After New Jersey reported a record number of coronavirus cases for two days in a row, new cases dipped on Saturday with the state announcing 5,367 more positive tests and 53 newly confirmed deaths. Hospitalizations also decreased after a week-long rise.
There have now been 311 coronavirus deaths confirmed across the state in just the first five days of this month. New Jersey reported 615 deaths in all of November.
The positivity rate for tests conducted Tuesday, the most recent day available, was 11.37%, meaning about one of every nine people who sought tests turned out to be infected. That’s based on 46,446 tests reported to the state for Tuesday so far and that also doesn’t include rapid tests, which are not being reported by state health officials.
The state’s positivity rate has been over 10% for seven days — since Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.
Despite dips in new cases and hospitalizations, Murphy warned residents that the statistics were still reason for concern.
“These numbers are alarming,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “We are still in the midst of a pandemic. Mask up. Social distance. Stay informed.”
Murphy on Saturday also clarified a previous executive order regarding entertainment centers. Entertainment venues where a performance “is viewed or given” will be able to host a performance in an adjacent outdoor area, Murphy said in a statement.
Venues such as movie theaters, performing arts centers and other concert centers will be allowed to hold these performances at a maximum capacity equivalent to the facility’s indoor capacity, the statement said. The order was effective immediately.
Murphy warned the state isn’t likely to start seeing the Thanksgiving effect — the potential for new cases from holiday gatherings — for several days due to incubation times for infections and the multi-day turnaround for test results.
The rate of transmission declined for the 17th straight day, to 1.04, down from 1.05 on Thursday. Any number over 1 indicates the outbreak is expanding, but the gradual decline in transmission rate indicates the expansion is slowing and flattening out. The transmission rate of 1.04 is the lowest since Sept. 4.
The state has now reported 361,986 total cases out of 6.28 million tests since the outbreak began in March.
The state’s death toll now stands at 17,306 residents, with 15,470 confirmed fatalities and 1,836 probable.
The 311 deaths confirmed in the first five days of December are already higher than the full-month totals for August (238) September (178) and October (231).
Fifteen of 21 New Jersey counties reported at least 100 new cases — led by Essex County with 600, Middlesex with 554 and Passaic with 516.
New Jersey’s 71 hospitals reported 3,264 patients as of Friday night, about 140% higher than a month ago. Current moderate projections have New Jersey hospitals nearing 5,000 patients by New Year’s Day.
New rules meant to slow the further spread of the virus are set to go into effect this weekend and early next week.
An order that suspends all indoor organized sports at the youth, high school, and adult recreational levels in New Jersey for at least four weeks takes effect Saturday morning. The ban applies to both games and practices and lasts until at least Jan. 2. The executive order will apply to sports like basketball, ice hockey, and swimming — including club and travel teams. It doesn’t apply to college and professional sports.
And starting Monday, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people.
Last month, Murphy ordered bars and restaurants in New Jersey to close indoor service every day at 10 p.m. He also banned all bar-side seating indoors and gave counties and municipalities the authority to order nonessential businesses to close at 8 p.m. to try and slow the spread.
There were 3,264 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Friday night (51 less than the previous day).
Hospitalizations have climbed steadily for three weeks before a slight dip around Thanksgiving and Friday’s slight decrease.
Of those hospitalized as of Friday, 628 were in critical or intensive care (13 more than the previous night), including 384 on ventilators (2 less).
There were 423 coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals Friday, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.
Although hundreds of school districts have announced coronavirus cases and dozens of New Jersey schools have temporarily switched to all remote classes since the start of the school year, state health officials have said 70 schools have had confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks.
There have now been 285 total cases of in-school transmission in those 70 schools since the start of the school year.
Those numbers do not include students or staff believed to have been infected outside school, or cases that can’t be confirmed as in-school outbreaks.
Though the numbers keep rising every week, Murphy has said the school outbreak statistics remain below what state officials were expecting when schools reopened for in-person classes. The extensive rules for schools, which include social distancing guidelines for classrooms and strict mask requirements, have made schools among the safest places in the state, he said.
But for the second week in a row, every region in New Jersey is orange on the state’s COVID-19 map, indicating “high” virus activity across the state.
The color coding on the map is being closely watched by many school districts because if any area moves to red, indicating “very high” coronavirus activity, all schools in that region will be required to close classrooms and switch to all-remote learning, according to state health guidelines.
Broken down by age, those 30 to 49 years old make up the largest percentage of New Jersey residents who have caught the virus (31.6%), followed by those 50-64 (24.2%), 18-29 (18.9%), 65-79 (11.4%), 80 and older (6.4%), 5-17 (6%), and 0-4 (1.2%).
On average, the virus has been more deadly for older residents, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Nearly half the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents 80 and older (47.78%), followed by those 65-79 (31.58%), 50-64 (15.89%), 30-49 (4.35%), 18-29 (0.38%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).
At least 7,328 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. That number has been rising again at a steeper rate in recent weeks.
As of Saturday morning, there have been more than 666 million positive COVID-19 tests across the world, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.5 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The U.S. has reported the most cases with 14.3 million and the most deaths at more than 279,100.