Volume 11 Issue 59 - Tuesday, December 1, 2020

New Jersey COVID-19 Report; New Restrictions Announced, Testing, Contract Tracing, and School Update and DEP Commissioner McCabe Announces Retirement & more 

New Jersey Numbers Rise – The State’s seven day rolling average for new cases is 4,014, more than double the rate it was earlier in the month. The state’s transmission rate declined again, to 1.11, down from 1.14 Sunday. 1.11 is the lowest transmission rate since Sept. 19 and reflects that while the outbreak continues to expand, the rate of increase is slowing, officials said.  

New Jersey has had 16,993 deaths from complications related to the virus since its outbreak in March.  “For perspective, the total number of New Jerseyans killed in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam — combined — is roughly 18,300,” Murphy said. “So in eight months, we’ve lost nearly as many New Jerseyans as died in war over a nearly 60-year span.”

Murphy Announces New Restrictions on Outdoor Gatherings & Indoor Sports: As the number of patients with COVID-19 continues to rise, Governor Murphy announced new restrictions on indoor sports and outdoor gatherings.

Murphy said that all indoor youth and adult sports are being placed on a full pause effective at 6:00 AM on December 5 through January 2, 2021. There will be exceptions for collegiate-level and professional teams.

As of 6:00 AM on Monday, December 7, Murphy will also impose limits on outdoor gatherings of 25 people. There are exceptions for religious and political activities, as well as funerals, memorial services and weddings.

“While we know that outdoor environments are safer than indoor environments, during this dangerous period any type of mass gathering creates risk,” Murphy told reporters at his coronavirus briefing. “As you start to make your holiday plans please recognize that the gathering limits are back to what they were in May.”

Testing & Contact Tracing: On Monday, Governor Murphy announced that the state Department of Health is implementing an enhanced testing program for all staff, visitors and residents in long-term care facilities. In total, 366,000 BinaxNow rapid tests have been distributed.

Murphy said that the state has deployed 3,000 contract tracers but nearly 70 percent of people are refusing to cooperate with them.

"It’s really frustrating," Murphy said. "People don't want to feel like they ratted out their kid or they ratted out themselves or a neighbor. That's not what this is about.”

Guidance for Restaurants with Outdoor Seating – The New Jersey State Department of Community Affairs issued guidance for restaurants and similar establishments on the utilization of outdoor space during the winter months.  Establishments should be aware that a Uniform Construction Code (UCC) permit from the local construction office is required to maintain tents in use past November 30th. In the interest of good business, municipalities are encouraged to waive permit fees for tents to remain in use, provided the tents meet snow bearing and other requirements. A UCC permit is required for any electrical equipment, electrical wiring, or mechanical equipment that would otherwise require a permit. 

Despite COVID Surge, New Jersey Schools Remain Open: Today, Governor Phil Murphy said that he does not expect that all schools in the state will close again despite coronavirus cases continuing to surge in every region of the state.

However, Murphy did say that "the option has to stay on the table.”

Currently, all six New Jersey regions have now fallen into the orange zone on the state Department of Health’s color-coded COVID-19 Activity Level Index, meaning cases and percent positivity are “high” in all counties.

When announcing the color-coded system in August, DOH officials said that when regions are in the very high-risk (red) category, “it is recommended that they implement fully remote learning.”

Though COVID cases are spreading again, cases linked to in-school transmission remain lower than many feared — the state is reporting 66 school outbreaks and 269 cases caught by staff and students.

“What’s going on outside the building clearly impacts what may be going on inside the building. I worry more about transmission coming out from outside into the school setting,” Murphy said on Monday, adding that schools are “one of the safer settings.”

DEP Commissioner McCabe to Retire: Today, Governor Murphy announced that Catherine R. McCabe, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, will be retiring as of January 15, 2021.

Commissioner McCabe was appointed early in the Murphy Administration after a long career as an environmental lawyer with the federal government, including the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Justice. McCabe las served as the Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA’s Region 2 office and served as Acting Administrator of the EPA and Acting Regional Administrator of Region 2.