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Sen. Cory Booker speaks at a Nov. 9 press briefing in Trenton. COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

As new cases of COVID-19 continue to climb with Saturday’s numbers of 3,207 not seen since April, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered restaurants, bars, clubs and banquet halls to stop indoor service at 10 p.m. beginning Nov. 12.

Barside service will also not be allowed. 

The increase in cases is being attributed to private gatherings at homes, but also to bar service in some restaurants, and a growing sense of “pandemic fatigue” that is causing many residents to relax their sense of caution on social distancing. 

The 10 p.m. cutoff time was chosen, Murphy said, because anecdotal evidence indicated that during later hours in the evening, bar and restaurant patrons tended to become less vigilant about wearing masks and practicing social distancing. 

Outdoor dining, takeout service and delivery service may continue after 10 p.m. however. 

The governor said tables will be permitted to be spaced less than six feet apart if indoor tables are separated by dividers or bubbles for outdoor tables as long as they are properly cleaned and sanitized in between uses. 

The governor is also calling a halt to indoor youth sports matches involving interstate competitions. 

The announcement comes as New Jersey continues to see increases in new daily COVID-19 cases, between 2,000 and 3,000 a day — although today’s new cases of 2,075 were below Saturday’s more than 3,000 new cases. Hospitalizations have also climbed to 1,537 last night, a number not seen since early June. Nationally, the country is seeing an average of 100,000 new cases a day. 

Montclair’s case numbers continue to rise with 16 new cases being reported today. 

The positivity rate is at 7.54 percent for tests conducted on Nov. 5, down slightly from 7.74 for tests conducted on Nov. 1. The rate of transmission currently sits at 1.24, down slightly from 1.26 as of Nov. 5.

The northern region of the state has a positivity rate of 8.47 percent, followed by the southern region with 8.01 percent, and the central region with 5.96 percent. 

“To be clear, the last thing I want to do is shut the economy back down,” Murphy said, describing the steps as “surgical” aimed at specific activities. 

The good news, Murphy said, is that New Jersey is better prepared than it was during the spring surge, and fewer hospital patients are requiring ventilators. 

“But there’s no question. Those numbers are going up, and in the wrong direction.” 

Vaccine

Today, Nov. 9, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that the vaccine it currently has in development promises to be 90 percent effective in preventing a COVID-19 infection, with hope that the vaccine could be available for public use in the next six months. 

Health care workers will most likely be among the first to have access to the vaccine, followed by other high-risk communities, and then followed by other people who wanted to receive the vaccine, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

Murphy said that if New Jersey could make it through the next five to six months, the state would then have access to the vaccine and ultimately get the virus under control. 

Federal aid

Sen. Cory Booker, who was elected to another term as senator on Nov. 3 and was present for the first part of the briefing, said legislators are working on getting a stimulus package prepared, including more aid for unemployment, and people facing the prospect of losing their homes. Booker said that the stimulus package could face a challenge in the form of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has voiced his opposition to further stimulus aid to states. 

Today’s numbers

Between Thursday, Nov. 5 and Monday, Nov. 9, New Jersey health officials reported a total of 9,524 new cases.

On Nov. 9, health officials reported 2,075 new cases, a slight rise from the 2,043 cases on Nov. 8, bringing the state total to 256,653. 

Hospitals reported 1,537 patients on the evening of Nov. 8, up from 1,439 on Nov. 7. The numbers represent the first time since June 9 that patient numbers have exceeded 1,500. Hospitals also reported 309 patients in critical care, marking the first time since June 17 that critical care numbers have exceeded 300, and 94 ventilators in use. Nov. 7 saw 284 critical care patients and 89 ventilators in use. 

Officials have also reported 11 new deaths, compared to four on Nov. 8, bringing the state total to 14,640. 

Essex County officials reported 176 new cases on Nov. 9, up from 269 on Nov. 8, bringing the county total to 27,381. Officials also reported one death, a decrease from four reported on Nov. 8, bringing the county total to 1,925.

Between Tuesday, Nov. 3 and Monday, Nov. 9, Montclair saw 71 new cases, bringing the total to 745. Health department officials have maintained no connection has been found with the daily cases reported. The number of deaths remains at 57.