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BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

Leading into what Gov. Phil Murphy called one of the biggest holidays of the year, Fourth of July, today, July 2, marked the reopening of casinos, playgrounds, amusement and water parks, playground, museums and libraries throughout New Jersey.

In Montclair, though museums, libraries, playgrounds and pools are allowed to open today, they remain closed. The Montclair Art Museum and the Montclair History Center will not reopen until September, while Montclair Public Library officials are still in the process of setting up procedures for sanitation of materials. Pool and playground reopenings are awaiting approvals from the town council. But an announcement on township pools opening could be made on Monday.

RELATED: Montclair cultural institutions wait it out

For Montclarians traveling to the Jersey Shore for the holiday weekend, boardwalk arcades and amusement parks will open at 50 percent capacity, with visitors required to wear face coverings and to keep six feet apart in queues and on rides as well. All touch surfaces in amusement parks and playgrounds are expected to undergo sanitation throughout the day. 

State Medical Director Edward Lifshitz said that the virus “clearly lives a long time on surfaces,” though how long depends on the surface and “a lot of factors,” he said. 

The virus seems not to live as long on surfaces such as paper and cloth, but longer on hard surfaces such as playground equipment and metal. Surfaces need constant cleaning, and visitors need to be diligent about hand washing, he said. 

“It takes a village,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “The proprietor of the amusement park, water water, community that has the playground has to do their part. And moms and dads and kids have to do their part with quick wash with soap and water or have the 60 percent alcohol sanitizer handy.”

The state’s next COVID briefing will be Monday, July 6.

TROOPERS, POLICE ARE OUT

State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan said that troopers will be on full patrol of the highways during the Fourth of July weekend, one of the most dangerous weekends on the road annually.

“Last Fourth of July holiday we had nine fatal crashes, resulting in 14 deaths,” he said, four of which involved alcohol or drugs. “We will have hundreds more troopers out this year.”

Troopers and local police will be pulling motorists over for speeding and aggressive driving, and will be holding DWI and seatbelt checks, as well.

CROWDS, ROAD TRIPS

Residents planning to go out of state for the holiday are being advised to self-quarantine and to get tested if they are returning from one of 16 states now on a travel advisory list. 

States are those that have been identified as having a positive COVID-19 test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or have a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average, include (as of June 30) Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. 

Any family and friends gatherings should be kept to minimum to allow for six-feet distancing and should be kept to outdoors only, said Murphy.

As for bars, Murphy said: “We can’t have overcrowded bars turn into a tinder box for COVID.” He advised patrons feeling uncomfortable entering a crowded bar to leave.

The governor also increased outdoor gatherings limits today from 250 to 500. All indoor gatherings continue to be limited to 25 percent capacity, up to a maximum of 100 persons.

In-person school graduations can be held starting July 6. 

Anyone exposed to mass gatherings or large crowds during the weekend should get tested next week, said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. 

TODAY’S NUMBERS

New Jersey officials reported 529 new cases today, July 2, up from the 423 reported yesterday, bringing the state total to 172,356. 

The number of new deaths went down today at 27, compared to the 45 reported yesterday. The state death toll is now at 13,251, not including the number of probable COVID-19 related deaths at 1,854.

The positivity rate continues to rise. Officials reported a positivity rate of 2.95 percent for tests conducted on June 28, up from 2.29 percent for tests taken on June 27, and 1.82 percent on June 26.

The virus transmission rate also rose Thursday, at 0.87 compared to 0.70 reported on June 15.

Hospitals saw a slight decrease in the numbers of patients, at 1,027 Wednesday night compared to 1,080 patients on Tuesday and 992 on Monday. The number of patients in the ICU and on ventilators has declined, with 216 patients in ICU last and 170 ventilators in use. On Tuesday, hospitals reported 217 patients in critical care patients and 178 ventilators. 

Wednesday saw 51 new hospital admittances and 83 discharges, compared to 54 new patients and 87 charges on Tuesday.

Today, June 2, Essex County health officials reported 61 new cases, compared to 43 on Tuesday, bringing the county total to 18,848. Officials reported eight new deaths, and the death toll now stands at 1,786. The county’s fatality rate from the virus is now at 9.5 percent compared to the state’s average at 7.7 percent. 

Today, Montclair health officials reported the number of positive cases in the township increased from 445 to 447; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 52.