North Jersey high school and youth athletes will again hear the roar of the crowd in person as an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Feb. 12 allowed fans in the stands effectively immediately.
The order allows two parents and guardians of each athlete inside of gyms, rinks and other sporting venues where non-collegiate and non-pro games and practices are being held.
“This is something I have been wanting to do for our student-athletes and their biggest fans,” said Murphy at his press briefing on Feb. 12. “With our metrics trending in the right direction, we feel comfortable taking this step and allowing parents back into youth sporting events.”
The governor noted school districts retain the ability to impose stricter guidelines and not allow spectators, as well as have the discretion on whether and when to implement the policy regarding parents or guardians.
The order allows fans in attendance as long as the venue does not exceed 35% of the room’s capacity or 150 people in total. Previously, indoor practices and competitions were limited to 10 people, but was allowed to exceed the number for those who were necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees.
The order stated that public health guidance must be adhered, including the mandatory wearing of face masks and social distancing of at least six feet, according to state officials.
Murphy commented the move was a result of key health metrics continuing to decline in the last month, specifically hospitalizations, a continued decrease in new daily case numbers, and the lowered daily rate of transmission.
The move comes a week after Murphy increased indoor dining capacity to 35% and the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars was lifted. That executive order allowed gyms, casinos, personal care businesses, and amusement and recreation facilities to operate at 35% of their capacity as well.
Additionally, indoor performance venues, political activities, and gatherings for religious ceremonies and services including wedding ceremonies, memorial services and funerals were allowed at the new capacity limit with a maximum of 150 individuals.
The governor noted this was an issue that he heard about repeatedly, including public lobbying from North Jersey GOP Assemblywoman Aura Dunn and State Sen. Anthony Bucco.
“If casinos and entertainment venues can increase capacity, then parents should be permitted to watch their children play indoor sports under those same limits,” argued Dunn. “Arbitrarily applying different rules for spectators at a sports game doesn’t make any sense.”
While the timing was unknown, the move was not unexpected. When questioned the opening day of the high school basketball season Jan. 26 if there was any chance that parents would be allowed to attend games before the season ended on March 6, Murphy said “The answer to your question about allowing some amount of folks in to watch the games if the numbers continue to get better, I think the answer to that is yes.”
It’s a personal issue for Murphy as well, who referenced his frustration of being unable to be in person to watch his children play and how difficult it was for the parents of seniors, “a majority of who might be playing their last games.”
“As a father of four, I know how difficult it has been for many parents to not be able to see their kids participate in sports,” he said.
High school sports currently have two seasons in place, as wrestling, volleyball, indoor track and field, swimming and gymnastics have started practices. Games are currently being played for basketball, ice hockey and bowling.
With some high school’s planning to have wrestling matches outdoors, Murphy expressed hope outdoor gathering will be increased as more vaccines are administered and the key health numbers keep improving.
“The virus is much more lethal indoors than outdoors,” he said, expecting the capacity limits to be equal to those of the Fall sports season. “I do not want to have to reverse course…but should we see trouble spots, we will respond as needed.”
On Feb. 12, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 660,067 with 3,285 total new PCR cases reported. There were 775 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 79,995. The total number of individual cases for the state is 740,062. Murphy previously noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 64 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,147. The state listed probable deaths at 2,246, resulting in an overall total of 22,393. State officials noted 36 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 12, Bergen had a total of 375 new confirmed cases and 82 probable cases, Essex 324 new cases and 54 probable cases, Hudson 294 new cases and 52 probable cases, Morris 188 new cases and and 40 probable cases, Passaic 232 new cases and 41 probable cases, Sussex 40 new cases and 13 probable cases, and Warren 30 cases and six probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,337, followed by Bergen at 2,273, Hudson with 1,760, Passaic at 1,473, Morris at 872, Sussex at 206 and Warren County at 191.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 3, Bergen has 277, Essex has 261, Morris at 222, Hudson has 177, Passaic at 167, Sussex has 61 and Warren has 18.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 8, was 7.2%; by region, the rate was 7.6% in the North, 7.5% in the Central region and 5.5% in the South. 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 0.81 from 0.80 the previous day; it was mostly recently above 1.0 on . 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 2,565 patients were hospitalized; 2,370 cases were confirmed and 195 are under investigation. By region, there were 1,251 in the North, 768 in the Central and 546 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 525 are in intensive care units and 336 on ventilators. A total of 367 patients were discharged, while 261 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 64,079, followed by Middlesex at 63,618, Essex at 63,394, Hudson at 59,704, Passaic at 49,672, Ocean at 48,396, Monmouth at 47,849, Union at 46,457, Camden at 37,782, Morris at 29,809, Burlington at 29,413, Mercer at 24,878, Gloucester at 20,061, Atlantic at 18,541, Somerset at 17,416, Cumberland at 11,453, Sussex at 7,400, Warren at 5,882, Hunterdon at 5,796, Salem at 4,050, and Cape May at 3,448.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,673, followed by Union at 7,155, Ocean at 5,922, Essex at 5,709, Morris at 5,070, Hudson at 5,043, Monmouth at 4,797, Atlantic at 4,747, Middlesex at 4,603, Camden at 4,371, Passaic at 4,365, Burlington at 4,043, Somerset at 3,852, Cape May at 3,243, Gloucester at 2,948, Cumberland at 2,129, Mercer at 1,499, Sussex at 1,051, Warren at 681, Hunterdon at 597, and Salem 451.
Another 969 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 142 outbreaks involving 671 cases, with five new outbreaks accounting for 16 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 10.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 32 confirmed outbreaks with 129 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases and Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 399 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,088 of the cases, broken down between 6,940 residents and 7,148 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,243 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,027 residents and 20,740 staff, for a total of 52,767 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,846 on Feb. 12. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,767 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 1,244,224 as of Feb. 12. Of those who have received the vaccine, 933,160 residents have received their first dose with 310,529 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 60% of those vaccinated are women and 40% men. As for ethnicity, 51% are White, 18% unknown, 17% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 37% are 65 years old or olders, 28% are between the ages of 50-64, 26% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 139,337 doses, Essex 103,172 doses, Morris 89,530 doses, Passaic 58,083 doses, Hudson 57,404 doses, Sussex 19,081 doses, and Warren 11,904 doses.