More than twice as many people died last month in New Jersey than during the same month last year, the latest state health data shows.

The staggering statistic comes amid some promising news announced by Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday: COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to trend downward, with a drop of 1,000 hospitalizations over a week. Authorities have said that coronavirus hospitalizations in the state appear to have peaked on April 14 and 15.

New Jersey deaths — from any cause — topped 14,220 by April 30. Last April, New Jersey recorded 5,992 deaths.

Last month's death total was also significantly higher than March, when 7,616 people died in New Jersey. New Jersey first reported COVID-19 death was on March 10. Total deaths from any cause that month was also higher than the 6,695 people who died in March of last year

Health officials said it will take weeks for the cause of those deaths to be known. But most of them will likely be attributed to COVID-19, which on Saturday

the state reported 7,742 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. That amount doesn't account for about 2,000 other deaths in March and April that were in excess of the same months last year, which health officials say could partially be a result of a delay in declaring a death related to COVID-19 as authorities wait for test results from dead patients or people who have died at home.

Authorities also say that some people may have been avoiding going to the emergency room when they experience a heart attack or stroke because of virus fears. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Saturday that she recorded a public service announcement that will be shared on social media. The ad will try to reassure people that they should not be afraid of seeking treatment at hospitals.

On Friday, 5,713 people were in New Jersey hospitals receiving treatment for COVID-19, the serious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Hospitalizations have trended downward since April 15, when state hospitals were treating 8,200 patients.

The improving numbers indicate that the state's aggressive social distancing measures are working, Murphy has said.

via Gov. Phil Murphy on Twitter

Health officials have been saying for the past two months that it would take time to see whether social distancing was working because it can take up to a week for someone who has contracted the virus to exhibit symptoms and then it can take another week for the disease to become serious enough to require hospitalization.

On Saturday, the state reopened its parks for the first time in weeks. Murphy reminded people not to overcrowd parks, saying that he would close them again if he heard reports of visitors failing to practice social distancing.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.