TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday that he is "nervous" spikes in COVID-19 hotspots such as Florida could trigger an uptick, if not a surge, of cases in New Jersey.
During his first COVID-19 briefing of the week, Murphy said he is currently relying on people arriving from the Sunshine State or any of the other 18 states on the travel advisory list to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, although he hinted that New Jersey 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—we can’t stop people at our borders," the governor said. "We can plead to personal responsibility.
"Judy and her 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 that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to issue an executive order as early as today (Monday) requiring travelers from hotspot states to either provide authorities with 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 need 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 (Rt)—a key factor in tracking the virus—remained under the crucial 1.0 level on Monday.
As of Monday's press conference, there were 231 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide that day and 20 new deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus in New Jersey hospitals from Friday to Sunday.
By contrast, Florida—a charter member of New Jersey’s quarantine-upon-arrival list and a state whose governor, Ron DeSantis, has resisted calls to mandate face coverings in public areas—reported a single-day high of 15,300 cases on Sunday. Statistics show that the number of new cases reported in Florida on Sunday was higher than the total of new cases reported 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 4th of July celebrations as well as graduation parties, protests and those who have visited the Jersey Shore.
Over the weekend, some Long Branch beach goers were turned away by police due to overcrowding on the town’s beaches.
“We certainly have evidence that indoor parties associated with beach towns and other places have occurred,” said Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Edward Lifshitz. “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, according to Persichilli. She stated that it currently takes about five days to get a test result back in New Jersey, whereas the statewide average on returned results was three days.
Murphy also announced on Monday that the 50-percent capacity limit on NJ Transit and private carrier buses, trains, light rail and Access Link will be officially lifted at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
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