The virus continues to progress farther through South Jersey even as cases are declining in the north. State parks will reopen Saturday at sunrise, but social distancing orders remain in effect.
By Matt Skoufalos | April 29, 2020
Another 2,481 New Jerseyans have tested positive for novel coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to 116, 264, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 329 more residents have perished from complications related to COVID-19, bringing the statewide death toll during the pandemic to 6,770 people.
For a sense of scale, that’s more New Jerseyans than were lost in World War I, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Superstorm Sandy and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks combined, Murphy said.
Throughout the state, 6,289 people have been hospitalized either with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or while awaiting testing results.
Of those, 1,811 were in critical or intensive care, with 1,327 on ventilators. In the past 24 hours, 426 residents were newly hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms and 474 were discharged either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
New Jersey’s field medical stations are caring for 61 patients and have treated 362 patients in total, the governor said.
Long-term care (LTC) facilities still present a significant source of COVID-19 cases, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, noting that 489 LTCs have reported at least one COVID-19 case, and 18,045 cases have originated there. Veterans homes throughout the state have accounted for 274 cases and 104 deaths.
Persichilli noted that two Central Jersey hospitals were on divert last night, one on full divert, and another for specialty services only.
She urged residents who might be fearful of seeking treatment for non-COVID-19-related conditions like heart attack or stroke “do not delay going to your local emergency room if you are experiencing symptoms.”
Amid downward trending cases in North Jersey and flattening cases in Central Jersey, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in South Jersey.
“There’s no question this is migrating south,” the governor said. “The only way we can get New Jersey on the road back is if we really continue our social distancing.
“In the absence of a vaccine or proven therapeutics, the only tools we have are social distancing or covering your face,” he said.
State parks to reopen Saturday
Among the biggest announcements Wednesday, Murphy said state parks and golf courses will be able to reopen beginning May 2.
County governments will have the discretion to reopen county parks should they choose to do so; on Wednesday, Camden County said its parks would follow the same schedule as the state parks reopening.
Playgrounds, pavilions, visitors centers, and restrooms will remain closed, and picnics, organized activities, and team sports will be prohibited in the parks.
Passive recreational activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and horseback riding are all cleared, Murphy said.
Parking will be capped at 50 percent of total capacity.
The governor also noted that social distancing will be “strongly enforced” by state and park police, and he urged everyone to wear face coverings and visit those parks closest to their homes.
“If we see bad compliance and bad behavior at parks this weekend, just as quickly as we opened them, we’ll close them again,” Murphy said.
“We’re putting this, in many respects, in the hands of everybody out there,” he said. “We are expecting folks to not congregate, to keep their distance, and we would hope that they wear a face covering.”
“We’re reasonable only if the facts allow us to be reasonable,” Murphy said. “We will be unreasonable if the facts present this weekend a picture that is not what we want to see.”
The decision to reopen the parks was done to bring New Jersey “in line, broadly speaking, with our neighboring states,” the governor said. It was informed by a declining rate of positive COVID-19 tests and a desire to supplement residents’ mental health supports.
“I did not want to see us in a situation where residents would be needlessly crossing state lines in either direction [to access parks],” Murphy said.
E-signatures for referendum campaigns, federal aid updates, inmate paroles
The governor also announced an order authorizing the electronic collection of signatures for municipal or county initiative or referendum campaigns versus sending people door-to-door to gather them.
He also noted that the New Jersey Department of Labor will notify recipients of the first round of federal pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) payments today, and those payments will be issued next week, Murphy said.
Those who receive supplemental security income and care for a child are eligible for a $500-per-child federal stimulus payment. However, if they haven’t filed a tax return, they must apply for this payment by using the non-filer input at IRS.gov by May 5.
Lastly, Murphy’s counsel Matt Platkin said that 54 inmates have been released thus far from New Jersey state prisons under the early parole order designed to limit the impact of COVID-19 within the correctional system. Another 24 are scheduled for release, and cases will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
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