BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
With parks and golf courses set to reopen tomorrow, May 2, and the number of COVID-19 cases flattening, state officials warned residents that if they don’t comply with social distancing, the reopening will be short-lived.
“If we see what we saw the first week in April with people not complying with social distancing, we will reclose the parks,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
Today, state officials reported 2,651 new COVID-19 cases, up slightly from the 2,633 reported on Thursday and the 2,481 reported on Wednesday.
Yesterday, state officials reported the largest single-day number of deaths, 460. Today, they reported 311 deaths, bringing the total to 7,538.
“We can’t get distracted by one-day spikes or drops, we have to look at the trend lines,” Murphy said at today’s briefing.
Hospitalizations due to the virus continued to drop and are now down 28 percent compared to April 14, which officials said was the peak. Whereas on Wednesday the number of patients in hospitals was 6,137, on Thursday 5,972 were hospitalized, with 41 percent of the patients on ventilators. At the peak on April 14, state officials said 8,200 people were hospitalized. Yesterday, 532 people were admitted, while 571 were released from hospitals.
“Data determines dates,” Murphy said concerning reopening. “This weekend [the reopening of parks] will be a big test.”
Of the 229,693 New Jerseyans tested so far, 41.7 percent tested positive for COVID-19.
Yesterday, Murphy announced that New Jersey is receiving 550,000 new COVID-19 test kits and 750,000 swabs from the federal government. The objective is to double testing capabilities by the end of May, he said.
“This is a tremendous boost to our overall testing capacity. And as I have noted many times already, having a robust testing program is not just a key thing in the here and now, but a key principle for our being able to get back on the road to recovery,” the governor said.
Across the state, there are now 104 locations where residents can be tested for COVID-19.
As of 9 a.m. today, Essex County officials reported 377 new cases of residents with COVID-19, which now total 14,206 throughout the county. There were 45 new deaths related to the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,241. Essex has the highest number of deaths related to COVID-19 in the state.
The township Health Department reported yesterday that the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from Wednesday’s count of 356 to 365; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness increased from 41 to 43. Today’s numbers were not yet available.
Murphy said he would be making an announcement about the remainder of the school year early next week, but that students would remain on remote learning until May 15. This week, school superintendents sent an open letter to the governor asking him to make an official declaration soon on what the districts should expect for the balance of the year. Today, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced schools there would be closed for the remainder of the school year.
Marriage licenses will now be granted for couples conducting virtual weddings, or for town hall ceremonies if municipal officials choose to conduct them onsite. Working papers for students will no longer require a school official’s sign-off.
State Police Supt. Col. Patrick Callahan warned residents not to fall for bail scams in which a scammer requests money be sent to get a loved one out of jail.
Although not a requirement, state officials are asking park visitors to wear masks. At Montclair and county parks, masks are required. Social distancing of six feet apart must be adhered to. No sports, picnics or gatherings will be allowed, and all playgrounds will remain closed. Murphy said that police will be monitoring the spaces.
“This is a big weekend in terms of behavior for us,” he said.