Gov. Phil Murphy Lays Groundwork for “Important” Weekend in New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told residents he considers this weekend an “experiment” helping to guide officials on how to move forward in reopening the state.

“This weekend is going to be an important one for us and an important sign for how we move forward,” said Murphy, imploring residents to act responsibly and follow the rules and precautions the state has set forward in opening the parks May 2. 

The State Health Commissioner, Judith Persichilli, reminded residents visiting parks to take precautions like social distancing of at least six feet apart, use hand sanitizer and strongly backed the governor’s recommendation to wear a face covering.

Data Determines Dates

The weather is forecasted to be sunny and above 70 degrees for Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3.

With COVID-19 infection continuing to slow and hospitalizations dropping across the state, Murphy declared “This weekend will be a huge test for all of us on whether we stay on this trajectory…if this is successful, we can look to continue to open (the state).”

Murphy rolled out a new phrase—Data Determines Dates—when discussing how state officials will determine the next steps in loosening restrictions enacted to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Specific Timetable TBD

“We understand business and people are anxious for a more specific timetable for when we will start to begin to move forward,” said Murphy. “That means when we see (progress in) benchmarks like testing or hosplizations, we can then begin considering a specific timetable.”  

Of note, the number of those hospitalized was under 6,000 for the first time since the state started publicly reporting these stats.

The Rules

The governor reiterated the restrictions parks and golf courses are opening under. At golf courses, payment and reservations are to be made online; tee times are extended to 16 minute intervals for two players at a time, unless the foursome consists of immediate family or caretaker; one cart per person with exceptions made for family members or caretakers; frequent cleaning of common areas including restrooms, ranges and carts; pro shops and other amenities closed; removing bunker rakes and other furniture from the course; and no club rentals.

For state and county parks, parking lots will be limited to 50% capacity; playgrounds, restrooms, pavilions, and visitors centers will remain closed; and picnics and team sports are forbidden. Passive recreation will be allowed, including running, hiking, biking, fishing, boating, kayaking and horseback riding. The opening of tennis courts are left to local municipalities.

Police Presence

The governor said there will be a “significant presence” at parks to make sure the guidelines are being abided to. 

”We’re watching,” he noted. “We’re trying to watch and hopefully like what we see.”

But Murphy warned he will close them again if people don’t practice enough social distancing. 

“Social distancing will be the watchword,” he stated. “We are not out of the woods yet. We all need to use common sense.”

Infections Pass 121K

The news comes on a day where the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 121,190 with 2,651 new cases and 311 new deaths, bringing that total to 7,538. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,240, followed by Bergen with 1,187, Hudson at 819, Passaic at 599, Morris at 430, Sussex at 110 and Warren with 83.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 53% white, 20% black, 17% hispanic, 5% Asian and 5% another race. For 40,309 hospitalizations that were tracked, the breakdown was 36% white, 20% black, 18% hispanic, 5% Asian and 11% another race. 

Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state and vowed that any plan to reopen the state will work to reduce racial inequities in healthcare. The governor recently signed legislation mandating hospitals report age, gender, ethnicity and race of people who have tested COVID-19 positive or died from the virus.

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 59% had cardiovascular disease, 43% diabetes, 32% other chronic diseases, 17% neurological conditions,15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for 7,223 confirmed deaths shows 43% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 35% in the range of 65-80, 15% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen still has the most cumulative cases in the state with 15,830, followed by Hudson at 15,148, Essex at 13,994, Passaic at 12,814, Union at 12,779, Middlesex at 11,947, Ocean at 6,505, Monmouth at 6,132, Morris at 5,354, Mercer at 4,077, Camden at 3,646, Somerset at 3,537, Burlington at 2,769, Gloucester at 1,282, Atlantic at 1,012, Sussex at 936, Warren at 920, Cumberland at 764, Hunterdon at 608, Cape May at 334 and Salem at 237.

Another 583 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

The amount of days it takes for a county to double its cases in all 21 counties continue to trend up, although cases in the South are doubling at a faster pace than the rest of the state, according to Murphy. In North Jersey, it has taken more than 30 days to double in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Esex, Sussex and Morris counties, while the rate in Passaic is 24.5 days and in Warren 20.5 days.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 498 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 19,153 of the cases and 3,488 of the total deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 62 facilities had 3,521 residents test positive with 666 total deaths, Essex’s 44 facilities had 1,769 residents test positive with 394 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,205 residents test positive with 285 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 794 residents test positive with 143 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,069 residents test positive with 186 total deaths, Sussex’s five facilities had 287 residents test positive with 76 total deaths and Warren’s seven facilities had 401 residents test positive with 67 total deaths. 

State Testing

The state has processed 229,693 coronavirus tests of symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 42% testing positive for COVID-19. Murphy noted that percentage has been “drifting down” for the past two weeks. The state estimates between 9,000-11,000 tests are processed a day with results returning in about a week.

Officials reported 6,972 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 532 new hospitalizations—while 571 patients were discharged. State officials noted discharge numbers going forward will not include those who have died. The North tier had 3,280 patients hospitalized, the central 1,783 and the south 909.

Of new cases reported, Passaic had the most, followed by Hudson, Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex and Union.

There are currently 46 patients in field hospitals, with 380 treated overall. Of those hospitalized, 1,724 are in intensive care units and 1,286 on ventilators. 

Persichilli noted that hospitalizations are down 28% since its high point in the beginning of April. 

”The numbers are better. But they’re not zero,” Murphy said. 

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