NJ Loosens COVID-19 Travel Rules, Guidelines

NEW JERSEY – New Jersey issued new COVID-19 travel guidance on Monday night, loosening restrictions especially for people who are vaccinated and clarifying the rules for people who are traveling by plane.

New Jersey residents who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer have to self-quarantine after taking a domestic trip across state lines, Gov. Phil Murphy has announced (see list of new rules and guidelines below).

According to Murphy, “fully vaccinated” Garden State residents who travel domestically in the U.S. aren’t required to self-quarantine after their trip, or get a COVID-19 test before or afterward – a significant shift from recent state recommendations.

For international travel, a negative test result or documentation of recovery is required for all travelers entering United States following air travel. All travelers should then self-monitor for symptoms during and after travel and self-isolate if symptoms develop

The restrictions follow updated travel recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month.

“While the pandemic is not over, our vaccination program and updated CDC guidance have made it possible for vaccinated individuals to resume travel without quarantine,” said Murphy. “New Jersey residents should still exercise caution in traveling and follow all public health rules and regulations as the end of the pandemic comes into view.”

Given the increased risk of spreading COVID-19 for both residents who travel outside the state and for visitors into the state, New Jersey continues to strongly discourage unvaccinated individuals from engaging in non-essential interstate travel.

The CDC recommends travel be deferred until individuals are fully vaccinated.

An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks or more after receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks or more after receipt of a single-dose vaccine.

Unvaccinated travelers and residents returning from any U.S. state or territory beyond the immediate region (New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) should self-quarantine at their home, hotel, or other temporary lodging following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for unvaccinated people.

Here is a summary of the travel recommendations

All Travelers:

  • International travel: negative test result or documentation of recovery required by the CDC to enter United States following air travel
  • Self-monitor for symptoms during and after travel and self-isolate if symptoms develop
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least six feet from others
  • Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer

Fully Vaccinated Travelers:

  • Get tested three to five days after returning to the United States from international travel, but no quarantine following travel or test before travel (unless required by the destination) needed
  • For domestic travel, no quarantine or test before or after travel needed

Travelers who Clinically Recovered from COVID-19 in past three months:

  • No quarantine or pre- or post-travel test needed

Unvaccinated Travelers:

  • Defer travel until fully vaccinated
  • Before travel, get tested for COVID-19 with a viral test one to three days before the trip
  • Get tested three to five days after travel
  • Stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if the post-travel test is negative. If not tested after travel, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

New Jersey health commissioner Judy Persichilli also offered more details about the new policy during a news conference on Monday, saying fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. “without the need to get tested or self-quarantine, as long as they continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling.”

Those precautions include wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, social distancing and washing their hands frequently.

“With the protection of COVID-19 vaccines, many New Jerseyans are eager to enjoy trips to visit families and friends they have missed over the past year,” said Persichilli. “While traveling, individuals should continue to take COVID-19 precautions–wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, physically distancing, and washing hands frequently.”

But if you plan on leaving the country, there are additional risks, Persichilli cautioned.

“Even fully vaccinated, [international] travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants,” she said.

According to Persichilli:

“Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before leaving the U.S., unless it is required by their destination. The federal government requires fully vaccinated air travelers coming to the U.S. from abroad to have a negative COVID-19 viral test within three days of travel, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before they board a flight to the U.S. These travelers should be tested for COVID-19 three to five days after travel. Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine after international travel.”

Still haven’t gotten your shots yet? The state recommendations haven’t changed, Persichilli said, adding that those people should put off travel plans until they are completely inoculated against the coronavirus.

“If they must travel, they should get tested with a viral test one to three days before the trip, and get tested three to five days after travel,” the health commissioner said. “It’s recommended that they stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if the post-travel test is negative.”

If people don’t get a test after traveling, they should stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after their trip, Persichilli said.

The state Department of Health also provided a question-and-answer list for the new guideliens:

What type of travel is essential?

Essential travel would include:

  • Individuals traveling to and from the state for work.
  • Individuals traveling to and from the state for medical reasons, including individuals providing comfort and support to a patient.
  • Military personnel traveling to the State by order or directive of a state or Federal military
  • authority.
  • Individuals traveling to comply with a court order, such as child custody

Is anyone exempt from the quarantine recommendation?

Although unvaccinated persons should avoid non-essential travel, essential personnel (also known as critical infrastructure workers) may be exempt from the recommendation to quarantine in limited circumstances.

According to guidance from the CDC, “reintegrating exposed critical infrastructure workers who are not experiencing any symptoms and have not tested positive back into onsite operations should be used as a last resort and only in limited circumstances, such as when cessation of operation of a facility may cause serious harm or danger to public health or safety.”

Do I need to quarantine if I will only be in New Jersey for a brief period of time or are stopping over in New Jersey?

The quarantine recommendation does not apply to unvaccinated individuals who are returning to New Jersey after traveling outside of the State for less than 24 hours or those traveling to New Jersey for less than 24 hours.

Even where travel is less than 24 hours, however, unvaccinated individuals are still discouraged from engaging in non-essential travel to other states to the extent possible.

Similarly, it does not apply to unvaccinated individuals in transit through the state to another destination, provided that the time spent in the State is only the amount of time necessary to complete the transit, make use of travel services, such as a highway rest stop, or make necessary travel connections.

Is quarantine following travel mandatory?

New Jersey is not mandating quarantine for unvaccinated individuals returning from travel at this time.

The quarantine advisory was issued to limit the spread of the virus within our communities. While the recommendation relies on personal accountability, state officials expect that affected individuals will follow the recommendation. Unvaccinated travelers arriving from areas with increasing COVID-19 cases may wish to postpone their travel to the region if they are unwilling or unable to follow the quarantine advisory.

What do I need to do if I have returned from international travel?

International travelers should refer to guidance published by the CDC. For additional guidance on international travel, please visit the “COVID-19 Travel Recommendations” and “International Travel During COVID-19”, and “Testing and International Travel” sections of the CDC’s website.

Why is the advisory no longer specific to certain states?

Because of the rising number of case counts across all states, there is an increased risk of spread of COVID19 upon return from any travel.

What does it mean to quarantine?

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Quarantined people may stay at home or another location, so they don’t spread disease to healthy people. If you are quarantined and you become ill, you can seek medical care/treatment from a healthcare provider.

Am I expected to quarantine in a hotel? Is there somewhere I should quarantine?

Travelers and residents who are returning from states and territories beyond the immediate region should quarantine at their home, or a hotel or other temporary lodging. Individuals should leave the place of quarantine only to seek medical care/treatment or to obtain food and other essential items.

I traveled out of state and want to get tested, where can I get tested?

You can locate a list of testing sites at https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing. Whenever possible, you are encouraged to quarantine after getting tested while you await your test results.

What should I do if I start feeling sick after traveling?

All travelers should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after travel. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 while self-monitoring or while under quarantine (unvaccinated travelers), you should immediately isolate away from others, contact your healthcare provider and where feasible, get tested for COVID-19.

For most persons with COVID-19 illness, isolation and precautions can generally be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset and are fever-free for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms.

How will the quarantine be enforced?

The quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected. Unvaccinated travelers and residents returning from another state or territory outside of the immediate region typically will not need to check in with public health officials, unless otherwise they are involved in contact tracing efforts or required to do so by their employer or any other federal, state or local law or order. It is expected that unvaccinated individuals will follow the recommendation to quarantine.

Are there support services for individuals who are required to quarantine?

Contact your local health department or 211 if you need additional information about available support services for quarantine.

I traveled to NJ by plane. Where can I access the electronic traveler form?

The form may be found at covid19.nj.gov/njtraveler. Unvaccinated travelers who arrive in New Jersey by plane from a state/territory beyond the immediate region (New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) should complete the form and follow current recommendations regarding quarantine.

If I live in New Jersey and have a household member or guest returning from a state/territory beyond the immediate region (New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware), do I and other household members who have not traveled also need to self-quarantine?

Unvaccinated out-of-state visitors from another U.S. state or territory beyond the immediate region are encouraged to postpone travel until they are fully vaccinated. If it is not possible to delay travel, unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to quarantine in the home where they live or are staying in New Jersey. Household members who did not travel do not need to quarantine.

If I self-quarantine pursuant to this recommendation, can I use state-mandated earned sick leave?

Possibly. The New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law permits an individual who has worked for their employer for at least 120 days to use earned sick leave that they have accrued.

Please contact your employer for more information about leave eligibility or visithttps://getstarted.nj.gov/labor/.

If my family member is subject to self-quarantine pursuant to this recommendation, can I use family leave?

It depends. The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) entitles an employee to take job-protected leave from work when a health care provider or public health authority recommends that a family member in need of care by the employee voluntarily undergo quarantine as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease because the presence in the community of the family member in need of care by the employee would jeopardize the health of others.

Please contact your employer for more information about leave eligibility or visit https://getstarted.nj.gov/labor/.

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