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Corey Williams says he knew earlier on in the COVID-19 crisis that he couldn’t stay in Brooklyn. He and his wife have a four-month-old daughter, and they’re worried her heart condition puts her at increased risk. So, earlier this month, they decided to leave.

“We had to come to terms with the fact that we weren’t going to be returning for a number of weeks,” Williams said. “So we really pared down everything that we would need, and I strategized packing my car like a sardine.”

He added, “If there’s going to be a fire, I don’t want to be standing in a bunch of kindling.”

Williams went to Warwick, the town he grew up in. Now, he, his wife, and his daughter are living in a home his parents own. He said people may disagree with his decision, but, he said, he did what was best for his family, and now they’re all taking responsible precautions.

“We are almost superstitious about our cleaning,” Williams said. “We have gloves; we have masks; every package coming into the house is wiped down. We really haven’t left the house. I went out once to get groceries. I have a mask, and I wore gloves. I was the only person in the grocery store wearing that.”

Williams is by no means alone. In recent weeks, Rhode Islanders have been spotting more out-of-state cars as New Yorkers escape the city and head for their second homes on the coast.

Some year-round residents say they sympathize with the New Yorkers, but others are critical, online and over their back fences, saying the new arrivals are putting Rhode Islanders at risk.

“It’s definitely a concern, and especially coming from New York, which is a hot spot,” said Deb Carney, a member of the Charlestown Town Council. This past week, she said, she’s been hearing from residents worried about the New Yorkers coming in to ride out the coronavirus. They’re hard to miss at the beach and local grocery stores.

 “I myself was at the Mini Super,” Carney said, “and there were two New York cars in the parking lot, and on my way home I passed another one on the road.”

Earlier this week, Charlestown, Westerly, and Narragansett made formal announcements encouraging out-of-state travelers to quarantine themselves when they arrive in town. 

Now, Gov. Gina Raimondo is ordering all people coming from New York State to quarantine for two weeks. State troopers will be pulling over cars and National Guard members are going door-to-door in coastal communities to help enforce the new rule. 

“I understand this is an extreme measure,” Raimondo said. “I believe, in light of the crisis, in light of the fact that New York City is a hot spottheir infection rate is skyrocketing, and they are so close to Rhode Islandin my judgement this is the most prudent course of action in light of the totality of the circumstances.”

The announcement raised eyebrows, with the state ACLU questioning its constitutionality. But University of Rhode Island Professor Jeffrey Bratberg, a public health and infectious disease expert, said people are right to be concerned about the influx of travelers from New York. 

“If you go to your second home, and you have an empty fridge, now you’re increasing the number of contacts as opposed to where you were staying,” he said.

Bratberg said he’s concerned about what the influx of New Yorkers could mean for scarce health care resources in Rhode Island.

“Now you have the potential of exposing more people in Rhode Island, for example, and overwhelm the capacity here,” he said. “You might be able to go and get a ventilator, but all the people that you infected will need a ventilator at a time when there are even more restrictions, for example.”

He said people in New York City should try to stay there, order take-out, and ask other people to bring them groceries if they are at a higher risk. 

The governor said authorities will be advising New Yorkers who come here of the need to self-quarantine and take other precautions.

In Warwick, Corey Williams said his family did just that and their two-week quarantine ends Monday. He and his wife don’t have jobs they can do remotely, so they’re out of work for now. Corey said he’s also beginning to wonder if he’ll even go back to New York once it’s safe.

“But on the other hand, what would my life look like otherwise?” he said. “So, I’m trying to be realistic and keep my options open.”

For now, he’s spending his time playing with his daughter and writing fiction when he can. So far, it’s crime mysteriesdefinitely no stories about contagions and global pandemics.

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