Air travelers to New Jersey get COVID-19 quarantine form

While in flight, airlines alert passengers headed to Newark to fill out a questionnaire so they can comply with New Jersey’s 14-day quarantine for travelers from 22 COVID-19 hot spot states. Signs on luggage carousels offer email, text and QR code options to help travelers access an out-of-state traveler registration form that asks for name, phone number, where you’re from and where you’re staying. North Carolina resident Soular Andrews says she’s fine with that.

“Yeah, so that they can at least let us know what exactly we need to do to get out of quarantine and make the mask not the next norm,” she said.

Visitor Luz Garcia grudgingly filled out the form, but found it very invasive.

“Where am I going, who am I staying with, how long am I going to be there. If you want me to stay 14-days quarantined, and you’re going to text me or call me, I don’t think that’s none of your business then,” Garcia said.

Filled out questionnaires go to the New Jersey Department of Health before going to the Department of Health at the county where travelers are staying. They’re supposed to give visitors a call and remind them to self-quarantine, in addition to helping people figure out how to do that.

“Individuals should leave the place of quarantine only to seek medical care or treatment or to obtain food and other essential items,” Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during Friday’s coronavirus press briefing. “It is vital that individuals traveling from heavily-impacted states cooperate so we can avoid creating community outbreaks in our state.”

Health officials promise that information is kept for just 30 days. But the tristate travel advisory is not equally enforced. While New York can fine violators $2,000, Connecticut and New Jersey continue to use the honor system.

Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he thinks it’s working “so far, so good.” But one person on Twitter complained:

“There’s been no enforcement at this point in time. I would expect that we would follow, perhaps, similar to what New York is doing. But we’d only do that if we find that personal accountability is not being upheld,” Persichilli said during Monday’s coronavirus press briefing.

“In fairness, we’re asking for personal responsibility. And this, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times, we deliberately did the bully pulpit thing first to try to pound away that message,” Murphy said at the same news conference.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka would go even further. He’s asked the governor and Port Authority at Newark Liberty International Airport to scan temperatures of all passengers arriving from hot spot states and quarantine those with COVID-19 symptoms.

Epidemiologists support the travel advisory as one way to bar the virus from being introduced in New Jersey, even if compliance isn’t 100%.

“When you do things on the honor system, many people will do it and some people won’t. The perfect is the enemy of the good. If we can lower the number of introductions by 50% it’s a big improvement,” said Dr. Martin Blaser, Director for the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers.

Blaser emphasized that just masks are not enough. He says social distancing remains a vital defense against COVID-19 infection and community spread.