Murphy insists ‘no one should be traveling out-of-state’ unless it’s essential after state scrapped travel advisory

A week after New Jersey scrapped its state-by-state travel advisory amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that New Jerseyans should avoid any out-of-state travel that isn’t considered essential.

The statement mirrors what the governor said last week, when he asked people to stay home a day before Thanksgiving. But travel to neighboring states New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware is still permitted.

New Jersey, along with New York and Connecticut, issued joint travel advisories beginning in June. It asked people traveling from states and territories considered hotspots to self-quarantine for 14 days.

But by the time New Jersey scrapped it, nearly every state qualified as a COVID-19 hotspot as cases rise across the country

“First and foremost, no one should be traveling out-of-state for anything beyond that which is essential for your daily life — commuting to work or seeking medical treatment, for example,” Murphy said Wednesday during his latest COVID-19 briefing in Trenton.

“But if you do travel outside of our immediate region — or if you are coming into New Jersey from another state — we strongly encourage you to observe a 14-day self-quarantine period,” he added.

There are exceptions for frontline workers, members of law enforcement, and active-duty military, Murphy said.

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The original travel advisory came at a time when the region, among the earliest COVID-19 epicenters, began to see numbers drop, while other parts of the country saw numbers surge.

States qualified for the list if they had a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,00 residents or if they had a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. People traveling for work or essential reasons were exempt.

With the virus starting to spread again across the U.S. — including the northeast — New York dropped the advisory late last month and began requiring visitors from non-neighboring states to get a COVID-19 test instead.

New Jersey pressed on with the advisory but exempted neighboring states. Last week, 46 states and territories qualified. Only one state — Hawaii — did not.

While New York threatened fines for those who violated the advisory, New Jersey had stopped short of doing so and instead begged people to use “personal responsibility.”

New Jersey on Wednesday reported 4,350 more COVID-19 cases and 56 additional deaths, while hospitalizations 3,287, as the state continues to deal with a second wave of the pandemic.

The Garden State has reported 17,145 total deaths attributed to the virus — 15,309 confirmed fatalities and 1,836 considered probable — with 346,206 total cases in the more than eight months since the first case was reported here March 4.

Murphy on Monday ordered a reduction in the size limit on outdoor gatherings in New Jersey to 25 people beginning next week. He previously lowered the limit from 500 to 150 in mid-November. There are exemptions for political and religious gatherings, weddings, funerals and memorial services. Outdoor dining is also not included.

Additionally, all indoor youth, high school, and adult recreation sports in New Jersey will be suspended for at least four weeks beginning Saturday. It does not affect indoor collegiate or professional sports.

The governor said he took the steps to prevent strain within the state’s hospitals.

“Stability in our healthcare system starts with carefully chosen steps to hamper the spread of the virus,” Murphy said at the time. “And because of the data, we know how and where we can best meet this challenge.”

NJ Advance Media staff writer Brent Johnson contributed to this report.

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Matt Arco may be reached at [email protected].

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