On the six month anniversary of the first coronavirus case in New Jersey and the day that indoor dining resumed, Gov. Phil Murphy warned that his executive order must be followed as written.
“Let this be a warning to everybody: The capacity limits and the public health protocols we’ve put in place for indoor dining are not kind suggestions,” said Murphy at a press briefing Sept. 4.
The governor said he wanted restaurants—and gyms as well—to welcome back their customers back inside, but that must be done safely and in accordance with the rules.
“They are mandated…they are required. We will not tolerate any violations,” said Murphy. “And we will not be afraid to come down hard and make an example of those who don’t think the rules apply to them.”
Murphy cited the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) recent suspension of Burlington City’s Il Portico Ristorante liquor license. The license was revoked after the restaurant held what the governor described as an “large and unruly” July 4 gathering of over 500 people that violated a number of executive orders.
“We have been very clear that the restrictions that we have put in place for public health are to save lives,” he said. “When a selfish manager or owner flagrantly violates these orders they not only threaten the progress we made, they give a black eye to many more owners who continue to play by the rules.”
The first-term Democratic governor said there’s nothing more that he would like to do than to eventually expand restaurant capacities, but business owners have to do their part.
“But I cannot and will not be able to do that if this weekend, or the weeks to follow, see a slew of restaurant managers and owners flagrantly violating the rules in place,” said Murphy. “Let’s work together for a safe return of indoor dining.”
The governor did alter an executive order associated with indoor settings, by extending the smoking ban inside casinos indefinitely, reversing a decision he made earlier in the week after public health experts and lawmakers questioned allowing it during pandemic.
Six Months In
“We have looked closely at the science and agree with the experts who have concluded that allowing smoking is too big a risk to take,” he said.
Murphy started the briefing by taking a moment to reflect on what has happened in New Jersey during the pandemic.
“Six months ago today—although it seems like 60 years ago—we received confirmation of our first case of coronavirus in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “We’ve experienced a lot together over these past six months. And we still have a long road to travel.”
As of Sept. 4, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 193,422 with 478 new cases and seven new deaths, bringing that total to 14,195. The state probable death count remained at 1,783, bringing the overall total to 15,978.
State officials noted 13 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,890, followed by Bergen at 1,794, Hudson with 1,349, Passaic at 1,105, Morris at 685, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 229, Hudson has 160, Morris at 144, Passaic at 143, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested on Aug. 31 was 1.8%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. By region, the north tested at 1.5%, the central at 1.6% and the south 3.3%.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.03 from 0.99 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 466 patients are hospitalized, with 279 confirmed cases and 217 patients under investigation for having coronavirus. The northern tier had 235 patients hospitalized, the central 92 and the south 140.
Of those hospitalized, 95 are in intensive care units and 40 on ventilators, while 37 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 21,752, followed by Essex at 20,463, Hudson at 20,227, Middlesex at 18,531, Passaic at 18,496, Union at 17,187, Ocean at 11,358, Monmouth at 10,862, Camden at 9,270, Mercer at 8,390, Morris at 7,548, Burlington at 6,521, Somerset at 5,446, Atlantic at 3,784, Gloucester at 3,762, Cumberland at 3,606, Warren at 1,399, Sussex at 1,408, Hunterdon at 1,223, Salem at 988 and Cape May at 921.
Another 307 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state.
In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.
A census of ages for confirmed deaths shows 48% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 31% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49.
State officials are tracking cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children who in turn test positive for COVID-19. No new cases were reported Sept. 4, leaving the total at 57 for children ranging in age from 1-18. All have tested positive for COVID-19 or have antibodies in their blood. Nine are currently hospitalized. No deaths have been reported from the disease.
Persichilli stated “Black and Hispanic children account for a disproportionately high number” on a national scale. While only a small sample, Persichilli reported the racial breakdown in New Jersey was 39% Hispanic, 34% Black, 16% White, 7% Asian and 5% other.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 159 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 8,919 of the cases, broken down between 5,753 residents and 3,466 staff.
Cumulatively, 664 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,903 residents and 13,351 staff, for a total of 38,254 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,112 on Sept. 4. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,743 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths.