New Jersey virus cases surge as new restrictions loom
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged by almost 4,000 new cases, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday, the highest increase in nearly seven months.
The increase is the latest trend showing the virus’ resurgence.
The average increase over the first seven days of this month reached roughly 2,135, up from about 590 cases a day in early October. The average caseload increase for the first week of September was nearly 340 cases, according to state Health Department figures.
There were 21 more deaths in the state, pushing the overall death toll to 14,661.
``These numbers are devastating. We are still in the midst of a pandemic. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe,’’ Murphy said in a tweet.
The daily caseload hasn’t reached nearly 4,000 overnight since April at the height of the outbreak, though testing has increased since then.
Murphy halts indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said bars and restaurants must halt indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Thursday in an attempt to control a resurgence of the coronavirus.
“We need to change our mindset, we have to shake off the pandemic fatigue that we all feel,`` Murphy said during a news conference in Trenton.
Takeout and outdoor dining may continue past 10 p.m., Murphy, a Democrat, said. Another change allows restaurants to seat tables closer than 6 feet (2 meters) apart if they erect a barrier. He also said that all indoor interstate athletic events will be prohibited.
``This is not forever and always. We basically have a six-month window to beat the virus into the ground,`` he said.
It comes as the coronavirus rate of infection and number of cases climbs higher in New Jersey and across the country.
Over the past seven days, an average of about 2,000 people per day have been infected by the virus, up from a rate of about 370 per day in August.
Republicans rejected the governor’s new order. GOP state Sen. Joe Pennacchio called it unjustified.
``This is just another random edict from a governor who continues to fight the pandemic without the benefit of logic or science,’’ he said in an emailed statement. ``Is the governor suggesting diners are more susceptible to the virus later in the night?``
Murphy said Monday that Health Department officials say indoor settings make it easier for the virus to spread compared with outdoors.
Marilou Halvorsen, president and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, characterized the new guidelines as the latest example of restaurants being unfairly targeted while restrictions at other businesses, such as big-box stores, are less draconian.
Had she been consulted, she said, she would have urged a more targeted approach than penalizing the whole industry.
``I appreciate the fact that the governor and the health commissioner are concerned about the spike,’’ Halvorsen said. ``But we’re the ones that get the black mark. To do something just to do it, doesn’t make sense.’’
The Casino Association of New Jersey issued a statement reiterating the Atlantic City casinos’ commitment to precautions designed to prevent the spread of the virus. It also emphasized that the casinos themselves will remain open as usual, and that gambling operations are not affected by the governor’s order.
Murphy has long promised to return to closures if the virus caseload spiked again.
Murphy has said the state is entering a ``second wave’’ of the outbreak, which has led to death toll of 14,629 people since the pandemic began.
During the hours they are allowed to be open, bars and restaurants will still be subject to indoor dining restrictions limiting capacity to 25%, a restriction that many businesses and Murphy’s political rivals say hurts their bottom line.
NJ.com was the first to report that Murphy would be imposing new restrictions on indoor dining.
Man faces voter fraud charges in mail-in ballot submission
A New Jersey man accused of forging a signature on a ballot is facing voter fraud charges, authorities said.
Brian Shilling, 53, of Stockton is accused of falsely completing a ballot, forging someone else’s signature certifying the ballot and sending it in to the county board of elections ``purporting that it was cast by another,’’ Hunterdon County prosecutors and police said Saturday.
Shilling is charged with fraud in casting a mail-in vote, tampering with public record, unsworn falsification to authorities, falsifying records and disorderly persons offense, offering a false statement for filing, authorities said.
It’s unclear whether Shilling has an attorney; a message seeking comment was left for him Sunday.
Gas prices continue to decline in NJ
Gas prices continue to decline in New Jersey and around the country due to decreased demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
AAA Mid-Atlantic says the average price of a gallon of regular gas in New Jersey on Friday was $2.18, down three cents from last week. Drivers were paying an average of $2.59 a gallon a year ago at this time.
The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.11, also down three cents from the previous week. Drivers were paying an average of $2.62 a gallon a year ago at this time.
Analysts say the national gas price average hasn’t been this low to start November since 2004, and if crude oil prices continue to decline, the national average price could drop below $2 a gallon before the end of the year.
- The Associated Press