A state of emergency was declared in New Jersey by Gov. Phil Murphy due to the first major Winter storm of the 2020/2021 season to hit the state .
The executive order went into effect at 2 p.m. Dec. 16, with state offices closing at 1 p.m.
“We urge all New Jerseyans to stay off the roads, stay at home, and stay safe,” said Murphy at a press briefing Dec. 16. “We have the confidence that this is a major, major storm…especially in the North and the West.”
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for North Jersey. The storm was expected to reach the northern part of the state between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and last through the overnight hours into Thursday.
North Jersey Snow Forecast
Murphy said the storm forecast calls for area in North Jersey above I-87 to reach 12-18 inches of snow. Central Jersey is forecast to have a mix of snow and sleet, while South Jersey will have a wintry mix or just rain.
The governor added although the storm would hit during rush hour, he was hopeful the reduction in traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic would reduce traffic for those plowing for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).
“Because so many people are still working from home and so many kids are remote learning, we do not anticipate the same after-school and rush hour issues,” Murphy said. “We hope this will allow DOT’s crews to tend to the roads. But if you are on the road after the storm conditions have begun, we urge you to please take it slow and use common sense and caution.”
NJDOT’s preparations for the storm included pre-treating many roads and highways, prepositioning towing equipment in trouble spots and commercial vehicle travel restrictions in place along New Jersey’s interstate highways. NJ Transit has altered its schedule with the approaching storm as well
“Please drive slow, and stay clear of any plowing or spreading operations,” said NJDOT Commissioner Diana Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “New Jersey’s transportation agencies are prepared and ready for the storm. NJDOT, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and (South Jersey Turnpike Authority) combined are activating nearly 4,000 plows and spreaders.”
The state imposed a commercial vehicle travel restriction starting at 1 p.m., for I-78, from the Pennsylvania border to I-95 (New Jersey Turnpike); I-80, from the Pennsylvania border to I-95 (New Jersey Turnpike); I-280, from I-80 to I-95 (New Jersey Turnpike) and I-287, from NJ Route 440 to the New York State border.
High Wind Worries
Besides the potential for a foot and a half of snow, the forecast calls for strong winds throughout the evening and overnight. Officials warned of the potential for power outages because of the predicted heavy wet snow and wind potential impacting trees and utility lines, causing outages—specifically citing Warren and Sussex counties. State official asked if residents experience a blackout, immediately report it and if you see a downed power line, stay a safe distance away and call it in.
Murphy noted Jersey Central Power & Lighting has already called in trucks from out-of-state to help with the anticipation of power lines going down, including 200 people from Ohio.
The Governor encouraged New Jerseyans to visit ready.nj.gov for important weather updates and safety information as well as paying attention to local forecasts, warnings, and watches.
Murphy reminded residents and business operators that all health protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic are still in effect, including wearing a face mask and store capacity limitations at 50%.
“We do not want anybody’s last minute preparation unwittingly becoming an instance where they are exposed to the coronavirus or the potential to unknowingly spread it to others,” said Murphy. “We will want to chip in and shovel for our older residents…but please keep in mind social distancing and wearing a face covering while doing so.”
As of Dec. 16, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 415,075 with 5,803 total new cases reported and 91 new deaths, bringing that total to 16,095. The state listed probable deaths at 1,908, bringing the overall total to 18,003.
For North Jersey counties, Essex had a total of 569 new cases, Hudson 498 new cases, Bergen 478 new cases, Passaic 430 new cases, Morris 247 new cases, Sussex 59 new cases and Warren 56 new cases.
State officials noted 59 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 2,077, followed by Bergen at 1,967, Hudson with 1,488, Passaic at 1,234, Morris at 752 and Sussex and Warren counties both with 164.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 256, Essex has 239, Hudson has 161, Morris at 170, Passaic at 146, Sussex has 42 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Dec. 12 was 13.1%. 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 1.08 from 1.11 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 3,672 patients were hospitalized, 3,462 of those cases confirmed and 210 under investigation. By region, there were 1,665 in the North, 1,222 in the Central and 785 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 721 are in intensive care units and 482 on ventilators. While 451 patients were discharged, 489 were admitted to state hospitals.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 42,329, followed by Bergen at 41,541, Hudson at 38,429, Middlesex at 38,339, Passaic at 36,414, Union at 33,375, Ocean at 27,191, Monmouth at 26,465, Camden at 24,539, Burlington at 17,630, Morris at 17,339, Mercer at 16,725, Gloucester at 11,898, Somerset at 11,102, Atlantic at 10,023, Cumberland at 6,450, Sussex at 3,511, Warren at 3,236, Hunterdon at 3,156, Salem at 2,280 and Cape May at 2,042.
Another 961 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 98 outbreaks involving 428 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with 10 new outbreaks involving 40 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 86 cases, Passaic County has four confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases and Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 400 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 8,962 of the cases, broken down between 4,205 residents and 4,757 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,104 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 28,253 residents and 17,461 staff, for a total of 45,724 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,413 on Dec. 16. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,104 residents deaths and 124 staff deaths.