It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and sound a lot like Thanksgiving.

The leadup to Turkey Day is the last time Gov. Phil Murphy called on Garden State residents to keep holidays gatherings at their homes small — even mandating a limit of 10 people at an indoor gathering by executive order, while conceding it would be difficult to enforce in private homes.

Now, Murphy is again calling on all Garden State residents to keep get-togethers small for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

During his Monday novel coronavirus update the governor reported another 3,186 positive cases with 29 more deaths, and a spot positivity rate holding somewhat steady at 10.78%.

He also said total coronavirus hospitalizations now stand at 3,607 with 727 patients in the ICU and 481 on ventilators. The rate of transmission — an estimate for how many people each infected person spreads the virus to — is now at 0.99%. An RT above 1 indicates the virus's prevalence is growing, and less than 1 indicates it's shrinking.

While the spot positivity, hospitalizations, ICU and ventilator numbers have been holding fairly steady for the past week, Murphy noted the RT has been trending downward for several days — putting it below the key 1.0 mark for the first time in many weeks, “but we are still recording some of our largest daily numbers, not just on this day but on an every day basis since the pandemic began.”

He said “one day of RT below 1 is notable, we’re happy for it, but it’s not worth any celebration.”

The governor said the metrics have been up and down recently, so what we really need to see is a multi-day decline, a sustained drop to signal the start of a truly positive trend.

Murphy stressed the next two weeks are critical in New Jersey’s war against COVID.

“This is not the year for Christmas as usual, or New Year's Eve as usual," Murphy said. "This is the year for small ball. Please, even though I know we all want to, do not hold a large indoor family Christmas gathering or indoor New Year's Eve party.”

He said “we cannot take the risk of both or one of those celebrations leading to a spike in new cases and hospitalizations.”

Murphy said in the last two weeks of November, New Jersey was averaging about 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day and “so far in the first three weeks in December we’re averaging nearly 4,800 daily case. That’s a 20% increase.”

Murphy said out the anecdotal evidence is the vast majority of New Jersey residents kept Thanksgiving gatherings smal but “the number of patients in our hospitals today is 25% higher than it was on Thanksgiving. Our ICU counts are up 30% since then.”

"We need to stay focused on keeping our families and friends healthy," he said. "This is the year for a small Christmas with those in our immediate family bubble. That means also ringing in the New Year with those in our own household."

He said he's hopeful good practices and the just-starting vaccine rollout will make bigger family celebrations possible in 2021.

He warned if you insist on having a big get-together this year, “you are taking a real risk that when next Christmas or New Year's comes around there will be fewer loved ones gathered around the tree or under the ball. Let’s see 2020 off in a way that sets us up for a strong 2021.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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