing in Rhode Island, like going to a beach house or something like that, they are required to do a 14-day quarantine. If they're just passing through the state, they're OK."
Though the policy is apparently designed to enforce isolation measures recommended by top public health officials, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union objected to the stopping of drivers based on a license plate and the further collection of their data.
"While the Governor may have the power to suspend some state laws and regulations to address this medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution," Rhode Island ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown said in a statement on the executive order. "Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and cannot, 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."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also criticized the policy, telling CNN on Saturday he would sue Rhode Island if officials there don't roll back the new measures.
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