TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that parents and guardians of residents at pediatric long-term care facilities can now begin indoor visitations under specific conditions.

Murphy, a Democrat, said facilities with zero new positive COVID-19 cases over a 28-day period can begin allowing indoor meetings by appointment only.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said officials realize it's been difficult for parents and loved ones to be away from their children for more than three months.

“Reuniting families ... is a critical step for the mental, physical, social and emotional well-being of these children, but we need to be vigilant,” she said.

Visitors must be screened for symptoms and exposure to the virus and a designated area in the facility must be designed, she said. Anyone with symptoms won't be allowed to visit, she added.

Murphy also reported on Wednesday that there were about 400 new positive coronavirus cases, putting the total at more than 176,000. The death toll climbed by 27 to 13,660 confirmed fatalities. There remain 1,947 suspected COVID-19 deaths.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

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