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According to the official New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub as of March 8, 2021 (emphasis in original),

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 recommendations from the CDC:...

The self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected.

The site comes out and seems to say that the quarantine is voluntary, but then says that "compliance is expected".

Is there a legal penalty or intervention for not following the above guidelines, or are these rules enforced solely through social pressure (frowns, social ostracism, gossip, etc.)?

To be clear, I'm not asking for the socially responsible or healthy choice, but the legal one. For example, if someone were to walk into a NJ government office and loudly proclaim that they had just arrived from Texas and won't be self-quarantining, is there anything they can do except appeal to the person's conscience? In other words, is the description of the quarantine as "voluntary" more a recognition that public health authorities are not actively monitoring and pursuing visitors as a matter of practice or is it a recognition that the state literally has no legal means to force visitors to comply?

Also to be clear, I'm asking solely about the general quarantine described above. Cases where someone has tested positive for COVID-19 or been specifically identified as a close contact of someone who did are out of scope for this question.

Why someone would want to travel to New Jersey is out of scope for this question.

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Is the New Jersey quarantine rule a legal requirement or merely a recommendation?

Even if the rule had force of law, the language indicates that self-quarantine is optional. The term "expectation" merely indicates the government's preference.

Black's Law Dictionary defines voluntary as "unimpelled by another's influence [...]. Proceeding from the free and unrestrained will of the person. [...] Produced in or by an act of choice". Likewise, should is defined as "usually no more than an obligation of propriety or expediency, or a moral obligation, thereby distinguishing it from 'ought',".

is the description of the quarantine as "voluntary" more a recognition that public health authorities are not actively monitoring and pursuing visitors as a matter of practice or is it a recognition that the state literally has no legal means to force visitors to comply?

It suggests the former, although "monitoring" is different from "enforcing". The authorities could monitor merely for purposes of doing projections, that is, without penalizing the people who decide not to self-quarantine.

The excerpt reflects that in the government's opinion the circumstances do not warrant making [self-]quarantine compulsory.

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From the perspective of law, government agencies can urge people to do many things, but forcing compliance requires a specific legal path. A legislature may pass a law requiring an action and stating the punishment for non-compliance; in special circumstances, the legislature can enable another branch of government to articulate an enforceable requirement and impose penalties. Covid restriction overwhelmingly are the result of gubernatorial proclamations and executive orders: here is a page full from New Jersey. The typical form of these documents is tho assemble a sequence of sentences stating the facts, starting with "Whereas..." which may include mention of statutory or constitutional authority, and then there is a statement of who is commanded, what they are commanded to do, and possibly some mention of enforcement. These statements may also declare a "duty", without any assertion of legal penalty for non-compliance.

Governors cannot just order people around because they are the governor, so there has to be some underlying statutory or constitutional authority. This order, #103, is the initial declaration of a state of emergency, and cites a particular piece of legislation about public exegencies, as well as this and other laws pertaining to public health emergencies. Such orders have often been quite unclear as to their scope and enforceability. This is the first "stay home" order, which includes a threat of punishment for violation of the order under specific statutory authority (para 25).

In principle, then, such an order could be enforceable, the question is what order, is any mandates quarantine, and whether enforcement is threatened. Since there are over 100 post-covid orders, it's not practical to check each and every one, but it does not appear that there is an order corresponding to the suggestion to quarantine: which is why it is a expressed as a recommendation and not a command.

Public health officials regularly advise people, especially senior citizens, to get flu shots – they have done so for decades. Likewise, stop smoking, don't inject heroin, and so on. It does not require an executive order to make a health recommendation, but it does require some legal authority to force compliance. The current situation in New Jersey appears to be that this is just a suggestion, not a command, and suggestions don't have "the force of law".

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Direct answer: there MIGHT be consequences. For detailed informations, you should call the NJ COVID-19 Info Hub: General COVID-19 Questions: 2-1-1 (24/7)

Let me start by saying, I'm not a lawyer and this is my interpretation based on the information I could find on State and Federal websites. I strongly suggest to call the number mentioned above to get an official answer to your questions.

What do I mean? Self-quarantining is a rule you're expected to follow; to the best of my knowledge it's not a crime to not self-quarantine and you won't be arrested because of it, but there could be legal implications if your refusal to do so is linked to the spread of the virus or other consequences (public endangerment).

The New Jersey Department of Health released a FAQ in which they respond to "How will self-quarantine be enforced?" which states:

The quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected. 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 individuals will follow the recommendation to quarantine.

In other words, while there's no check-in imposed on all travelers, you could get involved in contact tracing or similar activities by law enforcement. In that case, you might face consequences if you didn't self-quarantine.

From the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub:

New Jersey strongly discourages all non-essential interstate travel at this time. At this time, individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to follow the State's travel advisory.

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 recommendations from the CDC.

The self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected. 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.

As you can see, even vaccinated individuals and people from nearby states are asked to avoid non-essential travel or self-quarantine if they can't avoid it.

Travelers are also asked to fill the following "OUT OF STATE TRAVEL REGISTRATION" form. This is a voluntary survey, useful in case of contact tracing and other covid-related emergency procedures.

I'll leave you with the updated CDC Travel During COVID-19 guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.htm

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