Will NJ end indoor dining? — NJ Top News 12/8
For New Jersey businesses and residents concerned about more lockdown restrictions as the number of positive COVID-19 tests surge, there was reason to be hopeful this week.
Gov. Phil Murphy admitted during his briefing on Monday that things are not as dire as they seem. New Jersey health officials reported more than 3,000 new positive tests Monday. On Sunday, the state reported a single day record of more than 6,000 positive cases. However, the governor noted our testing capacity is 5 to 6 times greater than it was in April. In other words, more testing means more positive tests.
A more important number is New Jersey's "rate of transmission," which is 1.05. It signals the virus is not rapidly spreading to multiple people from one infected host. Murphy also pointed to hospitalizations, which remain low compared to the spring. At the peak of the first wave, more than 8,000 were hospitalized. As of Monday, 3,346 were hospitalized in New Jersey and hundreds continue to be discharged daily.
The vast majority of those infected with this coronavirus do recover. The CDC says the survival rate for those under age 69 is as high as 99%. For those 70 or older, it is as high as 94%. However, the survival rate drops dramatically for those of any age with underlying health problems. Of those that do survive, there can also be long-term side effects and permanent damage to organ systems.
On Monday, New Jersey reported another 17 deaths related to COVID-19, for a total of 15,500 since the pandemic began. The state-run veterans home in Menlo Park also reported its first death in the last 180 days. That location has had among the highest death rate of any nursing home in the nation. Gov. Murphy warned COVID is "as deadly as ever," and urged New Jersey residents to remain vigilant. "Don't let your hair down," Murphy said, "Don't be the last person to die in the war." He then noted widespread distribution of a vaccine is "just a few months away."
The good news for businesses is that Murphy seems to be backing off enacting additional restrictions. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned he would end indoor dining in New York City if hospitalizations do not stabilize. Murphy said that idea "is not on the table" in New Jersey at this time. Indoor dining remains capped at 25% and outdoor dining is still allowed, where viable.
While the governor officially says he has not ruled anything out, he has not signaled he is readying new restrictions. He is, however, continuing to publicly call out businesses and individuals who flaunt his existing executive orders. That includes two speakeasies that were shut down in Paterson last weekend.
"When you act like a knucklehead, you show your true self," Murphy scolded. "You show you don't care about your community. You prove you only care about yourself."
Even without new restrictions, the big question is if businesses can survive this second wave and make it to spring. Congress seems to be close to a deal on rescue legislation that would give a large number of businesses a lifeline until then. With widespread vaccinations, it is hoped things could return to some semblance of normalcy by next summer, but many variables remain.
Britain gave the first inoculations with the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday. The FDA could give emergency approval for use in the United States by the end of this week. Murphy has said the goal is 70% of the adult population to receive a vaccine but many state residents are wary and that number may not be attainable in the short term.
Nowhere is New Jersey's skepticism more evident than in cooperation with contact tracers. Murphy says non-cooperation "is now up to a whopping 74%." Murphy called that "shocking and unacceptable." The reluctance to share information with contact tracers may stem from a belief that they are tattling on their friends, neighbors or even their children.
Murphy says that is simply not true and pleaded for cooperation.
"Our contact tracers are not on a witch hunt. The only thing they're trying to do is help to stop the virus but some folks apparently believe we're trying to uncover something we're not trying to uncover," he said.
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