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About those travel restrictions by NY, NJ and CT

by Les Wilson

This article explains the two COVID metrics used in the travel restrictions established by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Currently, Florida only passes one of the two criteria but is making progress on the other by driving case counts down.

Due to COVID, some states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut require quarantine for those coming into the state from places on their “Travel Advisory” list. The NY, NJ, CT tri-state region recently updated its list defining 34 states with “significant spread” from which visitors must self-quarantine for 14 days. According to the New Jersey website, the following states are restricted:

Restricted Travel States
States listed in NY, NJ, CT travel advisories

Since Florida is on the list, we looked at the criteria used by NY, NJ and CT. As stated by the official site of the state of New Jersey, the two-part criteria for a state with “significant spread” is as follows:

This quarantine – effective June 24 2020 – applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.  

Official Site of the State of NJ

The Travel Restriction Criteria Florida Passes

Unfortunately, there are no details on exactly how they perform either calculation and we could not find any publicly available information on it. BocaFirst reached out to the New Jersey Department of Health for details on the travel restriction criteria but has not received a reply. If something comes in, this article will be updated.

Several times a week, our BocaFirst COVID Tracking project publishes over 20 COVID metrics covering Florida, Palm Beach County and Boca Raton. These metrics are culled from a number of Florida Department of Health reports and website then consolidated into our tracker. The Percent Positive metric for Florida is calculated by the state based on tests reported by public and private labs. That calculation filters out duplicate test results from people who may get tested multiple times. The result is the best estimate of the number of COVID positive individuals tested in a given day. Below is the BocaFirst graphic showing Florida’s historical percent positive with a 7-day rolling average. It passes the percent positive criteria for NJ, NY, CT.

FL Percent Positive as defined by FDOH
FL Percent Positive as defined by FDOH

The Travel Restriction Criteria Florida Fails

As best we can tell, the second NY, NJ, CT travel restriction criteria is based on the daily number of positive test results per 100,000 residents. This is an attempt to measure the infection rate of a state and would therefore reasonably be based on the number of individuals tested positive (ergo filtering out duplicate tests). BocaFirst tracks this number daily and has a complete historical record of it. The FDOH defines it as follows:

These counts include the number of people for whom the Department received PCR or antigen laboratory results by day. People tested on multiple days will be included for each day a new result was received. A person is only counted once for each day they are tested, regardless of whether multiple specimens are tested or multiple results are received. If a person has a positive specimen and a negative specimen in the same day, only the positive result is counted.

Florida Dept of Health

Using a Florida state population of 21,992,985 and dividing by 100,000, the NY, NJ, CT criteria becomes the Daily Number of Positives divided by the constant 219.93. Due to Florida’s summertime Sunbelt Surge, Florida fails this criteria as shown below.

FL Number of cases per 100K population (adjusted for Quest Labs stale data dump)
FL Number of cases per 100K population (adjusted for Quest Labs stale data dump)

We’re almost there Florida

While Florida passes the NY, NJ, CT criteria based on the percentage of positive test results versus the number of tests given, it fails based on the percentage of cases in the state population. Data dumps such as the recent one by Quest Labs hurt Florida and Floridians by artificially inflating the numbers used to manage COVID in Florida. But as you can see in the last 2 weeks, Florida’s case count per 100K population was under the NY, NJ, CT threshold 3 times. We need to get under roughly 2,200 cases per day to pass.

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