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Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, top center, speaks during a Nov. 2 press briefing. COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey residents are being advised to plan for smaller Thanksgiving gatherings this year, as COVID-19 case counts and hospital counts continue to rise. 

On Monday, Nov. 2, health officials reported 1,379 new cases, down from 1,751 reported yesterday and the 2,089 reported on Friday bringing the state total to 240,997. 

The overall positivity rate currently stands at 5.29 percent, down from 6.54 percent on Oct. 29, and the virus transmission rate rose to 1.28, up from 1.23 on Oct. 29.

Officials also reported three new deaths today, down from12 on Saturday and eight on Oct. 29, bringing the total to 14,564. Hospitals also reported 20 new deaths, which have not yet been confirmed as COVID-19. The number of probable COVID-19 deaths remains at 1,793.

During the Monday briefing’s tribute to people lost to COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy paid tribute to former Upper Montclair resident Edward Masilunas Sr., who died on April 11 at the age of 89. Masilunas started his career at Westinghouse in the 1950s before transferring to the packaging design industry, including designing a plastic bag with a special resealable pouring spout, according to his obituary. 

“We’ve been here before, in those difficult days in March and April,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. She added that mask use was continuing to rise across the country, but other measures, like social distancing and hand washing, did not appear to be doing so as well. 

For the past two weeks, new daily case counts have exceeded 1,000 in New Jersey. Perschilli said that on Saturday and Sunday, New Jersey saw a combined 3,121 new cases, with Saturday seeing just over 2,000 cases. 

Hospitalizations have likewise continued to rise, with hospitals reporting more than 1,000 patients for six straight days. As of Sunday night, Nov. 1, hospitals reported 1,109 patients, including 212 in critical care and 100 ventilators in use. By comparison, on the night of Oct. 28, hospitals reported 1,072 patients, including 217 critical care patients and 80 ventilators in use. 

Murphy and Persichilli said that families should plan for smaller Thanksgiving gatherings this year, rather than traveling to large gatherings of extended family and friends. 

“We’re asking people, if you don’t have to travel, just flat-out don’t travel,” Murphy said. 

“With the trends we’re seeing, we know that this won’t be the Thanksgiving we hoped to have,” Persichilli said.

Election Day

As of Monday afternoon, Nov. 2, New Jersey voters have cast 3,544,719 ballots, and more are expected by the end of the day. 

At that point, Murphy said, voters should not try to put ballots in the mail, but instead put them in a dropbox or take them to a polling place. 

Polls open tomorrow, Nov. 3, at 6 a.m. around the state, and close at 8 p.m. 

Murphy said there was going to be a meeting with state officials to discuss Election Day procedures. He anticipated that the day was going to be a safe and successful one, but he added that officials were not taking anything for granted. 

Murphy also advised that any act of voter intimidation was illegal, and would be dealt with accordingly. 

Murphy condemned a Trump supporters’ rally that shut down a section of the Garden State Parkway on Sunday, Nov. 1. The governor called the rally “silly” and “dangerous.” 

“That situation on the Parkway yesterday was incredibly irresponsible and dangerous,” State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said. 

Callahan said detectives are reviewing videos with the Turnpike Authority and the Department of Transportation to determine what charges, if any, should be issued in the incident. 

Murphy said that this protest was different from others that have happened around the state this year, in that it carried the risk of causing harm to people other than the participants. 

Today’s numbers

Essex County’s reports on case numbers for Nov. 2 were not available on the afternoon of Nov. 2. On Nov. 1, officials reported 175 new cases, compared to 279 on Oct. 29. The total as of that day is 25,269. No additional deaths were reported on Nov. 1, and the number of deaths was reported at 1,915. 

Montclair health officials reported seven new cases on Nov. 2, bringing the total from 663 to 670. The number of deaths remains at 57. Eight new cases were reported in total on Saturday and Sunday, with four new cases on each day.