Early Reports are Encouraging as New Jersey Parks, Golf Courses Reopen

“So far so good” were the early reports Gov. Phil Murphy received on the first day parks and golf courses reopened May 2.

”Frankly, knowing New Jerseyans, this is what we should expect,” Murphy stated. “I want everyone to enjoy this extraordinary weekend. And if we do this, we’ll be able to move forward.”

State officials are requiring park visitors to practice social distancing to protect against the coronavirus, with local and state police officers on hand to make sure the rules are being complied with. 

Park, Golf Rules

The restrictions imposed on state and county parks included parking lots limited to 50% capacity; playgrounds, restrooms, pavilions and visitors centers closed; and picnics and team sports are forbidden. Passive recreation was allowed, while tennis court openings were left to local municipalities.

For golf courses, the new rules extended tee times to 16 minute intervals for two players at a time; one cart per person with exceptions made for family members; frequent cleaning of common areas including restrooms, ranges and carts; and pro shops and other amenities closed.

As officials are being pressed to offer a timetable not detailed in his Road Back plan when other restrictions caused by the COVID-19 crisis would be loosened, Murphy had declared the first weekend in May “an important one for us and an important sign for how we move forward.” 

No Rush

“If we hear reports of people not taking their health or the health of other park-goers more seriously, we will not hesitate…to close them again,” stated Murphy.

The governor noted the daily death rates are still numbering in the hundreds, giving him pause to not rush easing of restrictions.

“If we are reckless, we will lose many more,” he said. “We have to learn from the data and the trend lines. But we also have to learn from the thousands of lives we have lost. We have to learn that COVID-19 is real.”

Data Tracking

The first-term Democratic governor remains hopeful, citing the data determining the reopening of the state was moving in the right direction.

“All of the metrics in our hospitals continue to show positive trends,” Murphy said. “We need to keep seeing this continue before we start putting New Jersey on the road back.”

Infections Pass 123K

The news comes on a day where the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 123,717 with 2,912 new cases and 205 new deaths, bringing that total to 7,742. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,240, followed by Bergen with 1,202, Hudson at 834, Passaic at 624, Morris at 440, Sussex at 114 and Warren with 84.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 52% 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. State Health Commissioner Judith 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 15,974, followed by Hudson at 15,401, Essex at 14,248, Passaic at 13,082, Union at 12,996, Middlesex at 12,213, Ocean at 6,692, Monmouth at 6,198, Morris at 5,406, Mercer at 4,271, Camden at 3,773, Somerset at 3,605, Burlington at 2,879, Gloucester at 1,334, Atlantic at 1,050, Sussex at 949, Warren at 941, Cumberland at 809, Hunterdon at 622, Cape May at 337 and Salem at 261.

There are 676 cases 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 26 days and in Warren 22 days.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 505 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 20,284 of the cases and 3,670 of the total deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 3,694 residents test positive with 708 total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 1,920 residents test positive with 430 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,274 residents test positive with 296 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 857 residents test positive with 166 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,069 residents test positive with 186 total deaths, Sussex’s five facilities had 290 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 234,577 coronavirus tests of symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 41% 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.

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

Officials reported 5,713 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 378 new hospitalizations—while 525 patients were discharged. The northern tier had 3,142 patients hospitalized, the central 1,688 and the south 883.

There are currently 51 patients in field hospitals, with 393 treated overall. Of those hospitalized, 1,715 are in intensive care units and 1,230 on ventilators. 

Persichilli noted hospilations are down 41% in the northern tier since the surge reached its peak in April, while the central tier has decreased 26%.

“We continue to see progress with each reporting drop,” Murphy said. “That’s a very good sign.”

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