Winter sports in New Jersey received the go ahead to proceed on Oct. 12.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order allowing the resumption of contact practices and competitions in indoor settings for organized sports defined as “medium risk” and “high risk” by the New Jersey Department of Health’s Guidance for Sports Activities.
The order encompasses sports including hockey, basketball, cheerleading, group dance, rugby, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo and wrestling. The governor previously signed executive orders which permitted the resumption of outdoor sports activities, “low risk” practices and competitions in indoor settings, and non-contact indoor practices for “medium risk” and “high risk” sports.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for our student-athletes, support staff, and school communities,” said Murphy in a press statement. “After consulting stakeholders and medical experts, we have concluded that, with proper public health and safety protocols in place, indoor sports may now resume in a way that protects players, coaches and staff.”
All indoor practices and competitions are limited to 25% of the capacity of the room. However, if the number of individuals who are necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees, exceeds 25, the practice or competition may proceed if no unnecessary individuals such as spectators are present.
Even if this exception applies, the number of individuals at the practice or competition cannot exceed 25% of the capacity of the room, and such limit cannot exceed 150 persons.
The decision comes after GOP lawmakers had launched a campaign to have youth hockey games resume in New Jersey in recent days.
“I am glad to hear that the Governor has finally decided to allow certain indoor sports to resume competitive play. I think a lot of people will be happy that the frustrating wait is over,” said State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25), who had previously called on Murphy to green-light the return to the ice.
“I want to thank and commend the Governor for taking another look at the facts and realizing hockey could be played responsibly without undue risk of spreading COVID,” stated Bucco. “The science was there to support the playing of games with appropriate precautions that will not change the way the sport is played.”
Facilities and participants must abide by a number of health and safety protocols outlined in the health department’s guidance, such as screenings for athletes, coaches, and staff; limitations on equipment sharing; and requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and equipment.
Additionally, sports under the oversight of either the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) or the NCAA must continue to abide by those associations’ rules. All sporting activities must comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and Executive Orders.
Awaiting NJSIAA Rules
In August, the NJSIAA released it’s Return-to-Play Plan for high school for the 2020–2021, allowing outdoor sports to start practice on Sept. 14, while rescheduling girls volleyball and gymnastics to later in the scholastic calendar.
At that time, NJSIAA said the Winter sports teams may begin practicing on Dec. 3, with games beginning Dec. 21 and ending Feb. 3, 2021. NJSIAA will host postseason competition from Feb. 5, 2021 through Feb. 17, 2021.
NJSIAA has not announced the protocols for the Winter sports season.
As of Oct. 12, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 215,085 with 993 new cases and seven new deaths were reported, bringing that total to 14,394. The state probable death is 1,788, bringing the overall total to 16,182.
State officials noted eight 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 1,902, followed by Bergen at 1,810, Hudson with 1,360, Passaic at 1,114, Morris at 688, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 229, Hudson has 159, Morris at 144, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Oct. 4 was 3.7%. By region, the North has a rate of 2.1%, Central at 2.9% and the South at 2.6%. 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.
As for the rate of transmission, it remained unchanged at 1.16 from 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 649 patients are hospitalized; by region, there were 283 in the North, 208 in the Central and 158 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 160 are in intensive care units and 58 on ventilators, while 45 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 23,323, followed by Essex at 21,913, Hudson at 21,286, Middlesex at 20,475, Passaic at 19,693, Union at 18,316, Ocean at 15,375, Monmouth at 12,936, Camden at 10,553, Mercer at 8,850, Morris at 8,215, Burlington at 7,598, Somerset at 6,045, Gloucester at 5,008, Atlantic at 4,517, Cumberland at 3,879, Sussex at 1,584, Warren at 1,488, Hunterdon at 1,461, Salem at 1,118 and Cape May at 1,060.
Another 392 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 16 outbreaks involving 58 cases have been reported in nine of the 21 counties in the Garden State. For North Jersey, Bergen County has two confirmed outbreaks with five cases, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with nine cases, and Sussex County has one confirmed outbreak with two cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 150 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 5,696 of the cases, broken down between 3,389 residents and 2,307 staff.
Cumulatively, 749 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,345 residents and 13,785 staff, for a total of 39,130 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,180 on Oct. 13. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,803 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths.