By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey will allow amusement parks, water parks and playgrounds to reopen on July 2.
But state health officials are wary of possible flare-ups of COVID-19, especially among younger people, as more gatherings take place during the summer months. Health officials across the U.S. are concerned with a recent COVID-positive increase in younger populations.
Boardwalk rides will also reopen, with waiting areas and placement on rides set up to keep people a safe distance from one another.
The announcement was made today, June 23, so families could have clarification on what would be open as the Fourth of July holiday approaches, Murphy said. Last week, state officials allowed for firework displays to be held at beaches, boardwalks and lake fronts.
Further guidance is expected later this week about the reopening timeline for indoor entertainment venues, such as arcades.
New Jersey is in Phase Two of reopening, as more businesses and venues start to reopen. The current indoor gathering limits of 50, will now be upped to 25 percent of capacity up to a maximum of 100. Outdoor gatherings, which had been limited to 100 people, can now include up to 250 persons.
But Murphy continued to urge all residents to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing, as officials watch for signs of any flare-ups in cases.
At least 29 states, such as Florida, Texas and South Carolina have seen flare-ups in COVID-19 in recent weeks. And at least one state, Louisiana, has had to slow down its reopening process after an increase in cases.
In April, the 18 to 29 age group accounted for 12 percent of all COVID-19 cases in New Jersey. As of June, that percentage now stands at 22 percent. A total of 650 hospitalizations and 50 deaths have also been reported for that age group, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
“No one’s invincible. Thank God the loss of life is less, but it’s still a loss of life,” Murphy said.
Furthermore, Persichilli said, the younger population may be asymptomatic and not know they are COVID positive, and spread the virus to more vulnerable populations.
Officials voiced concerns over large gatherings on the Jersey Shore, as well as an indoor gathering at a bar in northern New Jersey last weekend.
Murphy encouraged outdoor gatherings over indoor, when feasible. While the state cannot mandate party hosts to take specific steps to monitoring guests, he concurred that it would be a good idea for hosts to keep some sort of record on who was attending the party.
As for out-of-staters coming into New Jersey with the virus, Murphy said that constitutionally, the state cannot prevent people from traveling in and out of the state New Jersey. However, he said, the state did encourage people to get tested as close as possible to their travel time, either before departure or just after arrival, and take quarantine steps as needed depending on the results of the test.
New Jersey health officials reported 382 new cases, compared to 359 on Monday, bringing the state total to 169,734 cases. The positivity rate for cases is down at 1.96 percent compared to 2.42 percent yesterday and the virus transmission rate was 0.81 up from yesterday’s 0.78.
The positivity rate has started to creep back up in certain counties, especially in the south.
Officials also reported 57 new deaths, compared to 27 on Monday, bringing the state total to 12,949.
On Monday night, hospitals reported 1,092 patients, including 307 critical care patients and 216 ventilators in use, compared to 1,029 hospitalizations, 287 critical care patients and 213 ventilators in use on Sunday. Hospitals sent home 48 patients, but admitted 50 new patients, compared to 70 discharges and 46 new admissions on Sunday.
Murphy said, of the metrics that represent slight increases from the day before, while a one-day increase is not a cause for great concern, it should not become a regular occurrence.
“What we cannot have is a one-day increase becoming a trend, because people gave up on social distancing,” Murphy said. “Don’t be a knucklehead and ruin it for the rest of us.”
While New Jersey’s situation was improving, he said, the state still ranks high on certain metrics, including eighth overall for hospitalizations per day and fifth for deaths per day per capita.
On Tuesday, Essex County health officials reported 22 new cases, compared to 11 new cases on Monday, bringing the county total to 18,615. The county has added 12 additional deaths to its count, bringing the county total to 1,762. On Monday, the number of deaths had been revised downward from 1,761 to 1,750.
Montclair health officials reported another case bringing the total to 440 cases. Yesterday saw three new cases. The number of deaths remains at 50.
The number of children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome remains at 44, with no deaths reported. All of the children, ranging in age from one year to 18 years old, have tested positive either for COVID-19 or for COVID antibodies.