Gov. Phil Murphy announced more surgical restrictions to sports, outdoor gathering and long-term care facilities in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey.
All indoor youth and adult team sports are being placed on a full pause, from Dec. 5 through Jan. 2, 2021. Exceptions are being made for collegiate-level and professional teams.
The limit on outdoor gatherings will revert to limits not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Effective Dec. 7, gathering will be capped at 25 individuals with exceptions for religious or political activities, funerals, memorial services and wedding ceremonies.
Long-term Care Testing
“As you start to make your holiday plans, please recognize that the gathering limits are back to what they were in May and June—when we all came together and crushed the curve as much as any state in the nation,” said Murphy at a press briefing Nov. 30. “Keep gatherings as small as possible.”
Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health is implementing an enhanced program of testing for all long-term care facility staff, visitors, and residents. The new testing regimen is set to last for two weeks or whenever the 366,000 BinaxNow rapid tests distributed have all been used.
The governor said the actions are being taken to ensure the stability of the state’s healthcare system. At its height in the Spring, 8,300 were in use; that total is currently just under 3,000.
No Statewide Shutdown
Murphy denied the rumors about an impending statewide shutdown or lockdown, as he believes that state is in a better situation compared to last Spring “when we had to take drastic actions to save lives.”
“We took the steps we did in the Spring because the rapid increase in hospitalizations and the potential numbers from our modeling both pointed to the overload and potential collapse of our healthcare system,” he said.
“Today we see more moves on the board that we can take…We now have the ability to be more focused and surgical. We’re no less committed in our approaches today.”
State Now Prepared
According to Murphy, those moves include increased testing capabilities; a stockpile of personal protection equipment and ventilators; more knowledge of the virus itself and a vaccine timeline that includes the state receiving resources in mid-December.
“We have much better data and science to draw from now than eight months ago, and can focus restrictions on activities that have proven to have the greatest risk of transmission,” he explained.
High School Sports
The pause on youth and high school sports is centered around team sports as Murphy cited 20 outbreaks from youth hockey resulting in 107 cases in recent months. Hockey is the only high school sport affected by the new restrictions, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) start dates for ice hockey practice was set for Dec. 14, competition on Jan. 4, 2021 and competition ending Feb. 17, 2021. NJSIAA had not made a statement how the season would proceed.
The start date for basketball, fencing and bowling practice is set for Jan. 11, 2021, while the first day for swimming and winter track & field practice is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2021. Season 3 for gymnastics, girls volleyball and wrestling is slated to begin March 1, 2021.
Murphy framed the moves as an attempt to flatten the curve as New Jerseyans had done in the Spring.
“As we come out of the long Thanksgiving weekend and turn our gaze to the December holidays, we must remember that this virus is not done with us,” said Murphy. “Let’s redouble our efforts and end the year by crushing the curve a second time, so we can look forward to a better 2021.”
As of Nov. 30, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 337,304 with 3,199 total new cases reported and 15 new deaths, bringing that total to 15,164. The state listed probable deaths at 1,829, bringing the overall total to 16,993.
For North Jersey counties, Passaic had a total of 336 new cases, Essex 312 new cases, Bergen 279 new cases, Hudson 255 new cases, Morris 134 new cases. Sussex 45 new cases and Warren 19 new cases.
State officials noted 26 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 1,997, followed by Bergen at 1,874, Hudson with 1,414, Passaic at 1,172, Morris at 712, Sussex at 162 and Warren with 160.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 250, Essex has 233, Hudson has 159, Morris at 147, Passaic at 144, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Nov. 26 was 11.3%. 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 decreased to 1.11 from 1.16 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 2,961 patients are hospitalized with 378 new hospilazations. By region, there were 1,478 in the North, 936 in the Central and 547 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 575 are in intensive care units and 332 on ventilators, while 263 patients were discharged.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 35,358, followed by Bergen at 34,871, Hudson at 31,691, Middlesex at 30,562, Passaic at 30,180, Union at 28,437, Ocean at 21,993, Monmouth at 20,657, Camden at 19,249, Morris at 12,647, Burlington at 13,803, Mercer at 13,797, Somerset at 9,104, Gloucester at 9,053, Atlantic at 7,984, Cumberland at 5,101, Sussex at 2,593, Warren at 2,512, Hunterdon at 2,510, Cape May at 1,672 and Salem at 1,644.
Another 886 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 66 outbreaks involving 269 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with 10 new outbreaks involving 30 cases recorded. For North Jersey, Bergen County has eight confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases and Passaic County has two confirmed outbreaks with 19 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 332 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,090 of the cases, broken down between 2,862 residents and 3,228 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,015 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 26,855 residents and 15,861 staff, for a total of 42,746 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,291 on Nov. 30. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,944 residents deaths and 122 staff deaths.