Travelers heading into New Jersey from Rhode Island are being told to self-isolate for 14 days, as the nation’s smallest state joins a growing list of several dozen with growing COVID-19 outbreaks, and as the Murphy administration scrambles to contain the virus within New Jersey’s borders.
All told, travelers from 35 states and Puerto Rico are being told to self-isolate for 14 days. Compliance is purely voluntary, unlike in New York where failure to do so could be met with harsh fines.
Delaware, New Jersey’s neighbor to the south, was taken off the list – a tri-state compact between Connecticut, New Jersey and New York – after being on it for a second time.
Washington, D.C. was also taken off the list, even though it is sandwiched between two states from which travelers into New Jersey should still self-quarantine: Maryland and Virginia.
The self-quarantine applies to any state with a positive test rate of 10 per 100,000 residents or a positivity rate higher than 10 percent, both over a seven-day rolling average.
As of Tuesday, the self-quarantine advisory extends to people coming in from Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
“As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb around the country, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to slow the spread of transmission,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Tuesday statement.
“Individuals traveling from these states must remain vigilant by proactively getting a COVID-19 test and self-quarantining to prevent additional COVID-19 transmission from spreading throughout New Jersey,” he said.
Compliance has been lackluster in New Jersey, according to state health officials, especially in pushing for air travelers to hand over contact information to local health officials known as contact tracers, who are tasked with tracking down and preventing outbreaks.
Only between 5 and 10 percent of air travelers handed over that info, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli revealed at an Aug. 4 COVID-19 press briefing with the governor. In New York, failure to provide that info could yield fines up to $2,000, but Murphy has declined to mandate enforcement.
New Jersey’s transmission rate of COVID-19 – or how quickly the virus spreads – hit 1.48 as of Monday, meaning that for every person who gets the virus, they spread it to at least 1.48 other people.
It was 0.87 a month ago, the governor said on Monday.
The positivity test rate – the percentage of COVID-19 tests which came back positive – was 1.88 percent as of July 30, according to the governor.
In response to the upticks, Murphy said he was tightening restrictions on indoor gatherings to be limited to the lesser of 25 percent capacity or 25 people, as opposed to the prior limit of up to 100 people.
Funerals, weddings, memorial services, and religious and political events can still operate at the latter indoor crowd limits, but with face coverings and 6-foot physical distancing when possible. Large outdoor gatherings could be next if numbers are not reversed.
“Until we begin to see the numbers of cases decrease – not just for one day, but over at least a seven-day trend – and our rate of transmission drop appreciably over a sustained period of time, these restrictions will remain in place,” the governor warned.
Murphy blamed large indoor parties, like those up and down the Jersey Shore and a 700-person party hosted at an AirBnB mansion in Jackson earlier this month for the increases. Such instances have led to thousands of new cases over the past week, wiping out more than a month of progress made in containing the virus, Murphy warned.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:26 p.m. EST on Aug. 4, 2020, to include the full list of self-quarantine advisory states.