NEW JERSEY — Gov. Phil Murphy joined a group of governors in neighboring states in urging colleges students from New Jersey to test for COVID-19 before leaving for Thanksgiving break, and also quarantining before going home.
New Jersey was joined by New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts in this regional recommendation, which seeks to limit the spread of the coronavirus as students return to their home states and cities.
Murphy, speaking during a Wednesday news conference, also urged colleges to make testing more available.
"Ramping up testing for students prior to their departure home is a critical step in reducing the risk of transmission across our region," he added.
Any student who tests positive for the coronavirus will be "encouraged" to isolate on campus, or, Murphy said, asked to "make arrangements for safe travel home in coordination with their local health officials."
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli added additional guidance for college students who are likely to return home from campus.
"I know families are eager to spend time with students returning from school, and the public health guidance we are sharing is limiting some of those interactions, but these steps will keep your family safe," she said.
If you’re a student returning from college, here’s what Persichilli recommends:
Get a COVID-19 test before leaving campus
Students should quarantine for 14 days before leaving campus
If they haven’t finished that quarantine, they should continue it at home while remaining separate from their family
Before completing their quarantine, students should remain six-feet away from their family, wear a mask, and, further avoid contact as much as possible
Students whose family members fall into the high risk category should try to quarantine at a different location
Students should get tested five to seven days after any “high-risk” activity
If you test positive for the coronavirus before or after leaving campus, isolate for 14 days
Eat meals in a private space, or outside, six-feet apart from others
During isolation, avoid using the same bathroom if possible
If not possible, disinfect the bathroom after every use
These recommendations, Persichilli said, are for if students must travel home.
"Anyone with symptoms or a positive test actually should avoid traveling home, if possible," Persichilli said.
Murphy noted that many colleges and universities in the region have adjusted their schedules in such a way that students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving break, instead finishing the semester remotely.
Thanksgiving has been a recent subject of discussion for Murphy, who along with other state officials has urged residents of the Garden State to limit the size of their gatherings, if they have them at all.
He doubled — or tripled — down on this Wednesday, again asking residents to skip gatherings outside their family homes.
"A large Thanksgiving gathering, particularly amongst different age groups, runs the risk of turning the dinner table into a COVID hotspot," said Murphy.
All this came as Murphy reported 4,063 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, and said that the new statistics as a whole are “not pretty.” The state now has a total of 289,562 COVID-19 cases since March 4.
The positivity rate for all PCR tests recorded Saturday was an “unacceptably high” 10.88 percent, Murphy said.
Statewide transmission is up, as are hospitalizations, with 2,446 patients being treated, 2,196 of them confirmed as COVID-positive, Murphy added.
Of those patients, 461 were in intensive care units in hospitals throughout the state, with 223 patients on a ventilator. There were 27 new deaths reported on Wednesday.
"There is no way to sugarcoat any of these numbers," Murphy said. "They are not good, and they are trending worse."