Ahead of Spring Religious Holidays, New Jersey Officials Warn Against SuperSpreader Events

As they have over the last year, state officials cautioned families gathering for Spring religious holidays in the Garden State to be mindful of turning the celebrations into a coronavirus superspreader event. 

“Please be particularly careful as you celebrate the couple of big religious holidays coming up,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing March 24. “We’ve got Passover beginning this weekend. We have Holy Week and then Easter a week from Sunday, and we’ve got Ramadan only in a few weeks. (We) would ask you please celebrate those holidays responsibly and if you can, preferably outdoors.”

The governor acknowledged that New Jerseyans are fighting pandemic fatigue but need to continue to follow the health protocols still in effect—social distancing, wearing a face mask, repeated washing of hands—even as the number of residents being vaccinated continues to rise. He said following those health protocols will help limit the spread of coronavirus variants as well. 

Fighting Pandemic Fatigue

“We know there is tremendous pandemic fatigue. Who the heck could blame you? We’ve got it up here ourselves, but we need to keep it up folks,” he said. “We are still in a pandemic, as we all know, and we cannot risk any family Seder from becoming an event where this virus spreads further.”

With Passover starting March 27 followed by Easter the following Sunday and Ramadan later in April, state officials urged residents to move festivities outdoors as much as they can.   

“With the weather warming, which is a good thing …we need to move more of our activities outside but continue to be vigilant,” said Murphy. “As you prepare for Saturday evening Seder in the beginning of Passover…we urge you to remember this cannot be as in years past. Please keep your Seder to just those in your immediate bubble this year so we can guarantee that we’ll be able to all gather together again next year.”

Celebration Guidelines

Left unsaid is the new coronavirus cases spiked in the two weeks after holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day in the last year. 

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli reminded residents to abide by the limits set for indoor and outdoor gatherings, the gathering size, and religious service capacity to reduce the spread of the virus. The gathering limits are set at 25 individuals indoors and 50 individuals outdoors, while indoor gatherings for religious services must be limited to 50% of the room’s capacity.

“Even within gathering size limits, individuals should continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing,” stated Persichilli. “We ask that religious leaders notify their congregations of any live streamed or televised services that may be available and provide them with suggestions on how they can create meaningful celebrations at home without gathering with large groups.”

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 3,798,523 as of March 26. Of those who have received the vaccine, 2,515,767 residents have received their first dose with 1,357,829 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 48% have been administered the Moderna vaccine, 50% the Pfizer vaccine and 2% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Demographically, 57% of those vaccinated are women and 43% men. As for ethnicity, 59% are White, 11% unknown, 11% other, 7% Asian, 7% Hispanic and 5% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 40% are 65 years old or olders, 28% are between the ages of 50-64, 24% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 434,853 doses, Essex 289,074 doses, Morris 283,491 doses, Hudson 194,309 doses, Passaic 170,529 doses, Sussex 59,820 doses, and Warren 38,082 doses. 

Daily Data

As of March 25, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 781,777 with 4,339 total new PCR cases reported. There were 1,505 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 105,704. The total number of individual cases for the state is 887,481. 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 28 new deaths, bringing that total to 21,823. The state listed probable deaths at 2,535, bringing the overall total to 24,358. 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 March 26, Bergen had a total of 540 new confirmed cases and 242 probable cases, Essex 471 new cases and 118 probable cases, Hudson 344 new cases and 182 probable cases, Morris 229 new cases and 100 probable cases, Passaic 307 new cases and 76 probable cases, Sussex 137 new cases and 30 probable cases, and Warren 33 cases and nine new probable cases.

There are a total of 415 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 401 cases of the U.K. variant, seven cases of the California variants, six cases of the Brazilian P1 variant, and one case of the South African variant. Additionally, there are 80 cases of the New York variant, considered “of interest” by the CDC.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,490, followed by Bergen at 2,423, Hudson with 1,902, Passaic at 1,585, Morris at 928, Sussex at 217 and Warren County at 200.

In regards to probable deaths reported March 24, Bergen has 288, Essex has 284, Morris has 240, Hudson has 199, Passaic has 191, Sussex has 66 and Warren has 25.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission, it remained at 1.10 for the second day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of March 22, was 7.5%; by region, the rate was 8.1% in the North, 7.1% in the Central region and 6.7% in the South. 

Officials reported 2,174 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,082 in the North, 680 in the Central and 412 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 438 are in intensive care units and 220 on ventilators. A total of 272 patients were discharged, while 314 were admitted.

Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospilizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 78,081, followed by Middlesex at 75,279, Essex at 75,191, Hudson at 70,631, Monmouth at 59,313, Ocean at 58,378, Passaic at 56,988, Union at 53,650, Camden at 42,508, Morris at 37,031, Burlington at 33,669, Mercer at 28,360, Gloucester at 22,966, Atlantic at 21,827, Somerset at 21,075, Cumberland at 13,027, Sussex at 9,415, Warren at 7,393, Hunterdon at 7,298, Salem at 4,642, and Cape May at 4,052  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 10,823, followed by Union at 9,170, Ocean at 8,363, Essex at 7,645, Hudson at 7,267, Monmouth at 6,859, Morris at 6,775, Middlesex at 6,168, Passaic at 5,945, Atlantic at 5,795, Camden at 5,345, Burlington at 5,277, Somerset at 4,915, Cape May at 4,002, Gloucester at 3,418, Cumberland at 2,170, Mercer at 1,923, Sussex at 1,629, Warren at 806, Hunterdon at 710 and Salem 481.

Another 1,003 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 205 outbreaks involving 947 cases have been reported, with 17 new outbreaks accounting for 57 cases in the weekly update on March 24. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 45 confirmed outbreaks with 181 cases, Passaic County has 12 confirmed outbreaks with 42 cases, Warren has 11 confirmed outbreaks with 28 cases, Sussex has eight confirmed outbreaks with 24 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has four confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 233 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 8,668 of the cases, broken down between 4,014 residents and 4,654 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,311 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,481 residents and 21,429 staff, for a total of 53,910 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,984 on March 26. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,849 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.

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