BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Residents will be able to hold barbecues and parties over Memorial Day weekend as long as they are kept to under 25 attendees and held outdoors.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he is lifting the restriction of gatherings of 10 or less people to 25 or less at today’s debriefing on May 22. Indoor gatherings are still restricted to 10 or less. And, he said, mask-wearing and the six-foot distancing rule should remain in effect.
“If you were looking forward to gathering with your neighbors for a Memorial Day cookout, you may do so as long social distancing and personal responsibility remain the order of the day,” Murphy said.
Campgrounds will also be allowed to reopen this weekend and batting cages, driving ranges and charter boats rentals will also increase capacity to allow for up to 25 people.
Murphy pointed to positive trends in his decision to allow for small gatherings. New hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have dropped 53 percent since May 7 and 80 percent since the peak in April. The number of patients in hospitals with the virus has dropped 36 percent since May 7 and 61 percent since the virus peaked.
Health Commissioner Judy Perisichilli reminded residents of mask hygiene: masks should be worn over both mouth and nose, and people should use sanitizer before and after removal. Masks should be washed after every use. And masks, she said, do not replace social distancing. Those who are sick should stay home.
She pointed to a recent CDC report that examined the “cascading effect” of two congregants with the virus, who attended gatherings at their church in March. Thirty-five of the 92 attendees acquired COVID-19, resulting in three deaths. Later, through contact tracing, it was discovered that 26 more individuals contacted COVID through the church members, and resulted in one death in the community.
“So just through two individuals spreading the virus, 61 cases of confirmed cases of COVID-19 were found and four deaths resulted. It emphasizes that large gatherings pose a significant risk for the transmission of the virus,” she said.
STATE IN ECONOMIC CRISIS
State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said that we are now facing a global crisis not seen since the great depression. New Jersey is facing a $10 billion shortfall, not including COVID-19 expenditures. The number also does include if the state were to see another resurgence of the virus.
The state has seen a 33 percent decline in sales tax collection, which could equate to $2.68 billion lost through 2021 fiscal year.
Future decisions on the state budget will include budget tightening, borrowing and will be dependent on federal aid.
New Jersey officials reported an additional 1,394 COVID positive cases, up from the 1,304 reported yesterday, bringing the state total to 152,719.
Officials also reported 146 new deaths related to the virus, up from the 98 reported on Thursday, bringing the state total to 10,985.
Hospitalizations continue to go down. Officials reported 3,049 in the hospital as of last night, down from the down from 3,208 reported on Wednesday. There were 846 patients in critical care and 874 ventilators were in use.
Admissions went down, with hospitals seeing 131 new admissions and 259 discharges on Thursday, compared to 143 new admissions and 286 discharges the day before.
The number of patients in long-term care facilities contracting COVID-19 is on the decline and is now at 29,262, of which 4,665 to date have died from the virus.
Persichilli said that as of Friday, the state had 19 recorded cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children. The ages of the children range from one year to 18 years.
At 9 a.m. Friday, Essex County officials reported three fewer COVID-19 positives from yesterday due to reporting errors. The number is now at 16,977. County officials reported four new deaths now totaling 1,583.
Montclair health officials reported today, May 22, the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from 405 to 407; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 48.
The state-wide positivity rate is now down to 14 percent, officials said.