With the number of COVID-19 cases in the state rising at an alarming rate, Gov. Phil Murphy today said he must “pull back the reins” on private and public indoor gatherings.
He said he will sign an executive order to limit such gatherings to 10 persons, down from 25, effective tomorrow at 6 a.m. Likewise, outdoor gathering limits will be pulled back from 500 to 150 persons.
Murphy said exemptions for both indoor and outdoor gatherings will include religious services or celebrations, political activities, wedding ceremonies, funerals and memorial services, and performances. The indoor event exemptions will continue to be limited at 25% capacity, but with a maximum of 150 people.
Additionally, to avoid disruptions for events scheduled for this coming weekend, Murphy said the reductions on outdoor gatherings will go into effect on Nov. 23.
“What we are doing today will cause some people to readjust their Thanksgiving plans, and I understand why there might be frustration with this step, but I have been saying for weeks this will not be a normal Thanksgiving. It has not been a normal school year, or Halloween, and it will not be a normal Hanukkah or Christmas,” the governor said.
Detailing the most recent COVID-19 numbers, which Murphy called “sobering,” he said that 2,232 cases were reported today, while 4,540 were reported on Sunday; 4,395 on Saturday; and 3,399 on Friday for 14,566 cases.
“Yesterday and Saturday’s numbers are the first and second highest daily count we have reported, not just of the second wave, but since we have reported the first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 1; 257 days ago,” Murphy said.
“Our highest case counts are now, when we are grappling with pandemic fatigue and people are letting their guards down. … We have to take these steps to preserve and protect, as best we can, public health to slow the spread of this virus,” he said.
“Going through models of what December and January will look like is not pretty,” Murphy continued. “It will get a lot worse, particularly if we don’t have the compliance on wearing face coverings and social distancing.”
The state is in the process of building its contact tracer capacity, and the governor hopes there will be 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents. “We have already hit this benchmark in five counties, plus the city of Newark,” Murphy said.
Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said she will be issuing guidance to administrators of long-term-care facilities to “protect the health of this vulnerable population.”
“The department strongly recommends against families taking residents out of these facilities for holiday celebrations or gatherings,” she said. “Those residents are particularly susceptible, and bringing a loved one home can put them at risk.”
Residents who do leave a long-term care facility must be quarantined on their return. It could be in their private room, if they live alone. If they have a roommate, the resident should be quarantined in a separate observation room for 14 days, Persichilli said.
“If an observation room is not available, the facility must notify the family that the resident will not be permitted back until a room is available or until the facility is otherwise able to cohort returning residents in compliance with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New Jersey Department of Health guidance and directives,” Persichilli said.
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