Quarantine idea loses strength under scrutiny

Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli talked more Thursday about the 14-day quarantine for those coming to New Jersey from state’s with high rates of community spread — and with each comment, they weakened the idea.

For starters, Persichilli is now calling it “voluntary” — which is much softer language than Wednesday, when Murphy said, “This is not a polite recommendation; it is a strong advisory.”

Persichilli then said workers from impacted states who are traveling to New Jersey to work in critical infrastructure or essential positions — designated by the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency — are exempted.

“This includes truckers and other workers in the transportation (industries),” she said.

So, if you work in an essential industry, you’re free to act however you like?

This was an idea that — while good on merit — was never going to hold up to scrutiny. And not just for the constitutional issues, which would nullify it to begin with.

Consider this: Persichilli said anyone traveling from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas or Utah should voluntarily quarantine. But this is regardless of how they got there — crowded plane or solo in a car — and what they did when they were there.

And, what about a person who travels to one of those states but has a job here that requires them to be on site. Are they excused for two weeks? Are they eligible for unemployment? Is their job secure?

And, if the person left the state to protest — or wanted to protest here — are they exempt? Murphy previously has said social distancing rules are relaxed in those situations.

Murphy admitted the state can do little to enforce the idea. He mentioned a public relations campaign and again noted that there is specific action that Persichilli could take — without mentioning what that action is.

There’s no reason to think the state can look to officials in New York and Connecticut, which joined in the advisory, either.

“This is an example of a bunch of things we’ve done with regional partners: There’s harmony in the theme, but the execution is up to us in our state,” Murphy said.

The positive: Murphy said the self-imposed quarantine was in no way a payback to actions some states tried to take against New Jersey early on.

“It’s not personal to any other state,” he said. “We take no joy in any other state’s challenges right now. We’ve been there. We know what that looks like. We know the awful price that you pay. So, we’re praying that they get better, fast.”

Later, he put it another way: “This is not retaliation.”

Better put, it’s unnecessary.

Murphy said it is another item on a long list of smart, responsible, doing-the-right-thing behavior that folks in this state have taken from Day One.

He’s right. Let’s leave it at that.

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