With Wednesday’s update of 953 new positive tests across the state, New Jersey paradoxically would qualify for its own coronavirus travel advisory — that is, if the list was calculated today.
New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut have been issuing the joint advisory every Tuesday since late June, calling on travelers from states that qualify to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving. The list is designed to protect the tri-state region from COVID-19 hotspots areas across the country.
Any state or territory with more than 10 cases per 100,000 residents or those with a 10% or higher test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average qualifies for the list.
New Jersey hasn’t officially been added to the list, at least not yet. We’ll have to wait until a new one comes out next Tuesday to see if the state still qualifies. And the numbers may drop enough in the next few days to keep it from joining.
But New Jersey did just reach the first threshold, based on provisional new case totals provided daily by the state.
After announcing 953 more positive tests Wednesday, the Garden State saw its seven-day average hit 894, just above 10 cases per 100,000 residents based on New Jersey’s population of 8.8 million.
That rolling average is also 32% higher than it was a week earlier.
One caveat: This doesn’t account for cases the state deleted during the last week. The state doesn’t announce that on a daily basis and notes on its COVID-19 dashboard that new cases are “provisional and subject to revision with further investigation.”
Though the state’s coronavirus numbers are still far below the state’s spring peak, Gov. Phil Murphy and other state officials have been warning about rising cases in New Jersey. State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said last week officials are “anticipating a second wave” and said it could “become a surge” if residents don’t keep wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands.
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So what does qualifying for the list mean for New Jersey? It’s unclear.
For starters, the coronavirus travel advisory list won’t be updated again until next Tuesday. New York health officials calculate which states and territories meet the criteria.
The list was updated less than 24 hours ago to include 38 U.S. states and territories — the largest it’s ever been. As of then, New Jersey’s rolling seven-day average was below the threshold at 831 cases.
The state’s rolling average would need stay above 888 cases until Monday for it to be added to the next weekly list. That could be a challenge without major daily increases, especially because last Thursday’s one-day total of 1,301 cases would not be included anymore.
Still, Wednesday marked the first time since late May — before the travel advisories started — that New Jersey had back-to-back days of more than 900 cases.
Already, three New Jersey counties have had infection rates that would have triggered a quarantine if the state applied the standard on a county level.
If localized outbreaks continue to escalate, that could mean people traveling from New Jersey and New Jerseyans who travel to New York or Connecticut may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. People traveling for business are exempt from the advisory.
Or maybe the list becomes obsolete? Both Connecticut and New York have also seen cases rising, as have many states across the country.
What about shutting down New Jersey again? Murphy said last week he doesn’t expect to have to issue another widespread state lockdown again, the way he did in March. Instead, he said, officials are more likely to institute more localized restrictions.
Asked last week about what happens if New Jersey qualifies for the advisory, Murphy said state officials are “doing everything we can to keep it below the line.”
Michael Zhadanovsky, a spokesman for Murphy’s office, said Wednesday that “while the virus clearly remains a threat statewide, the Administration is closely monitoring key counties and localities currently experiencing elevated case numbers.”
“As the Governor indicated last Monday, new statewide restrictions are not anticipated at this time; however, all options remain on the table for more targeted restrictions at the local level,” Zhadanovsky added.
NJ Advance Media staff writer Arjun Kakkar contributed to this report.
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Brent Johnson may be reached at email@example.com.