With Memorial Day weekend less than two weeks away, Gov. Phil Murphy recently gave his most expansive answer on how he sees the opening of beaches and lakes amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“There are a number of feasible steps (to reopening) that we’re looking at right now that will give guidance over the next week or so,” said Murphy. “Beaches are on that list.”
According to Murphy, the guidance to be provided to Jersey shore and lake communities on how to operate will be based on those used for state parks and golf courses the first weekend in May.
“We’re trying to come up with a paradigm that is consistent while not necessarily to the letter, we approached parks with,” he said.
Among the restrictions placed on parks that would be carried over are limiting parking and social distancing. The governor has encouraged the increased use of face coverings, but understands that may be impractical at the beaches
“This is not necessarily verbatim—what we did here, we’ll do there,” stated Murphy.
Flattening The Curve
But the first-term Democratic governor said there are two big caveats beach and lake goers are going to have to understand when it come to visit these summer destinations.
“The curves that we look at every day have got to continue improving. If they turn against us, there’s no way we can responsibly take a step like opening beaches,” said Murphy.
The second is residents need to realize the experience is not going to be the same as before.
“Folks are just going to have to accept…going to the beach will be an experience which will feel, in some ways, like it always has and in some ways like it never has,” he said. “We’re going to have to have steps in place—capacity, social distancing—that we just haven’t (done before).”
The state can only give guidance as beaches and lakes are under the jurisdiction of local municipalities. But state officials have been in contact with local elected leaders as they form a plan.
“I will say the cooperation that we have in our deliberations…with municipalities and counties up and down the shore, as well as in our lake communities has been outstanding,” he stated. “I have a high degree of confidence that we will be, wherever it is that we end up, we will be in very good harmony.”
As of May 10, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 138,532 with 1,447 new cases and 139 new deaths, bringing that total to 9,255.
Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most in the state with 1,423, followed by Bergen at 1,355, Hudson at 969, Passaic at 744, Morris at 516, Sussex at 127 and Warren with 104.
The state has processed 280,220 coronavirus tests of mostly symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 38% testing positive for COVID-19. The state estimates between 9,000-11,000 tests are processed a day with results returning in about a week.
Officials reported 4,308 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus, while 439 patients were discharged. The north tier had 2,199 patients hospitalized, the central 1,342 and the south 767.
Of those hospitalized, 1,338 are in intensive care units and 994 on ventilators. There are currently 33 patients in field hospitals, with 423 treated overall.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen still has the most cumulative cases in the state with 16,929, followed by Hudson at 16,822, Essex at 15,524, Passaic at 14,543, Union at 14,057, Middlesex at 13,937, Ocean at 7,462, Monmouth at 6,894, Morris at 5,854, Mercer at 5,317, Camden at 4,870, Somerset at 4,054, Burlington at 3,574, Gloucester at 1,654, Atlantic at 1,510, Cumberland at 1,287, Warren at 1,044, Sussex at 1,026, Hunterdon at 714, Cape May at 458 and Salem at 411.
Another 591 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
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.
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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 515 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 26,237 of the cases and 4,855 of the total deaths.
In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 4,068 residents test positive with 798 total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 2,497 residents test positive with 507 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,613 residents test positive with 389 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,421 residents test positive with 291 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 1,094 residents test positive with 174 total deaths, Warren’s seven facilities had 478 residents test positive with 88 total deaths and Sussex’s five facilities had 335 residents test positive with 99 total deaths.