TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy defended the state’s new travel advisory on Thursday amid questions of whether it lacks teeth and suggestions of whether it constitutes retaliation against states that had once imposed restrictions on northeastern states.

The advisory, which was announced Wednesday in lockstep with neighboring New York and Connecticut, merely suggests people traveling to New Jersey from states with rising cases of the coronavirus self-quarantine and get a COVID-19 test.

Murphy and Judy Persichilli, director of the New Jersey Department of Health, clarified that there is no mechanism to enforce the 14-day self-quarantine and no penalty for those who flout the new advisory.

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The governor is relying on travelers to “do the right thing” when entering the State of New Jersey from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.

In other words, there will be no stopping travelers in airports or on highways.

“You can't constitutionally do those kind of things in the United States, and that’s overwhelmingly for good reasons,” said Murphy. "This has been tried by a couple of states and you literally can’t do that. Can we ramp up specific action that Judy could take? Could you ramp up public awareness? Could you do things in the category of moral suasion using the bully pulpit? Absolutely.”

The initial list of travel advisory states includes Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, although Persichilli said the list will continue to be updated each week

The idea of New Jersey and its neighbors instituting even a ceremonial travel advisory is a reversal of sorts from the early onset of the pandemic when the metro area flared with thousands of new cases each day.

In March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order mandating that travelers arriving in Florida from New Jersey, New York or Connecticut self-isolate for 14 days after a plane from Kennedy Airport landed in Palm Beach with a traveler who tested positive for COVID-19.

Around the same time, state troopers were stopping drivers with New York license plates before they entered Rhode Island in accordance with an executive order from Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. This enabled officials from the National Guard to collect contact information and inform motorists that they were subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

In late March, President Donald Trump threatened to establish a federal quarantine of the three northern states. Before Trump backed down, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the idea “un-American.” 

Despite the drama concerning travel advisories, Murphy said the one enacted by New Jersey, New York and Connecticut is not retaliatory.

“We take no solace or joy in the hell other states are going through that we have gone through,” said Murphy. “We hope and pray they get better fast...

"We can’t stop you at the border just because you have a certain license plate. It’s America, you can’t do that. But you can use, as we’re trying to, the bully pulpit—not just a recommendation, but an advisory. I love the fact that Judy is adding the testing piece to that, which I know she feels is an important element of us to do the right thing here."

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