Gov. Phil Murphy extended the public health emergency over the weekend as the state topped 300,000 total COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in March.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over,” Murphy warned in a Sunday statement. The public health emergency is the ninth one he’s filed since the pandemic first hit the state.
It requires reauthorization every 30 days, while a broader state of emergency has been in effect indefinitely. With these orders in place, Murphy is able to extend a litany of restrictions on business and public gatherings in a bid to reverse the recent surge of the virus.
Those restrictions have been tightened in recent weeks, meaning restaurants cannot offer indoor dining past 10 p.m., while private gatherings are limited to 10 people. Newark said it is instituting a 10-day lockdown starting on Wednesday.
Many businesses have been allowed to resume operations, albeit with intense sanitization protocols, and requirements for face coverings and reduced capacity.
Casinos, sit-down dining, gyms, nail and hair salons, malls, theaters and many other types of businesses that had to stay closed during the spring have been allowed to operate in some form.
On Saturday, an additional 4,600 new cases of COVID-19 pushed the total number of cases to 302,039.
Ramped up testing capacity has meant that more people would inevitably be tested and diagnosed, and that’s been evidenced by a sluggish positivity rate among tests, which for weeks has mostly stayed below double digits. It was 8.53% as of Nov. 18.
But Murphy and other state health officials have warned that other metrics used to gauge whether the virus is spreading are also heading in a worrying direction.
That’s meant the highest numbers in months for hospitalizations, critical care patients, daily fatalities and ventilator-usage. As of Sunday, the state had 2,693 total COVID-19 hospitalizations, 240 patients on ventilators and 537 critical care patients.
Murphy still, has been hesitant of total closures on indoor dining and retail, arguing that the closures would devastate those industries at a time when they lack any federal COVID-relief.
“You’re basically putting a bullet in them” by shutting down those businesses – such as restaurants and Main Street retail – the governor said on Friday. “That’s blood on our hands.