NEW JERSEY — Air travelers will be reminded to put their seats and table trays in the upright position, turn off their devices — and as of Monday - fill out their electronic surveys.
Despite the latest COVID-19 figures lending to some optimism, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday afternoon in the state’s press briefing that there are currently three areas of heightened concern: young people gathering en masse indoors, flare-ups at long-term care facilities and travelers returning or visiting virus hot spots.
Starting Monday, the state will take its first tangible steps to keep track of travelers going or coming from areas known to have had recent spikes in their case numbers.
For the past few weeks, the number of states on that list — which currently stands at 22 — has increased. States are placed on the list if they have positive COVID-19 test rates higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or have a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
“It is vital that all that individuals traveling from heavily-impacted states cooperate, so we can avoid creating community outbreaks in our state,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
Persichilli explained that airlines will begin announcing states impacted by the travel advisory at departure and while enroute to New Jersey. The survey will be accessible online, via text and by scanning a QR code on posters that will be placed at airports after the weekend. Survey information will be sent to the county health department.
“We are asking them to call the traveler to remind them of the request to self-quarantine and to make sure that they know where to go for testing if needed, and ascertain if they have any other needs related to self-quarantine,” Persichilli said.
Anyone not adhering to the guidelines won’t face fines, as the state continues to take more of a scout’s honor approach on travel in the midst of the pandemic.
The caseload in New Jersey was updated to 176,551 (202 additional cases since Thursday). An additional 20 deaths were announced: seven of which occurred over the past five days, 13 in July and the remainder as far back as April.
Fatalities now total 15,684 with 13,710 confirmed and 1,974 probable.
The rate of transmission (Rt) increased to 1.1. On the hospital census as of Thursday: 139 patients in intensive care, 65 on ventilators, and 844 people being treated (397 known positive COVID-19 cases and 447 people suspected to have the virus).
Murphy reiterated that young people gathering indoors is among the state's biggest challenges right now.
"I mentioned graduations, I'm not talking about the ones on the football field. We have no evidence that that's leading to anything. We frankly have no evidence that the protests, the beach activity, the parks, or graduations have led [to case spikes]," he said. "When, we say graduation parties, we mean indoors, in people's houses...Come on, folks."
Today the governor announced he would be kicking off a COVID-19 Compliance Task Force. Led by NJ Comptroller Kevin Walsh, the task force intends to review documents related to coronavirus-related procurements up to a designated threshold, oversee controls internally, and make compliance training available to agencies that are receiving relief funds.
The Governor’s Disaster Recovery Office will also go online soon.
“This office will serve as the center point of contact and coordination for COVID-19 recovery programs funded through the CARES Act and other sources of federal funds,” the governor’s office said in a Tweet. “I’m further requiring the creation of a transparency website to track the Office’s progress, and an annual report to be produced.”