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COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at a Nov. 16 press briefing in Trenton.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

After a weekend in which New Jersey saw its highest daily COVID-19 cases to date, indoor gatherings, including at private homes, have been scaled back to no more than 10 people, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150 people. 

The restriction on indoor gatherings begins tomorrow, Nov. 17, while the restriction on outdoor gatherings will take effect on Nov. 25 due to several events scheduled for this weekend.

On Sunday, New Jersey reported 4,540 COVID-19 cases: the highest daily number at any time during the pandemic. Saturday had the second-highest number at 4,395, up from 3,399 reported on Friday. Today, Nov. 16, new cases totaled 2,232.

Over four days, new cases totaled 14,566, accounting for five percent of New Jersey’s cumulative total of COVID-19 cases, Murphy said. 

As Montclair also reported a surge in cases as well  — 57 over a four day period — Mayor Sean Spiller announced the formation of the Mayor’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. The 25-member task force is chaired by residents Shante Palmer and David Pascrell, and includes representatives from nonprofits, community groups, business associations, township departments, the Montclair schools, and the offices of Representatives Donald Payne and Mikie Sherrill. 

The task force, charged with working alongside community stakeholders and liaisons from all levels of government to identify and implement innovative solutions to help Montclair residents, small businesses and nonprofits get back on their feet,  will have its first meeting on Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. It will be open to the public through Zoom and TV34.

EXCEPTIONS 

Exceptions include religious services and celebrations, political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and performances, which are subject to the 25 percent capacity. 

Indoor sporting events may also have more than 10 people, but only those who are needed for the game: coaches, players, and support staff. 

“I know I speak for all of us up here; it gives me no joy in instituting these restrictions,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a Nov. 16 press briefing in Trenton. 

The spike in cases arrives as the state’s residents are dealing with pandemic fatigue, and the onset of colder weather and the holiday season, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

If New Jerseyans practice responsible behavior, wearing masks and social distancing, the peak of the second wave may come at the end of the year, going into January. If not, Persichilli said, the outcome could be much worse, with up to 8,300 people in the hospital.

Aling with restricting guests to 10 people, hosts should provide masks and hand sanitizer, hold activities outside if possible and increase ventilation when indoors by opening doors and windows. 

Persichilli said that families with loved ones in long-term care facilities are strongly urged not to bring their relatives home, but to instead gather with them at designated facilities. Long-term care residents who are brought out for a holiday celebration will have to quarantine upon return. 

TODAY’S NUMBERS

Hospitals reported 2,115 patients on Sunday night, Nov. 15, up from 2,064 on Nov. 14. Of the 2,115 last night, 417 patients were in critical care and 137 were on ventilators, compared to 397 critical care patients and 137 ventilators on Nov. 14. 

The positivity rate for tests conducted on Nov. 12 sits at 9.43 percent, down from 12.02 percent for tests conducted on Nov. 8, while the virus transmission rate now stands at 1.40. 

Deaths now stand at 14,779, with 14 new deaths reported today. Montclair’s deaths remain at 57. 

Twelve of the state’s 21 counties saw triple-digit new case numbers on Monday. Essex County officials reported 205 new cases on Nov. 16, down from 346 reported yesterday, bringing the total to 30,398. Two new deaths were reported, compared to none on Nov. 15, bringing the county total to 1,945.

Murphy said he was encouraged by news, announced earlier that day, of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine appearing to have 95 percent effectiveness in preventing infection. Pfizer’s vaccine has also shown to have a 90 percent rate or better, and both vaccines may be released either late this year or early next year. But until then, Murphy said, New Jerseyans have no other option except to be vigilant about social distancing and mask wearing. And even when the vaccine becomes available, it may be months before life reaches a state of “new normal.”