A new expansion of indoor gathering for religious services, sporting events and entertainment venues in New Jersey was announced by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Effective immediately, religious services and celebrations, including wedding ceremonies, funerals, and memorial services that involve a religious service, will be able to operate at 50% capacity of the room in which they are held, with no cap on the number of individuals permitted to attend. Services were previously limited to 35% of the room and up to 150 individuals.
Also immediately going into effect, indoor and outdoor collegiate sports practices and games may allow two parents/guardians per participating athlete as spectators for schools such as Rutgers and Seton Hall. The numbers are capped at 35% of the indoor room’s capacity and social distancing can be maintained outdoors.
And beginning March 1, sports and entertainment venues with a fixed-seating capacity of over 5,000 people may open for spectators with a 10% capacity for indoor venues and 15% capacity for outdoor venues. That move allows about 1,800 fans to watch New Jersey Devils game at the Prudential Center in Newark.
More Moves Ahead
Murphy stressed public health guidance must be adhered to for those in attendance, including the mandatory wearing of face masks and social distancing of at least six feet.
“God willing, this is the first step of many more to come,” said Murphy in making the announcement on WFAN’s Moose and Maggie radio show on Feb. 22.
The governor stated he would be “shocked” if there were not higher capacities later this year as key health metrics—such as hospilizations, rate of transmission and new COVID-19 cases—keep improving. He reiterated more easing of restrictions would have been made already if not for the coronavirus variants.
First Time, Long Time
The move to have fans in the stands for professional games nearly came to pass earlier this year.
Murphy noted if the New York Football Giants had won NFC East, he would have worked to have fans in the building for a home playoff game, adding “The last text exchange I had with (Giants owner) John Mara was the afternoon before the Eagles rolled over in their last game which cost (Coach) Doug Pederson, I think rightfully, his job.”
The expansion to college and pro sports follows the Feb. 12 announcement allowing two parents and guardians of each athlete inside of gyms, rinks and other sporting venues where non-collegiate and non-pro games and practices were being held.
The order allowed fans in attendance as long as the venue did not exceed 35% of the room’s capacity or 150 people in total. Previously, indoor practices and competitions were limited to 10 people, but were allowed to exceed the number for those who were necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees.
The first move the governor made in easing restriction this year came Feb. 5, when indoor dining capacity rose 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 and political activities were allowed at the new capacity limit with a maximum of 150 individuals.
As of Feb. 22, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 684,902 with 2,165 total new PCR cases reported over the two day. There were 682 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 84,207. The total number of individual cases for the state is 769,109. Gov. 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 17 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,585. The state listed probable deaths at 2,289, bringing the overall total to 22,874. State officials noted 31 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 22, Bergen had a total of 281 new confirmed cases and 106 probable cases, Essex 188 new cases and 57 probable cases, Hudson 229 new cases and 76 probable cases, Morris 143 new cases and and 35 probable cases, Passaic 100 new cases and 30 probable cases, Sussex 30 new cases and nine probable cases, and Warren 20 cases and two probable cases.
State officials have identified a total of 53 cases with one new case of the B117 UK coronavirus variant reported. In total, 12 counties in New Jersey have reported at least one case, including eight in Essex County, four in Morris County, three in Hudson, and two each in Passaic and Warren counties.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,382, followed by Bergen at 2,312, Hudson with 1,796, Passaic at 1,494, Morris at 886, Sussex at 207 and Warren County at 194.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 17, Bergen has 280, Essex has 266, Morris has 225, Hudson has 177, Passaic has 169, Sussex has 62 and Warren has 19.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 18, was 6.4%; by region, the rate was 6.0% in the North, 6.6% in the Central region and 7.1% in the South.
As for the rate of transmission, it declined to 0.86 from 0.88 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 2,023 patients were hospitalized; 1,888 cases were confirmed and 135 are under investigation. By region, there were 948 in the North, 642 in the Central and 433 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 438 are in intensive care units and 289 on ventilators. A total of 186 patients were discharged, while 198 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 66,880, followed by Middlesex at 66,087, Essex at 65,828, Hudson at 61,947, Passaic at 51,160, Ocean at 50,566, Monmouth at 49,970, Union at 47,987, Camden at 38,792, Morris at 31,169, Burlington at 30,365, Mercer at 25,665, Gloucester at 20,682, Atlantic at 19,269, Somerset at 18,143, Cumberland at 11,883, Sussex at 7,732, Warren at 6,121, Hunterdon at 6,088, Salem at 4,150, and Cape May at 3,588.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 8,182, followed by Union at 7,497, Ocean at 6,329, Essex at 6,006, Morris at 5,346, Hudson at 5,402, Monmouth at 5,112, Atlantic at 4,938, Middlesex at 4,787, Passaic at 4,595, Camden at 4,598, Burlington at 4,312, Somerset at 4,028, Cape May at 3,419, Gloucester at 3,037, Cumberland at 2,128, Mercer at 1,571, Sussex at 1,118, Warren at 694, Hunterdon at 611, and Salem 452.
Another 830 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 two new outbreaks accounting for 15 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 17.
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 and Morris Counties have two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases each, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 372 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 13,837 of the cases, broken down between 6,855 residents and 6,982 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,255 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,188 residents and 20,899 staff, for a total of 53,087 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,874 on Feb. 22. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,808 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 1,651,766 as of Feb. 22. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,134,626 residents have received their first dose with 505,465 their second; 54% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 46% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 59% of those vaccinated are women and 41% men. As for ethnicity, 54% are White, 16% unknown, 15% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 40% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 25% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 186,186 doses, Essex 135,915 doses, Morris 122,069 doses, Passaic 74,357 doses, Hudson 74,808 doses, Sussex 25,415 doses, and Warren 15,164 doses.