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One of the first COVID-19 debriefings held back in March. Shown are the State’s Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan, Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli, Gov. Phil Murphy and Superintendent of the State Police Colonel Pat Callahan all of whom attended daily press debriefings shown on Youtube throughout the peak of the pandemic. They are now held three times week.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey marked six months this weekend since its first COVID-19 positive case in Bergen County, and the pandemic and lockdown ensued. 

State officials are warning that the emergency is far from over. 

Since the start of the pandemic on March 4, the numbers have declined drastically from their peak in April, when there were daily reports topping 4,000 positive new cases, 8,000 hospitalizations and 400 new deaths, including 72 deaths probably due to the virus, in one day. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, officials reported 284 new cases, 419 COVID-related patients in the hospital and five new deaths.

Since March, when Gov. Phil Murphy began holding daily briefings, 194,667 people have tested positive for the disease, and 14,213 people are confirmed to have died from COVID-19. Another 1,783 deaths are under investigation as probable COVID-19 cases. 

At the height of the pandemic in April, hospitals saw 1,800 patients in critical care and 1,600 ventilators in use. Those numbers were 82 in critical care and 33 on ventilators on Sept. 7. 

In April, the positivity rate was close to 60 percent, and the virus transmission rate was at 5.31. Today those numbers are at 1.83 positivity and a virus transmission rate of 1.10.

Besides the physical toll, the pandemic has taken a serious toll on mental health as well, with many people experiencing heightened feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. 

New Jersey reaching the six-month milestone is not a happy occasion, said Murphy, recalling identifying the first COVID-19 case in the state and then subsequent deaths.

Montclair’s first documented case, in a Montclair State University administrator, was reported on March 12. The first death of a township resident was confirmed on March 19. Over the past six months, Montclair has seen 536 cases and 56 deaths. On April 15, the township reported 16 new cases, as well as one additional death. 

Those numbers, after remaining relatively flat, have climbed recently, with 38 new cases and two new deaths related to COVID-19 since Aug. 27.

Township officials have reported that 10 of the cases and one of the deaths are associated with long-term-care facilities. State officials reported seven cases associated with Montclair Manor. 

Long-term-care facilities have been particularly hard-hit in the pandemic. In April, state authorities recorded 76 positive cases and 25 deaths at four long-term-care facilities in Montclair. Almost half of New Jersey cases are associated with such facilities.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Montclair’s schools had their last in-person day on Thursday, March 13, as the pandemic began.

The closing also saw events like proms, sporting events, musicals and graduation ceremonies either modified, delayed or canceled altogether. Montclair High School was to hold its graduation ceremonies in person on July 7, but they were moved to July 27 after it was determined that students might have been exposed to COVID-19 while attending graduation parties.  

Montclair’s remote learning starts today, Sept. 10. 

Initially, the district planned a hybrid model start, with students attending in-person classes for two days a week each, but on Aug. 13 the district announced a delay due to concerns about ventilation at the schools. The district is in the process of having ventilation systems upgraded hoping to reopen Nov. 1. 

REOPENINGS

Restaurants opened on Sept. 4 for limited indoor dining, after they were ordered to close their dining spaces and switch to takeout or delivery only in March. In May, restaurants were permitted to offer outdoor dining. 

Indoor dining was set to resume on June 22, but state officials delayed it after seeing spikes in states where indoor dining had resumed. 

Salons and barbershops reopened on June 22, and child care centers reopened on June 15.

Movie theaters and indoor recreation venues were permitted to reopen on Sept. 4. In Essex County and Passaic County, AMC Wayne 4 near Willowbrook Mall is open, Clifton Commons reopened on Sept. 7, and Essex Green in West Orange is set to reopen today. Attempts to reach the Clairidge were unsuccessful. 

TRANSPORTATION

NJ Transit and DeCamp both saw steep drops in ridership during the pandemic, due to commuters working from home. NJ Transit instituted 50 percent capacity on buses, trains and light rail, but that limit was lifted in July. 

However, DeCamp suspended its operations indefinitely in August, after ridership numbers failed to rebound, and because DeCamp, as a private carrier, was not eligible for the federal aid. 

NUMBERS TODAY

New Jersey saw a decline in daily new cases, death reports and hospital populations over the past week, but positivity rates and virus transmission rates are up. 

Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8, New Jersey saw a decline in daily new cases, from 352 on Aug. 31 to 284 on Sept. 8. However, in between those two dates, the daily number rose to 478 on Sept. 4. 

The positivity rate and virus transmission rate have both gone up between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8, with the positivity rate increasing from 1.41 to 1.83 and the transmission rate increasing from 0.90 to 1.10. 

Officials have confirmed 14,213 total deaths. Five new deaths were reported on Sept. 8, down from eight reported on Aug. 31. Probable deaths have increased from 1,780 to 1,783. 

Hospitals reported 419 COVID-related patients, including 82 in critical care and 33 on ventilators on Sept. 7, a decrease from 484 patients, 103 critical-care patients and 37 on ventilators on Aug. 30. 

Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 8, Essex County officials reported 213 new cases and four new deaths, bringing the total to 20,336 cases and 1,870 deaths. 

Since Aug. 31, Montclair has seen 22 new cases and one additional death as of Sept. 8, for a total of 531 cases and 55 deaths.