With a week to go before Thanksgiving, Gov. Phil Murphy urged New Jersey residents to stay with their immediate family during the holiday and keep the number of people at dinner to “single digits” as the coronavirus continues to surge in the state.
The governor continued to sound the alarm as the state on Wednesday reported 4,063 new cases — the fourth time in five days with more than 4,000 new positive tests — and 27 additional confirmed deaths as the state grapples with a second wave of the pandemic.
Murphy and health officials have said indoor gatherings are to blame for most of the new outbreaks across the state and that has them particularly worried about Thanksgiving.
“Don’t go outside your bubble and make sure that’s a small number,” Murphy said during a morning interview on CNN. “Single digits.”
“That’s behavior we need right now, not just for next Thursday … but for the next couple of months,” he said. “Vaccines are coming, but they’re not here yet.”
The second-wave surge in cases has pushed the seven-day average for new positive tests to 3,744, the highest since the outbreak began. The previous high seven-day average was 3,735 on April 7, though the outbreak was likely being undercounted at the time due to a lack of testing.
New Jersey now averages nearly 40,000 tests a day compared to about 8,000 a day in early April. The state reported a recent record number of new tests with 57,000 on Nov. 9, and that doesn’t include recently-deployed rapid tests. Murphy said Wednesday that pushed total tests to about 75,000.
The spike in new cases has also led to a steady rise in people seeking treatment in New Jersey’s hospitals. Patient counts have doubled in just two weeks to 2,471 as of Wednesday night. Hospitalizations have more than tripled since last month and are the highest since late May, though still far short of the more than 8,000 patients in mid-April.
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Murphy’s comments come as he and the state’s top law enforcement official calling for “personal responsibility” as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking just ahead of the holiday season. On Monday, Murphy dropped the indoor gathering limit to 10 people, down from 25, and the outdoor gathering limit to 150, down from 500.
Acting State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan conceded Wednesday that enforcing the governor’s new restriction on the number of people who can gather indoors will be difficult.
“I would say that residences offer a different challenge than public establishments and we’re relying, as we have, I think, for the past several months to rely on families and individuals to take that responsibility very seriously,” Callahan said during the governor’s most recent COVID-19 briefing. “Whether it’s Thanksgiving or not, to adhere to the 10 people or less restrictions.”
Murphy offered a more bleak assessment about what the failure to take the new restrictions seriously would mean for the coming weeks and months.
“There’s nothing like personal responsibility. It’s up to us, folks,” he said Wednesday. “If it comes down to needing law enforcement to be in your dining room in order to bend the curve, my guess is we’ve lost, that it’s not bendable.”
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