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Gov. Phil Murphy Sounds Pessimistic on Dining After “Sobering” COVID Case Numbers

Gov. Phil Murphy called the daily COVID-19 infection numbers being over 1,000 for the third straight day “sobering” and hinted it may be playing a role in delaying an increase in indoor dining capacity.

The governor and health officials have repeatedly stated even as the state numbers have increased in regards to COVID-19 cases, there is no evidence of any outbreaks tracing back to indoor dining, indoor gyms, or indoor entertainment. 

Murphy went as far to say that on Oct. 15, “We think that responsibly, unless the roof falls in over the next number of days, we’re going to be able to get to a broader capacity there.”

But at his press briefing on Oct. 19, Murphy sounded much more pessimistic about moving forward as case numbers have increased and wanting to avoid mix messaging in attempts to slow down the community spread of the coronavirus.

Steps to Help

“I was part of a pretty intense discussion about steps we could take to help our restaurant industry,” stated the governor. “I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that these numbers are sobering. We are trying to do everything we can to help the industry.”

Murphy did announce the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control will extend the liquor license permits given to restaurants to serve alcohol outside to at least March 2021. The permits were set to expire at the end of November.

“For many of our restaurants, having the ability to serve liquor to their customers beyond their normal premises has been meaningful for them and helped them survive during these challenging times,” Murphy said. “Given the current uncertainty, extending these permits is the right thing to do.”

Mixed Message

But questioned later Murphy acknowledged that state officials are concerned about sending a mixed message of wanting residents to curtail behaviors in their homes while at the same time increasing capacity sizes for indoor dining at restaurants. 

“We want to help our restaurants but we have to be consistent in the plea for responsibility among citizens,” he said. “We do not want to have cross purposes with those.” 

The first-term Democratic governor conceded that while officials are wargaming a list of potential steps to take to relieve the burden restaurants have borne during the pandemic, his uneasiness has increased. 

“I am more sobered than I was on Thursday or any point last week,” stated Murphy.  

Lesson Learned

Additionally, he does not want to repeat the actions in July when the state announced an opening date of July 2 only to reverse the decision just days before. 

“I don’t want to take a step forward and then lurch backward because there is too much investment and too much planning involved,” said Murphy.

Daily Data

As of Oct. 19, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 221,205 with 1,192 new cases and four new deaths, bringing that total to 14,425. The state probable death is 1,789, bringing the overall total to 16,214.

For North Jersey counties, Essex had a total of 132 new cases, Bergen 103 new cases, Hudson 78 new cases, Passaic 54 new cases, Morris 48 new cases, Warren eight new cases and Sussex seven new cases.

State officials noted 16 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 1,809, Hudson with 1,364, 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. 15 was 3.4%. By region, the North has a rate of 3.6%, Central at 3.0% and the South at 3.5%. 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 decreased to 1.14 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 758 patients are hospitalized, with 579 confirmed cases and 179 under investigation. By region, there were 377 in the North, 193 in the Central and 188 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 166 are in intensive care units and 62 on ventilators, while 55 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 23,845, followed by Essex at 22,625, Hudson at 21,810, Middlesex at 21,043, Passaic at 20,028, Union at 18,815, Ocean at 16,107, Monmouth at 13,395, Camden at 10,908, Mercer at 8,975, Morris at 8,475, Burlington at 7,885, Somerset at 6,169, Gloucester at 5,210, Atlantic at 4,753, Cumberland at 3,914, Sussex at 1,623, Warren at 1,514, Hunterdon at 1,494, Salem at 1,143 and Cape May at 1,077.

Another 397 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 156 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 4,923 of the cases, broken down between 2,863 residents and 2,060 staff. 

Cumulatively, 771 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,469 residents and 13,912 staff, for a total of 39,381 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,189 on Oct. 19. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,813 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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