‘Hot spot’ travelers ignore NJ’s quarantine advisory

Travelers snagging their suitcases can now read all about New Jersey’s quarantine advisory on new signs posted on the baggage carousels in Terminal C at Newark Airport. They warn folks arriving from 19 so-called coronavirus hot spot states like Florida and South Carolina that they must spend 14 days holed up to prevent the possible spread of infection. That’s easier for local residents to do.

“I’m going back home right now. I’m going to stay home. I’m going to quarantine myself for 14 days and then I’m going to go back to work,” said Morristown resident Jason Colon.

But one frustrated Florida visitor views the tristate advisory as just a political gotcha by rival governors from New York, New Jersey and Florida.

“I’m quarantining in a motel. I think that it’s totally overblown,” Sally from Tampa said. “I think it’s totally a payback. Cuomo and Murphy are basically saying, ‘We’ll get you, DeSantis.'”

Many visitors apparently ignore the advisory altogether — whether it’s posted in airports or on signs above New Jersey interstate highways. The roadway signs urge travelers to dial 511 to inquire about their quarantine status. The governor admitted on Chat Box that enforcement’s spotty at best.

“There was a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with a couple families from New Jersey that we were able to trace. There were some hot spots in Hoboken we were able to trace,” Murphy said.

Travelers are expected to self-quarantine at home, a hotel or some temporary lodging. They’re not required by the advisory to check in with public health officials unless they get a call from a contact tracer.

“We’re not looking for people who visited hot spots and say, ‘Hey, you have to be quarantined.’ It’s self-quarantine, so we don’t know all those who visited Florida, for example,” said Dr. Paul Persaud, a health officer at the Paterson Division of Health.

Paterson public health officers say they’re seeing a few new positive cases daily but most shelter at home. A local hotel accepts people referred for quarantine, but they’re predominantly homeless people.

“It can really transmit quickly among homeless individuals. So we started a few months ago partnering with the county and we’ve been able to house 262 formerly-homeless people in hotels throughout the area,” said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh.

In Camden County, health officials see between 20 to 50 people testing positive every day. Contact tracers refer positive cases to local motels.

“People that don’t have a place to stay, they can go to the COVID motel. The good news is that a lot people don’t need that kind of support. In June, we only have two cases that need that support,” said Dr. Paschal Nwako, health officer and public health coordinator for Camden County.

“We have had some individuals indicating they were curious about traveling to those hot spots,” said Monique Griffith, director of Health and Human Services for East Orange.

East Orange health officers, if necessary, can quarantine people at a local hospital annex refitted by the Army Corps of Engineers. They anticipate people will visit family down south over the summer and then quarantine at home.

“We follow up to ensure that the individuals, when they do in fact return, via contact tracing that they are in fact quarantining,” Griffith said.

To help health officials keep track of travelers, the Department of Health plans to roll out a new app next week. But for now, no one really knows how to spot a hot spot traveler.