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COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY Gov. Phil Murphy, top left, delivers the last press briefing of 2020, with an announcement that indoor sports will be able to resume in January.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey will allow indoor sports to resume, with restrictions on attendance, on Jan. 2. 

Interstate sports competitions are still prohibited, since interstate travel for sports has been deemed to be a risk factor for spreading COVID-19. And attendance is limited to those who are directly involved in the game – players, coaches, referees and support staff – and no more than 10 spectators. 

Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement at his Dec. 30 press briefing, the last one for 2020. 

Murphy said the decision was made because sports programs ran the risk of having to scrap the spring season if the pause on sports continued. 

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association issued this statement on Dec. 30: 

“NJSIAA welcomes the governor’s announcement and continued support, and looks forward to the beginning of the indoor, winter scholastic sports season – specifically, NJSIAA season 2. Occupancy restrictions will remain in effect as established by the governor’s executive orders.  And, of course, public health data still may impact our upcoming seasons, so it’s essential that we all continue supporting the 3 Ws – wear your masks, watch your distance, and wash your hands.”

Murphy urged residents to continue wearing masks and social distancing so the new year could see a downturn in the pandemic. 

Health officials today, Dec. 30, reported 4,664 new cases, compared to 3,675 on Dec. 29, bringing the total to 472,264. Another 99 deaths were reported, compared to 127 on Dec. 29, bringing the total to 16,931, along with 2,021 deaths probably due to the coronavirus. 

Hospitals reported 3,727 patients on the night of Dec. 29, including 701 critical-care patients and 467 ventilators in use. By comparison, hospitals reported 3,765 patients on Dec. 28, including 723 in critical care and 473 on ventilators. 

Essex County reported 379 new cases and five new deaths on Dec. 30, bringing the totals to 46,716 cases and 2,136 deaths. 

Montclair health officials reported 24 new cases on Dec. 28, bringing the total to 1,292 cases. The number of deaths remains at 61. 

Dec. 30 also marked the 144th press briefing that the governor and his staff have held since the beginning of the pandemic in March. 

Murphy said he was optimistic that 2021 would see an improvement. “But we’re going to have to greet the new year on the same war footing that we’re ending 2020 with,” he said. “Let’s celebrate the end of 2020 responsibly, folks.” 

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said New Jersey was awarded more than 400,000 vaccines for December, and an additional 106,000 doses are expected in the first week of January. As of Dec. 30, 62,901 people had received their first vaccine dose, Persichilli said. 

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th District, said it was hoped that with the incoming Biden administration the country will see a more centralized approach to distributing aid funding, instead of states having to compete with one another. 

Murphy and other New Jersey officials have repeatedly pleaded for more direct federal aid to states and municipalities over the course of the pandemic. 

Pallone admitted that his statements needed to be somewhat partisan, and said that President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a lot of the responsibility in aid packages not going forward. 

Murphy concurred that Democrats at the national level understood, in general, the importance of the aid package, but that many Republicans from red states did not share that view. “This is the other side making it a partisan matter when it shouldn’t be,” he said.