Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s scrapping the state’s COVID-19 travel advisory as the nationwide surge of cases renders the plan obsolete.
Travelers from any state not neighboring New Jersey – meaning Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania – are instead told to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to an announcement that came out the day before Thanksgiving.
Compliance is voluntary but expected, according to Jerrel Harvey, a spokesperson for the governor’s office.
That’s unlike New York, which scrapped the travel advisory in October but requires anyone coming in from a non-neighboring state to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Those landing in one of New York’s airports must fill out a questionnaire about where they’ve previously been, their travel plans, and their contact information, and failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $10,000, and a direct order to self-quarantine.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut shared the travel restrictions plan for months, after rolling it out over the summer when cases were at an all-time low.
Under that system, anyone coming in from a state or territory with a test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, over at least a 10% positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average, should self-quarantine for 14 days. But New Jersey has soared past those metrics for weeks.
“As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout our nation, New Jersey will no longer utilize previously outlined metrics to inform its travel advisory,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Wednesday afternoon statement.
“Given the increased risk of spreading COVID-19 for both residents who travel outside the state and for visitors into the state, New Jersey continues to strongly discourage all non-essential interstate travel at this time.”
That would mean Thanksgiving plans which are dramatically scaled down in size, or simply cancelled. Many Americans have already indicated that’s how Thanksgiving will pan out this year, meaning remote festivities or smaller crowds around the dinner table as more people stay at home.
“We urge you, if you haven’t done so already to plan for only a small immediate family gathering on Thursday,” the governor said on Monday. “Again, only with those in your bubble, in your immediate household. If you’re going to get together with a bigger group, and I beg you not to do that, please do it only outside where social distancing can be better ensured, so you can better protect your loved ones from this deadly virus.”
The state logged more than 4,000 new daily cases for several days in a row over the course of the past month, at times reaching an all-time record high. Over the weekend, New Jersey pushed past 300,000 total cases since the first COVID-19 patient tested positive on March 4.
Ramped up testing capacity has meant that more people would inevitably be tested and diagnosed, and that’s been evidenced by a sluggish positivity rate among tests, which for weeks has mostly stayed below double digits. It was 10.04% as of Nov. 20.
But Murphy and other state health officials have warned that other metrics used to gauge whether the virus is spreading are also heading in a worrying direction.
That’s meant the highest numbers in months for hospitalizations, critical care patients, daily fatalities and ventilator-usage. As of Wednesday, the state had 2,902 total COVID-19 hospitalizations, 281 patients on ventilators and 545 critical care patients.