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Murphy issues executive order to reopen state parks, golf courses with limitations

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Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) reported 2,481 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey with 329 additional deaths at a press conference today, bringing the statewide total to 116,264 cases with 6,770 deaths.

"The number of 6,770 is more than New Jerseyans lost in World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, Superstorm Sandy and 9/11 combined," he said. "To think we've added, as of today, a number that is more than all of those combined takes your breath away."

As of 10 p.m. last night, 6,289 total patients were hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 1,811 patients in critical or intensive care and 1,327 ventilators in use. From Monday to Tuesday night, 474 patients were discharged.

Murphy presented an image of total hospitalizations broken down by each region in New Jersey. He said the northern and central regions are experiencing a decrease, while the number of hospitalizations in the southern region are increasing.

Two executive orders were issued during the press conference. In the first order, Murphy calls for the reopening of all state parks and golf courses on Saturday, and also allows county parks to reopen with the discretion of the county governments. Playgrounds, pavilions, visitor centers and restrooms within these parks will remain closed.

In addition to this, parking will be limited to 50 percent of the park's capacity and all picnics, organized activities and team sports will remain prohibited. Murphy also said residents are strongly recommended to wear face masks when it may be difficult to maintain social distancing.

"I have not mandated this as part of the executive order. It is a strong recommendation that you cover your face, but (we) reserve the right to mandate that," he said. "Please enjoy the parks, but stay away from each other, do not congregate, wear a face covering, be responsible. If we have a good weekend this weekend, that hopefully can lead to better days ahead (and) we can keep these parks open."

The second executive order allows petitions that are looking to place municipal or county initiatives or referendums on the ballot to be signed electronically, Murphy said. This prevents individuals from going door-to-door but still allows the chance for petitions to be recognized.

In regards to federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments, Murphy said the New Jersey Department of Labor will notify recipients today about receiving their first round of payments. He said self-employed workers, independent contractors and other workers not typically eligible for unemployment benefits are among those eligible for these benefits.

Residents who are interested in PUA benefits or looking for more information are encouraged to visit the state's COVID-19 website, Murphy said.

Additionally, he said residents who receive Supplemental Security Income and have a child eligible for the $500 stimulus payment, and have not filed a tax return, must fill out the non-filer form on the IRS website by May 5th in order to receive their stimulus payment.

Personal protective equipment was also discussed. Murphy said the state is partnering with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension program to produce face masks and gowns. Overall, more than 21 million pieces of personal protective equipment have been distributed to healthcare and frontline workers in New Jersey. Murphy also said New Jersey is sending 50 ventilators to Massachusetts and 200,000 surgical masks to New York to help each state's response to COVID-19.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said they have been receiving reports that residents may be delaying to receive necessary healthcare. With this, she announced that she, alongside New Jersey Hospital Association President Cathleen Bennett, will film a public service announcement to remind individuals the importance in immediately receiving treatment for symptoms that could signal heart attacks, strokes and unrelenting abdominal or back pain and among other things.

"Yes, we know this is an unprecedented pandemic that we're faced with and I know that people may be fearful," she said. "I've worked in hospitals for the entire of my career, and I can assure you that our hospitals and our emergency rooms are safe and waiting. They are waiting and ready to care for you. Our hospitals have been safe havens for all of you who have walked through their doors for (more than) a century, open 24/7, 365 days a year. They are always available to everyone."

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