BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Gov. Phil Murphy welcomed New Jerseyans to Stage Two of the state’s recovery from COVID-19 at his briefing today, Monday, June 15.
After being closed by executive order since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March, today was the first day that restaurants were allowed to re-open with outdoor seating service, while non-essential retail reopened, churches resumed services, children went back to daycare, and business resumed at the state Motor Vehicle Commission for drop-off and pick-up.
Stage Two coincides with a decrease in new cases, with state officials reporting 274 last night, compared to 363 a week ago. Other numbers that state officials use in guiding New Jersey’s reopening are also down and reflect positive trends: positivity rates on testing is now down to 2.6 percent, while it was 3.6 percent last week; the number of hospitalizations continued to decrease to 1,351 last night, down from 1,740 a week ago; and the rate of transmission is lower at 0.65 per person infected, down from 0.70 last week.
Murphy thanked the towns that have come up with “creative” ideas, such as street closures and allowing tables to spill over sidewalks giving restaurant owners the room to expand outdoor dining space. Though he noted that while that is safer, restaurants are still required to place tables six feet apart.
Restaurant hours are not limited by the state, he said. Additionally, over the last two weeks the Alcohol Bureau Commission has issued 646 liquor license permits for expanded outdoor service.
“Outdoor service is safer, masks make it safer,” he said. “And be good to your waiter, tip well.”
The limit on people who can gather together outdoors is now 100, and that could be increased to 250 as soon as next week, and up to 500 by July 3, officials said.
In Montclair, businesses opened today (see list below), but with no additional action from the township council beyond free 15-minute parking for curbside pickup. Businesses owners who have been closed for three months called into last week’s council meeting asking officials to allow restaurant seating to expand out into the parking areas, free parking and outdoor permitting and street closures during certain hours.
Today, June 15, New Jersey officials reported 274 new positive cases of COVID-19, up from the 196 reported on Sunday. Deaths also increased to 52, compared to Sunday’s report of 36 deaths. Positive COVID cases now number 167,103, with a total of 12,676 deaths in New Jersey.
Of those numbers, 35,360 cases involved residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Those facilities have reported 5,957 deaths due to complications with the virus.
The Montclair Health Department reported on today, June 15, that the number of residents to contract the virus increased by one and is now at 431, while the number of residents who have died remained at 50. Sunday had marked the fourth consecutive day that Montclair announced no new cases or deaths.
This morning, Essex County officials reported 22 new positive cases and two new deaths related to the virus. The county continues to have the highest number of deaths statewide at 1,747, and the third-highest number of total cases, at 18,318.
Hospitalizations across New Jersey dropped again, with officials reporting 1,351 people in the hospital Sunday night compared to 1,391 on Saturday. Those in critical care declined from 409 on Saturday to 402 last night.
Officials reported the lowest numbers of patients on ventilators since the peak, down to 66 percent of patients in ICU, at 267. Seventy-four people with COVID entered a hospital last night, and 107 were discharged.