Murphy 'would love' to turn people away at NJ borders, but not ready to enforce quarantine
It's quiet at Newark Liberty International Airport, where the effects of coronavirus prevention measures are plain to see. NorthJersey.com
Three weeks ago, the governors from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey came together to give travelers from "hot spot" states with high numbers of coronavirus cases a common message: prepare to quarantine if you come to the tri-state area.
Since then, however, the messages about enforcement have diverged.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is prepared to fine travelers who don't provide contact information, but Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that he's not ready to take that step to enforce the 14-day quarantine for travelers coming to the tri-state area.
Murphy did not provide any specifics on enforcing the quarantine order, but said he wishes he could shut down New Jersey's borders over concern that travelers from hot spot states may contribute to coronavirus spread in the Garden State.
"I say this with a heavy heart, I would love to be able to stop people and turn them around at our borders whether that's Newark Liberty or literally at our borders. We can't. That's not the way the United States works," Murphy said during his daily briefing.
Two weeks ago, New York began sending Department of Health representatives to airports to distribute information and provide forms to airlines for arriving passengers to fill out. New Jersey, on the other hand, did not have people at the airports and were "looking at having forms filled out by individuals," according to health department Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
This week, Cuomo of New York took his enforcement effort a step further announcing that travelers from states on the quarantine list will be required to fill out a form documenting where they're coming from, where they're going and their local contact information before they leave the airport. If they don't, visitors could face a fine of up to $2,000.
Asked today about whether New Jersey would be following suit, Murphy offered a vague response: "The answer is we’re considering a number of items ... development of a potential technology tool. We’re certainly going to be aggressively public relations heavy."
As far as fining people, he continued: "We’re not there on fines. We want to appeal to people’s personal responsibility to do the right thing."
Follow-up questions to Murphy spokespeople — specifically about whether health department representatives are now at airports, if they've developed forms for travelers, and what he meant by "development of a potential technology tool" — will be answered later today, spokesman Jerrel Harvey said.
Meanwhile four more states were added to the quarantine list for the tri-state area this week, bringing the total number of states to 22. This comes as coronavirus cases are spiking in states around the country while New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — which were initially among the hardest hit — are attempting to keep their infection rates down, as they are now among the lowest in the nation.
In addressing the difference in enforcement among the states, Murphy said the three states have "a common theme to our principles among New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, but executed — as we have, by the way, in a lot of other steps — specific to our own constitution and our own realities in our respective states."
Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering the region’s transportation systems and how they affect your commute, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.