New Jerseyans Urged to Keep Holiday Gatherings as Tight-knit as Possible

State officials want New Jerseyans home for the holidays—and in as small of a group as possible due to increased cases of the coronavirus in the Garden State. 

“One thing we must be careful of are indoor gatherings, which are increasingly becoming a starting point for outbreaks,” said Gov. Phil Murphy during a press briefing Oct. 15. “Sadly we are seeing more family gatherings as the spark for these outbreaks.”

“It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and the broader holiday season,” he continued. “We urge everyone to take stock of how many people you may be inviting to your Thanksgiving table.” 

CDC Suggestions

The warning comes after a discussion Murphy and other state officials had with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield about vigilance with regards to indoor gatherings.

“We do not want the holidays to turn tragic because someone unwillingly exposed a large number of their family members to the coronavirus,” said the first-term Democratic governor.

According to Murphy, Redfield said efforts to contain the spread of the virus in public have been working, aided by the wearing of face masks and social distancing. But it is at indoor gatherings, which are increasing as the weather cools and the holiday season starts, is what concerns health officials.

No Out-of-State Visitors

“This is not the year to plan to visit out-of-state relatives or to invite them to New Jersey,” said Murphy. “We urge you not to gather around the dining room table outside anyone from your immediate household and if you do, limit that reach to only a limited number of close relatives or friends you have been with through this pandemic.”

Besides keeping the numbers low at gatherings, officials are encouraging residents to move any celebrations that can be held outdoors. 

Murphy said where the state has jurisdiction, in public places, New Jersey is in a good place as any state. But while vigilance in what Redfield calls the “public square” has been exemplary, the lack of face masks and social distancing in private homes is where behaviors are going awry.  

“It’s where we can’t go—we can’t get inside your house, packed multi-generational family living or off-campus housing—that is where we see the bulk of the challenges,” said Murphy.

Small Not Always Safe

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said CDC has stated small gatherings are an increasing cause of the COVID-19 spread, sharing a case study where an adolescent spread the coronavirus to eleven family members. 

“This outbreak reminds us even when we are with family members, we must adhere to public health guidelines to keep our loved ones safe,” explains Persichilli. 

The health commissioner said two factors to consider when planning family celebrations are those lasting longer pose more of a risk and attempts should be made to limit the number of attendees.

Community Spread

The warnings come as health officials have seen increased signs of community spread in New Jersey, indicated by factors such as the COVID-19 Activity Level report at moderate for the whole state for the first time since the Spring, cases rates rising in all 21 counties and the daily infection rate in the three regions nearly identical. 

Murphy wrapped up the briefing by encouraging residents when they walk through the door into their home or a friend’s that “you can’t let your hair down…we all have to acknowledge that.”

“We have to approach these holidays—are living realities—that it is different than the past,” said Murphy. “If we do it, it is a downpayment to get to the good old days back sooner than later.” 

Daily Data

As of Oct. 15, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 216,994 with 973 new cases and six new deaths were reported, bringing that total to 14,408. The state probable death is 1,789, bringing the overall total to 16,197.

State officials noted seven 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 1,904, followed by Bergen at 1,808, Hudson with 1,361, Passaic at 1,117, Morris at 688, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 230, Hudson has 159, Morris at 144, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Oct. 11 was 4.4%. By region, the North has a rate of 4.5%, Central at 4.3% and the South at 4.3%. 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 increased to 1.16 from 1.15 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 733 patients are hospitalized, with 542 confirmed cases and 191 under investigation. By region, there were 345 in the North, 202 in the Central and 186 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 178 are in intensive care units and 60 on ventilators, while 73 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 23,495, followed by Essex at 22,129, Hudson at 21,425, Middlesex at 20,646, Passaic at 19,812, Union at 18,440, Ocean at 15,684, Monmouth at 13,099, Camden at 10,646, Mercer at 8,894, Morris at 8,280, Burlington at 7,703, Somerset at 6,089, Gloucester at 5,072, Atlantic at 4,566, Cumberland at 3,885, Sussex at 1,589, Warren at 1,495, Hunterdon at 1,469, Salem at 1,127 and Cape May at 1,064.

Another 385 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 22 outbreaks involving 83 cases have been reported in nine of the 21 counties in the Garden State, up from 16 outbreaks involving 58 cases a week previous. For North Jersey, Bergen County has three confirmed outbreaks with nine 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 154 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 5,329 of the cases, broken down between 3,151 residents and 2,178 staff. 

Cumulatively, 753 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,387 residents and 13,839 staff, for a total of 39,226 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,185 on Oct. 15. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,804 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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