New York, Connecticut and New Jersey asked Wednesday for travelers from states with high coronavirus infection rates to go into quarantine for 14 days in a bid to preserve hard-fought gains as caseloads rise elsewhere in the country.
“We now have to make sure the rates continue to drop,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday at a briefing in New York City, joined via video by Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Ned Lamont of Connecticut, both fellow Democrats. “We also have to make sure the virus doesn’t come on a plane again.”
What was presented as a “travel advisory” that starts Thursday affects three adjacent Northeastern states that managed to check the spread of the virus this spring as New York City became a hot spot for the pandemic.
Travelers from more than a half-dozen states, including Florida and Texas, are currently impacted. The quarantine will last two weeks from the time of last contact within the identified state.
The announcement comes as summer travel to the states’ beaches, parks and other attractions — not to mention New York City — would normally swing into high gear.
It also marks a flip-flop in the COVID-19 battle since March, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, both Republicans, separately issued orders requiring people flying in from the New York tri-state area, where cases were surging, to quarantine for 14 days.
Now, Florida and Texas are among the struggling states being eyed warily by the three northern governors.
“As Governor DeSantis said on Saturday, Governors have a prerogative to do what they need to do,” press secretary Cody McCloud said. “He just asks that Floridians not be quarantined in the nursing homes in New York.”
Murphy called a quarantine the smart thing.
“We have taken our people, the three of us, these three states, to hell and back,” Murphy said. “The last thing we need to do right now is subject our folks to another round.”
The states will relay the quarantine message on highways, at airports, and through websites and social media. Lamont said they will ask hotels to tell guests from affected states.
Enforcement will vary by state. The Cuomo administration said violators in New York will be subject to mandatory quarantine and face fines from $2,000 to $10,000.
Violators could be discovered at business meetings or during a traffic stop, he said.
It was not clear what, if any, penalties violators in New Jersey and Connecticut will face.
Lamont described the quarantine as “urgent guidance.” Murphy called it a “strong advisory ... to do the right thing.”
The quarantine applies to people coming from states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, or with a 10% or higher positivity rate over seven days.
As of Wednesday, states over the threshold were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas, Cuomo said.
“It could come back and we can have a second wave arriving by jet airplane a second time,” Lamont said. “And right now, they wouldn’t necessarily be coming from China. They could be coming from one of six or seven or eight states that have a very high positivity rate.”
The order appears to apply to President Donald Trump, who was in Arizona on Tuesday and is slated to go to Bedminster, New Jersey, this weekend.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an email Wednesday that standard procedures were in place in Arizona to ensure the president did not come into contact with anyone who was symptomatic or had not been tested.
ATLANTIC CITY — The expansive gaming floor at Ocean Casino Resort was once considered a liability for the property formerly known as Revel.
But, as most Atlantic City casinos prepare to reopen July 2 amid the ongoing global pandemic, Ocean’s wide-open floor plan and 50-foot high ceilings make for an almost ideal space to practice social distancing.
Combined with enhanced health and safety protocols for both guests and employees, Ocean executives said they believe the casino will be a safe environment when the doors open to the public next week.
“We’ve worked really hard on this,” Ocean CEO Terry Glebocki said of the casino’s heath and safety plan, adding that she and her team have been assembling it for months. “We have standing meetings every week, and we continue to refine.”
Gov. Phil Murphy said casinos could reopen at 25% capacity and that face masks must be worn by everyone on property. Further details about industry-wide protocols are expected to be released in the next couple of days.
Without specific details from the state, Atlantic City’s casinos are implementing their own protocols with the understanding that things could change at any moment.
Mike Donovan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Ocean, said once Murphy made the announcement Monday, guests started calling to book hotel stays.
The pent up demand for casinos has been evident in other areas that reopened already and Donovan said Ocean, and Atlantic City as a whole, is ready for a busy Independence Day weekend.
“It’s been really crazy these past few days,” he said. ‘We’ve been getting 3,500 to 4,000 calls a day. So, we’ve seen a pretty good pace of bookings for those first few weeks in July with people wanting to get in.”
On Wednesday, Ocean executives hosted a tour of the casino floor and highlighted some of the changes guest and employees can expect upon returning.
Employees will be temperature screened once they enter the building and will be prohibited from working if they register above 100.4 degrees. Over the next several days, the employees will be trained on the new health and safety protocols.
Without specific guidance from the state, the casino will not be taking guests’ temperatures but is prepared to do so.
Throughout the casino, Ocean has placed distancing stickers on the floor and in elevators. There are also over 200 hand sanitizing stations, while signage with gambling-themed messages — “A clean hand is a lucky hand,” reads one — reminding people to practice good hygiene and keep their distance from one another.
Every other slot machine — Ocean had more than 1,900 operating before COVID-19 — is turned off and chairs at table games have been removed to discourage overcrowding.
The only Plexiglas dividers at Ocean are in high-volume areas, such as guest services and the hotel front desk. If the state requires more to be installed, Ocean executives said they are prepared to comply.
The valet at Ocean will be closed for now, with plans to bring food and beverage trucks on site and arrange an outdoor seating area under the porte cochere.
Restaurants are subject to the same 25% capacity limits as the casino floor and Ocean executives said they intend to offer as many dining options to guests as possible.
Pools will be open for hotel guests only. The HQ Dayclub/Nightclub will be closed, as will Ovation Hall.
Atlantic City’s nine casinos have been closed since March 16 to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Glebocki, who was part of the team that opened Revel in 2012, said reopening a casino after it has been closed this long is “much more involved.”
“This is a complete restart,” she said. “This is quite the heavy lift, but we’ll absolutely be ready.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with the correct employee screening temperature at Ocean Casino Resort.
MAYS LANDING — An Atlantic City man jailed after a police brutality protest in Atlantic City last month turned into vandalism and looting will be released this week.
Na’im Nixon, 28, who was charged May 31 with riot, resisting arrest and violation of an emergency order, is set to be released from Atlantic County jail Thursday or Friday, his attorney, Scott Salmon, said Wednesday morning.
Salmon said he is planning to speak with prosecutors about dropping or reducing the charges, calling it a “case of mistaken identity.”
Nixon’s case has been forwarded to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office to make its way through the criminal court process, city police Sgt. Kevin Fair said.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office could not be reached for comment.
Nixon is currently held in the jail, staff confirmed.
Officials allege Nixon ran through two lines of officers in the middle of the street as they attempted to disperse people during riots, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
When officers attempted to arrest him, he held his arms in front of him refusing to place them behind his back, according to the document.
Hundreds of Nixon’s supporters have lobbied for his release. A Change.org petition titled “#FreeNaimNixon” has garnered 968 signatures so far, and a GoFundMe online fundraiser has raised $10,130, surpassing a $10,000 goal.
The organizer of the fundraiser could not be reached for comment.
Nixon was ordered held until trial after a detention hearing earlier this month in Atlantic County Superior Court, Salmon said.
However, Salmon said he successfully argued for Nixon’s release, citing a limited criminal record and his ties to the community, making him not a flight risk, and the appellate court turned over the order to detain him.
Nixon is scheduled to appear virtually for a 9:30 a.m. hearing Thursday to determine conditions of release, Salmon said.
“By the time he’ll be released, he’ll have been there for almost a full month,” Salmon said. “We’re pretty confident that (body camera footage) is going to show that this was a case of mistaken identity if anything.”
Video from the protest shows another man wearing similar clothing to Nixon who was also arrested, but then released, Salmon said, adding he has not seen officers’ body camera footage yet.
Nixon was one of 17 people arrested that day after a peaceful protest in the wake of the killing of George Floyd turned violent, and police said a group of rioters walked along Atlantic Avenue breaking windows, damaging property and stealing merchandise of local businesses.
Floyd died May 25 after he was arrested in Minneapolis and an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Protesters nationwide have called for an end to police brutality.
Nixon’s next scheduled hearing is a preindictment conference on July 30.
GALLERY: Protests against police brutality around South Jersey
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — School officials here are again mulling how to proceed with graduation after receiving criticism from the public and school board members on its plan that asks students choose between friends and parents.
“You’ve got to find a way to include the parents in one of the most important things they have done for their son or daughter,” board member Ray Ellis said during Tuesday’s online workshop meeting. “Please do not deprive these parents of their gift.”
Ellis and other board members, including Kristy Bird, Lou Della Barca and board President Pete Castellano, as well as two parents who called in to the meeting during public comment, said they wanted to see more options for graduation, like a drive-thru ceremony or multiple in-person sessions.
Jessica Salerno, a nurse and parent of a senior, said that asking the students to make the choice between their friends and their parents added an unnecessary layer of difficulty to an already difficult situation.
Karrie Davis, also the parent of a senior, said that she felt the district’s handling of graduation plans was “one of the worst” she has seen and lacked compassion for parents.
The issue facing Egg Harbor Township is in part due to the size of the senior class at nearly 600 students. Many area schools devising plans for high school graduations to occur amid social-distancing guidelines received an assist when Gov. Phil Murphy announced outdoor ceremonies could take place with a maximum of 500 people starting July 6.
However, for Egg Harbor Township, which held a virtual ceremony last week, they were holding out hope that the number would go up to at least 1,000 for in-person events, Superintendent Kim Gruccio told the board members.
That hasn’t happened.
“With 600 kids, two parents, you’re talking 1,800 people right there. That was where a choice had to be made,” Gruccio said.
On Monday, the district released a notice to student and parents, which was also posted on the district website, that there would be two options for students to choose from. The first was a full graduation on the field but with no audience.
The second option was individual, shortened ceremonies with parents and students at scheduled times, but without classmates.
Both options will occur on July 8 and students were asked to choose only one by Wednesday.
High School Principal Patty Connor, who called into the meeting to comment on the topic, said that two polls were sent out to students on the issue and that on both polls, the majority of students indicated that they wanted to graduate with their friends.
Gruccio added that the students also told administrators that if they weren’t going to listen to what the students wanted, they shouldn’t even ask.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Gruccio said, adding that she will talk to administrators about it Wednesday to “see where they are.”
“I hear you loud and clear,” she said. “We’ll see how this all turns out.”
Gruccio said Wednesday that she has not received any feedback from the high school at this time. No changes were posted to the district website as of Wednesday morning.