Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday he’s considering new restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus after new cases have been surging and hospitalizations are steadily climbing from the second wave of the outbreak.
“How close are we to doing something?” Murphy said. “Close. So bear with us. We will clearly be taking action.”
The governor, however, didn’t give any details on what steps he may take or whether that would include a new round of business restrictions or closures. Instead, he said his administration reviewing multiple options.
“I hope it will be action that balances all the various challenges and interests that we have,” Murphy said. “We’re looking at a number of different steps that we’re going to need to take.”
He made the statement the same day he announced 2,104 new COVID-19 cases and 12 additional deaths, marking the first time the state had back-to-back days with more than 2,000 positive tests in six months.
New Jersey has had nearly 13,000 new cases reported in the last seven days, making the rolling seven-day average for new positive tests 1,857, a 26% increase from a week earlier and up 230% from the average a month ago. That matches the rolling average from early May as the state was coming off the April peak in the outbreak.
The state’s 71 hospitals also reported an increase in patients with the ninth straight day of more than 1,000 people being treated for confirmed or suspected cases. The 1,224 patients is also the highest since June 23.
As the cases increased in October, state health officials sent hot spot teams to increase testing, contact tracing and education to individual towns and college campus, Murphy said. That included Lakewood in early October, and more recently in Newark, where the testing positivity rate has risen to 12.3%.
But with 10 of New Jersey’s 21 counties reporting more than 100 cases on Wednesday and eight counties with more than 100 cases on Thursday, there may need to be more widespread action, he said.
“Hot spot teams will continue to be center stage. We’ve have really good success,” Murphy said. “We need to augment that with some broader steps.”
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Murphy issued unprecedented lockdown orders in March when the pandemic raged in the state. The state remains in Stage 2 of its recovery and reopening plan, though some elements of the third stage have also been implemented.
Schools, non-essential businesses and restaurants were forced to shutter for months. At one point, Murphy ordered state parks closed. Restaurants and other businesses continue to operate currently at capacity limits, and indoor gathering limits remain in place.
The positivity rate for tests conducted on Sunday, the most recent day available, was 7.74%
New Jersey has now reported 247,219 total COVID-19 cases out of 4.8 million tests in the nearly eight months since the state’s first case was announced March 4.
The state of 9 million people has reported 16,403 deaths attributed to the virus in that time — 14,603 lab-confirmed and 1,800 considered probable. The probable death toll, which is updated weekly, was revised higher Wednesday by seven fatalities.
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Matt Arco may be reached at email@example.com.