Plus: New Jersey law enforcement agencies now must publish the identities of officers charged with disciplinary infractions going back 20 years.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 15, 2020
Another 274 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 167,103 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
Sadly, 52 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 12,676 lives lost during the pandemic.
One of the newly deceased was “a young child with an underlying medical condition,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
In all, the state has seen just 50 COVID-19-related deaths of people younger than 30, Persichilli said. Nearly 80 percent of fatalities are among those 65 and older.
Throughout New Jersey, 1,351 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms, a new low.
Of those 1,351 patients, 402 are in intensive or critical care; 267 of ICU and critical-care patients (66 percent) are on ventilators—the lowest percentage of patients on ventilators to date.
Overnight, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 74 new COVID-19 patients, and 107 others were discharged, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 2.6 percent June 11; in South Jersey, it’s more than double that, at 5.25 percent.
Rt, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, was 0.65 on June 13. Those figures indicate that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one other person, on average, which means the number of new cases continues to decline.
COVID-19 spot positivity, patient hospitalizations, and the rate of transmission of the virus are among the most significant indicators of the pandemic monitored by state officials, Murphy said.
He cited improvement of those factors in moving New Jersey to the second phase of its reopening, which began Monday and focuses on outdoor activities, like al fresco dining.
“If we open too quickly without restoring consumer confidence, quite simply, there would be no customers,” the governor said.
“There is still a lot we don’t know about this virus, but we know two things with absolute certainty: outdoor environments are safer than indoor environments, and wearing a face covering is safer than not wearing a face covering,” he said.
Across New Jersey, 555 long-term care (LTC) centers now have reported at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for 35,360 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 23,550 residents and 11,810 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 5,957 lab-confirmed resident deaths (47 percent of the statewide total) and 115 facility-reported staff deaths.
Of 654 veterans residing in a state-run home, 385 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 145 have died from complications related to the virus. Six veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 216 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 211 of 1,239 patients and 492 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus; unchanged since last week.
Six patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 475 people in total.
To date, 40 New Jersey children, aged 1 to 18, have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Persichilli said, unchanged since June 12.
All have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. Three children are still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
Resumption of youth sports
On Monday, Murphy outlined a timetable for the return to play for youth athletic activities, following COVID-19 risk-based guidance from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA).
Low-risk sports including golf and tennis may resume competitions starting June 22.
Medium-risk sports, like baseball, soccer, and outdoor basketball are limited to non-contact drills and practices only, and may begin July 6. High-risk sports like football can resume non-contact drills and practices June 22, and full practices and competitions July 20.
Athletes are to be sequestered in groups of no larger than 10, and organizers should keep records of all those in attendance, from coaches to players, with staggered arrival and departure times or practice days as needed.
“Organizers must create a program preparation plan that outlines policies for resumption of activities,” Persichilli said. “As part of that plan, leaders should identify staff members or volunteers to remind players, coaches, and attendees about social and physical distancing.”
Parents, visitors, and staff must wear cloth face coverings during games; athletes should do the same during down time, but not during physical activity, she said. Participants should bring their own water bottles and avoid sharing equipment.
Signage must be posted at games and practices reminding everyone about social distancing, monitoring symptoms, and wearing face coverings. All attendees must be screened via temperature and symptom check, and organizations should limit the number of non-essential personnel. Facilities should practice “routine and frequent disinfecting,” and should provide equipment for sanitization, especially around high-traffic areas, Persichilli said.
Some of the modifications to activities the NFSHSA recommends illustrate the nature of the changes involved:
- A basketball player can shoot with a ball(s), but a team should not practice/pass a single ball among the team where multiple players touch the same ball.
- A football player should not participate in team drills with a single ball that will be handed off or passed to other teammates. Contact with other players is not allowed, and there should be no sharing of tackling dummies/donuts/sleds.
- A volleyball player should not use a single ball that others touch or hit in any manner.
- Softball and baseball players should not share gloves, bats, or throw a single ball that will be tossed among the team. A single player may hit in cages, throw batting practice (with netting as backstop, no catcher). Prior to another athlete using the same balls, they should be collected and cleaned individually.
- Wrestlers may skill and drill without touching a teammate.
- Cheerleaders may not practice/perform partner stunts or building. (Chants, jumps, dances without contact are permissible.)
- Tennis players may do individual drills, wall volleys and serves.
- Runners should maintain the recommended 6 feet of distancing between individuals
Move for greater police accountability
In accordance with new guidance issued by the New Jersey Attorney General, all law enforcement agencies in the state must now publicly identify officers who have been fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days due to serious disciplinary violations.
Departments must provide data on incidents and publish the names of the officers involved in such disciplinary action as far back as 20 years, under the order. Agencies must publish their first lists by the end of the year.
“Until this point, the names of these officers have been kept from the public,” Murphy said, adding that he hopes the publications will “generate greater faith in the communities in which our officers serve.”
“We talk about embracing the scrutiny; embracing transparency,” said New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan.
“The acts of a few should not tarnish the entire profession across the state or nation, and we’ll ultimately let the public decide for themselves on the nature of these obligations,” Callahan said.
“If excessive force led to discipline, that will be disclosed,” he said.
The colonel also said that several troopers who’ve been subject to disciplinary action in the past “have bounced back and gotten their lives and careers in order,” becoming “phenomenal examples” of resiliency in the profession.
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