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Gov. Phil Murphy, center top, presides over a press briefing held via Zoom on Thursday, Oct. 22.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey residents are advised to avoid all nonessential out-of-state travel and to exercise caution at indoor gatherings, as hospitalizations, deaths and the statewide positivity rate of COVID-19 continue to climb. 

New Jersey’s northern region has the highest regional positivity rate, and the state’s four northeastern counties, including Essex, all having more than 100 new daily COVID cases. 

Health officials reported 1,182 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Oct. 22, compared to 1,062 on Oct. 21, bringing the state total to 224,385. 

“There’s no other way to put it, but the numbers today are sobering,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Eighteen more deaths have been confirmed. Oct. 22 marks the second day in a row of 18 deaths, and the third consecutive day in which deaths were in the double digits, Murphy said. Of the 18 new deaths reported Oct. 22, 15 had occurred within the past week. The total death count now stands at 14,474. 

Indoor gatherings, such as dinner parties, birthday parties or people getting together to watch sports, are contributing to the rise in cases, Murphy said.

Essex County had the most new cases of any county, with 196 cases, Murphy said. Bergen, Hudson and Union counties each had more than 100 new cases reported today. 

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the northern region of New Jersey now has the highest regional positivity rate: 6.15 percent, with the central region reporting 5.13 percent and the southern region reporting 3.66 percent. 

Essex County’s case count is 191, up from 141 cases reported on Oct. 21. The county total of COVID cases is now 23,047. County officials reported two new deaths, the same number reported the day before, bringing the death toll to 1,911.

Montclair health officials reported four new cases on Oct. 21, bringing the total to 621 cases. As of Oct. 21, 60 new cases have been reported in Montclair so far this month. Last month, the total number of cases was 35. The number of deaths remains at 57. 

Last month, Persichilli said, hospitals saw an average of 400 patients a day. Now, that average is closer to 800 patients a day. 

On Oct. 21, hospitals reported 852 patients, including 187 critical care patients and 74 ventilators in use, compared to 845 patients, 175 critical care patients and 63 ventilators on Oct. 20. 

Persichilli urged residents to cooperate with contact tracers as roughly half of the residents reached out to by contact tracers have refused to cooperate. 

Travelers coming into New Jersey, or residents returning from out of state, have been advised during the pandemic to self-quarantine for two weeks and to get tested as soon as possible. As of Oct. 22, the advisory list contains 39 states and U.S. territories. 

New Jersey and Connecticut residents are not yet being advised against traveling into New York for work. 

Murphy acknowledged that residents were likely experiencing pandemic fatigue, but urged everyone not to relax caution, and to continue social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. 

“We don’t have a magic wand on this,” Murphy said. 

Murphy has been self-quarantining after a staff member tested positive for the virus.

Orlando Staton

At today’s debriefing, Murphy paid tribute to Orlando Staton, the longtime drummer for Montclair-based band the Fabulous Flemtones. Staton, a Bloomfield resident, died March 22 from complications of COVID-19. The band has been a regular presence at venues around Montclair, including Tierney’s, Church Street and Montclair High School. 

The band played its final show, before the pandemic began, on Feb. 28. 

Elections

As of Oct. 22, New Jersey voters have cast 2,155,011 ballots: 55 percent of the total voter turnout for 2016. 

“I don’t care who you’re voting for, what party you’re in, just vote,” Murphy said.

For in-person voting, Murphy said the state was “full speed ahead” on polling places being open on Nov. 3, amid concerns whether COVID-19 might end up precluding in-person voting.

Residents may submit their ballot through the mail, through a county drop box in their town, in person at their county clerk’s office, or in person at their assigned polling place on Nov. 3.