By: Savannah Scarborough, Writer / Follow South Jersey News Reporting Intern
TRENTON, N.J. — On November 16, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy announced an executive order tightening COVID-19 restrictions and regulations to mitigate the virus and reduce cases and deaths in New Jersey.
Recent statistics and data from November 14th and 15th have shown 8,935 new cases in just two days and an additional 2,232 cases on November 17, leading to a cumulative of 281,493 total cases.
Effective November 17, 2020, indoor gatherings are now limited to a maximum of ten people, down from previously being 25. Additionally, outdoor gatherings can not exceed more than 150 people, down from 500, effective on November 23, 2020.
The only exceptions to this executive order are weddings, funerals, memorial services, religious services and celebrations, political events, judicial and legislative proceedings, and performances.
Gov. Phil Murphy initially disclosed these updated restrictions on Twitter. There were mixed responses to Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent tweets from New Jersey residents. Many locals are reassuring him of his decision and commending his efforts to take action, while others are non-compliant and threatening to disobey his orders.
Gov. Phil Murphy, accompanied by the commissioner of the department of health Judy Persichilli, further discussed the executive order and answered pressing questions from spectators on November 17 during a COVID-19 briefing.
“I hope people don’t use the religious services exception to misbehave or behave irresponsibly…this is out of great respect for the right and the passion to worship, and we hope people take that responsibly and we expect that they will,” Gov. Phil Murphy said when asked about residents possibly abusing the exception of religious services. He continued to warn the community by saying, “We shut the garage doors in March, and if we had to do it again, we will, where we see transmission, we are taking action against where we see it, and we will continue to do that.”
Persichilli and Gov. Phil Murphy urged all New Jersey residents to keep their Thanksgiving home gatherings to a limited number of people for many case surges have occurred at family gatherings in the recent past. Citizens are encouraged to begin self-quarantining if planning on visiting people other than their immediate family.
Gov. Phil Murphy believes that sporting events can continue to exceed more than ten people only when those individuals are necessary for the practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees. However, sporting events cannot have spectators.
“Indoor sports are an area of concern,” Gov. Phil Murphy sternly stated. “Very specifically, hockey is in our crosshairs…we are hearing more than anecdotal here or there a lot of non-compliance including from parents…watch yourselves, we have that high on the list,” he threatened.
In response to a question during the briefing and to ease New Jersey residents’ nerves, Gov. Phil Murphy claimed that statewide, the goal is to employ at least 30 contact tracers for every 1000 residents. Contact tracers are essential to mitigate the spread of the virus. Currently, there is a failure to cooperate with contact tracers from the citizens of New Jersey. In 60% of cases, residents do not answer phone calls, especially hockey players and their families.
Because Covid-19 testing lines in New Jersey are becoming longer and wait times are expanding, Gov. Phil Murphy reassured the public by announcing that New Jersey is getting more COVID-19 tests. New Jersey is one of five states in the U.S. receiving the Cue health test. The Cue heath test comes with 20 cartridges of tests and has a 19 minute turnaround time for results.
During a short period of this briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy took the time to honor the lives of those lost throughout the pandemic. This acknowledgment included Adam Russo, a 27-year-old who lived with spina bifida, Dr. Elliot Samet, a doctor who treated patients in a local hospital, and Coach Ponch Ruiz, who taught the little league baseball team, the Stallions, in New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Persichilli encouraged all New Jersey residents to download the COVID Alert NJ app. COVID Alert currently has 345,000 downloads and helps to fight the virus and track symptoms. You can find the free app by searching for it on your smartphone app store.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.