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Murphy lowers limit on outdoor gatherings in NJ as coronavirus cases spike

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said that despite the rise of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey, he does not plan to put the state into another lockdown. – Photo by Phil Murphy / Flickr

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference yesterday to announce new statewide restrictions for reducing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Another 3,199 cases and 15 deaths were reported in New Jersey yesterday, making the statewide total 337,304 cases and 15,164 deaths. There were also 1,829 deaths potentially linked to COVID-19.

As of Sunday, there were 2,961 hospitalizations for COVID-19, with 575 individuals in critical or intensive care and 332 on ventilators. The number of hospitalizations is the highest since May 21, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.

”Our concern remains, overwhelmingly, the situation in our hospitals — even more than the increase in the raw numbers of cases,” Murphy said. ”And it comes down to this — maintaining the stability of our health care system and ensuring the ability of our front-line medical workers to treat patients starts with implementing restrictions that will keep fewer people from becoming a hospital patient in the first place.”

The outdoor gathering limit has been lowered to 25 people starting Dec. 7 until further notice. This change follows a previous reduction made two weeks ago on outdoor gatherings from 500 to 150 people.

The exceptions are political and religious activities, funerals, memorial services, weddings and outdoor dining.

All indoor youth and adult sports, including practices and competitions, will be suspended from Dec. 5 to Jan. 2. Collegiate and professional level teams will be exempt from this restriction.

Murphy said that despite rumors of an impending statewide lockdown, there are currently no plans for one.

“We have made it clear over the past weeks that we are not in the same situation we found ourselves in during the spring, when we had to take dramatic and drastic actions to immediately regain some control and save lives,” he said. “Today we see more moves on the board that we could take. We are no less committed or steadfast in our approaches today, but we now have the ability to be more focused and surgical.”

Edward Lifshitz, medical director of the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), discussed state health recommendations for the holidays, including holding Christmas tree and Menorah lighting events outdoors, considering alternatives to indoor visits with Santa and refraining from holding holiday parades or having children sit on Santa’s lap.

The NJDOH released a complete list of holiday guidance yesterday. The department is also implementing an enhanced testing program in long-term care facilities.

Murphy said the number of residents who refused to cooperate with contact tracers has reached approximately 70 percent.

“As of (yesterday), with more than 600 new contact tracers who started their training last week being put into the field, we now have approximately 3,000 contact tracers on the ground,” he said. “Each and every single one of them have only one concern: stopping an outbreak. If one reaches you, please take the call. Please cooperate with them.”

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