Despite Knuckleheads, New Jersey's COVID Numbers Continue to Drop

TRENTON, NJ -- In the same press conference in which he reported at rate of transmission below 1 and the lowest numbers of hospital patients in ICU and on ventilators, and just four deaths, Gov. Phil Murphy chastised young bar-goers on the Jersey Shore at his COVID-19 press briefing on Monday.

"Folks, this is not a game," Murphy said. "Standing around maskless outside a bar is just as big a knucklehead move as standing around maskless inside one. The patrons and these bars need to get on the same page and quickly. Your responsibility to help stop the spread of coronavirus doesn’t go on pause when you’re standing in line."

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The governor said that he and others here are going to give everyone a chance to do the right thing, but if they have to shut places down to protect public health, they will.

"Consider this your warning before you go out drinking this weekend. And by the way, it isn’t just bars. We were on the phone earlier, folks, and there was a huge house party in Howell, which took eight agencies, including the state police, to break up," the clearly annoyed governor said. "Come on, man!"

"We are seeing documented news reports of numerous examples of bars that may have been trying to do the right thing once patrons got in, but whose lines were filled with people, again particularly young people, who were neither being kept socially distant or wearing masks," Murphy said.

The governor then listed several bars -- Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant, D’Jais’s and 10th Avenue Burrito in Belmar, and Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright -- with especially long lines of people who were not social distancing or wearing masks.

"By the time these patrons would’ve even gotten in, this virus could’ve already easily spread just through the line," Murphy said, as he showed a picture of lines outside a bar. "I don’t think there’s any masks in that picture, Judy."

By the Numbers

Murphy reported 545 patients in our hospitals (284 COVID-19-confirmed patients and 261 patients listed as "persons under investigation" pending the return of test results). Of those patients, 83 are in ICUs and 29 are on ventilators. Overall, the governor reported 258 new positive test results, bringing the state's cumulative since March 4th to 185,031.

"We’re at lows for ICU beds and ventilators we haven’t seen since early March," the governor said.

Further good news: The positivity rate now rests at 0.98.

"We are, thankfully, down below 1. That does not happen by accident. It’s policy, it’s enforcement, and most importantly, it’s responsible behavior by the overwhelming amount of New Jerseyans," Murphy said. "Again, when you’re below one, that means we are... beginning to slow the spread. This is because so many of you have re-doubled your efforts as it relates to social distancing, wearing your masks, and what we’ve done from a policy point, as well as enforcement to crack down on crowded, indoor gatherings."

Despite the positive signs, no one should think it means that coronavirus is no longer with us, Murphy said. 

Indoor Dining Still on Hold

The governor said he also wanted to illustrate one of the reasons why he has been so concerned about reopening restaurants for indoor dining. Although he said "I hope we get there sooner than later," the governor showed a video of coronavirus spread in January that occurred at a restaurant in southern China. (The case study was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases

One infected and contagious diner at a middle table was able to spread coronavirus to nine other diners at the tables to their left and right, including some seated as far as 14 feet away, according to the governor. The common thread, he said, was that all of these patrons were seated in a straight line from an air conditioner.

 

"Airflow is a constant concern. This is why we have been much more forthright in reopening outdoor activities, including outdoor dining, while limiting indoor ones and requiring masks to be worn at all times while indoors," Murphy said. "Allowing diners to sit maskless for an extended period of time in a restaurant where the air conditioning unit can silently spread coronavirus is a risk we cannot take."