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State officials announce new coronavirus variants in NJ, increase in capacity for wedding receptions

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said today marks the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case in New Jersey. – Photo by Gov. Phil Murphy / Twitter

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference yesterday to provide updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and to announce an increase in permitted capacity for wedding receptions in New Jersey.

The state reported another 2,957 positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests yesterday, bringing the statewide total to 710,046 confirmed cases. They also received 900 new antigen tests that are awaiting confirmation.

There were 1,921 hospitalizations as of yesterday, with 403 patients in critical or intensive care and 243 patients on ventilators.

Additionally, 63 new deaths were confirmed, making the total 21,052 deaths in New Jersey. Another 2,397 were potentially linked to COVID-19.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case in New Jersey, Murphy said.

“More than a year ago, we knew that we would have to prepare our state and each of you for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “None of us could even imagine what it was we ultimately would be up against.”

The first two cases of the new P.1 variant of COVID-19 from Brazil in New Jersey have been reported in Hudson County, said Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. So far, there are 10 reported cases of the variant in the U.S.

The state also reported 34 cases of the new B.1.526 variant from New York that are mainly in Northeastern New Jersey. These two variants, along with the B.1.1.7 variant previously reported in New Jersey, may be more contagious and may cause more severe illness, though they remain under investigation, Persichilli said.

“While we are concerned about the increase in variant strains, the public health prevention measures that we’ve all been using — physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, getting vaccinated when it’s your turn — are important tools to prevent the spread of this virus,” she said.

Starting Friday, the state will allow wedding receptions to have an indoor capacity of 35 percent for up to 150 people and outdoor capacity up to 150 people, Murphy said. Wedding receptions were previously capped at 10 people, according to NJ Advance Media. The Daily Targum previously reported in February an increase to 35 percent capacity for wedding ceremonies in New Jersey.

Indoor dining rules for receptions, including wearing a mask when not eating or drinking, remain in place.

Murphy said the state expects a shipment of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week and a drastic increase in the supply of Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines starting late March or early April, around Easter.

“Each shot is another ray of light in that new dawn,” he said. “Each one comes with a little extra hope for the post-(COVID-19) days that await. One year in, we (can) finally see the light of a new day beginning to break on the horizon. We cannot yet bask in that light, but make no mistake: We will.”


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