TRENTON, NJ – Gov. Phil Murphy says he is "nervous" that spikes in COVID-19 hotspots such as Florida could trigger an uptick, if not a surge, of cases in New Jersey.
For now, Murphy said he is relying on people arriving from the Sunshine State or any of the other 18 states on the travel advisory list to self-quarantine upon arrival, although he hinted that State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli could be leading the development of some technology that would help track travelers entering the state.
“We are the United States of America,” Murphy said during Monday’s COVID-19 update. “We can’t stop people at our borders. We can plead to personal responsibility. Judy and team are developing on some technology, which is not easy to do but they’re working on that. Getting information, pleading to personal responsibility to self-quarantine, but there is only so much we can do. So, it does make us nervous.”
Murphy declined to comment on the news Monday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he plans to issue an executive order as soon as today requiring that travelers from hotspot states give authorities information about where they came from or face fines and a court summons. Travelers arriving in New York from Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states where COVID-19 cases continue to rise will have to fill out a form detailing their contact information, where they came from and where they’re going.
Although Murphy remains reluctant to step up efforts to track travelers, New Jersey’s rate of transmission – a key factor in tracking the virus – remained under the crucial 1.0 level.
Murphy reported on Monday that 231 new cases statewide of COVID-19. Persichilli said there were 20 total COVID-19 deaths in hospitals statewide Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
By contrast, Florida – a charter member of New Jersey’s quarantine-upon-arrival list and a state whose Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted calls to make masks mandatory – reported a single-day high of 15,300 cases Sunday. Statistics show that was more cases than in all of Europe that day.
Closer to home, Murphy and his staff said the state is remaining vigilant against an outbreak that could be sparked by July 4 and graduation parties, protests and people heading down the shore.
Over the weekend, some Long Branch beachgoers were turned away by police because of overcrowding on the town’s beaches.
“We certainly have evidence that indoor parties associated with beach towns and other places have occurred,” Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Edward Lifshitz said. “We have anecdotal information of the occasional person who says they were at a protest, but that is in no ways an outbreak or suggests anything is going on or even telling us that’s where they’re getting it from.”
While COVID-19 cases in New Jersey continue to run at a fraction of what they were at the virus’ peak, the increased testing has caused a lag in getting test results back. Persichilli said it now takes more than five days to get a test result back in New Jersey, up from the previous three-day average.
Murphy also announced Monday that he is lifting the 50% capacity limit on NJ Transit and private carrier buses, trains, light rail and Access Link effective 8 p.m. Wednesday.