LIVINGSTON, NJ — Due to what the Township of Livingston described as “significant public concern” arising about local COVID-19 case counts recently reported on various outlets, the township explained the reasoning behind the discrepancies and clarified the sources of reported cases.

Although county reports indicate an increase of 20 new cases in Livingston between Aug. 1 and Aug. 24, the Livingston Health Department confirmed that there have been 539 total cases of COVID-19 reported in Livingston as of Monday morning and only seven new cases reported this month.

When the county report issued on Aug. 21 showed an increase of 15 new cases in 24 hours, jumping suddenly from 526 to 541, the township said the data “understandably” raised significant concern among residents.

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In order to assuage those concerns, the township explained that Essex County reports its daily case numbers based on the statewide database, which is “not an ‘up-to-the-minute’ report of diagnosed cases in real time, particularly with respect to the residency of each case.”

“Cases are often reported—or misreported—based on place of employment, where the test was administered, place of temporary confinement for treatment, or other location outside of the affected individual’s municipality of residence,” the township said in a public statement on Monday. “In addition, cases are often entered into the database after the actual date of the confirmed test. With subsequent research, follow-up, and additional information, the database is then revised on an ongoing basis, including cases being added or subtracted from days (or even weeks) prior.

“In some instances, deductions make it appear as though Livingston ‘lost’ cases. These corrections result in day-to-day fluctuations in the case counts that are not representative of actual new cases in that 24-hour period.”

The Livingston Health Department receives notification of positive test results for Livingston residents and assumes responsibility for follow-up, contact tracing, etc. for those cases.

According to the township, that local database “more accurately reflects the actual change in cases during any 24 hours or other period of time.”

In light of the confusion and concern arising out of the fluctuating county/state database reports, the township plans to begin reporting on actual confirmed Livingston cases in real time.

Statewide on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy reported what he described as several "unquestionably good" coronavirus figures, including a rate of transmission (Rt) of .85, which is below the key metric of 1.0 for the third consecutive day; a daily positivity rate below 2 percent for a fourth consecutive day at 1.33 percent; and only three deaths attributed to COVID-19 across the state.

Nonetheless, the governor said, the ban on businesses opening indoors will remain in place. 

“The numbers have been as good as they’ve been since the beginning,” said Murphy. “We keep sustaining this, we’re going to get to a lot of the questions that you’re asking about—whether it’s indoor dining, gyms, indoor amusements… I hope sooner than later we'll have some news on getting to some of the indoor stuff, [but] I’m not going to marry myself to a date yet.”

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli added that she does not think there is “a single metric that is going to tell [the state] when it's going to be safe” to begin reopening indoor activities.

“More generally, I think all of us have been watching what is happening—not just in the rest of the country, but in the rest of the world,” she said “An example would be New Zealand, which went 100 days without a single case and are now having to revisit some of their restrictions because I believe […] people [began going] across the border into New Zealand. So I think all of this is just a reminder to us that the virus is still here. It has not gone away.”

The state health department announced 225 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday for a total of 187,719 total since March 4.

According to the department, all three of the new deaths took place in August. Nine other deaths believed to be linked to COVID-19 took place across Garden State hospitals on Sunday, but those have yet to be lab-confirmed. These statistics bring the total to 14,120 confirmed coronavirus deaths and another 1,829 considered “probable.”

There were also 446 people hospitalized with the virus on Monday, including 55 in intensive care and 27 requiring ventilators, according to the governor.

With New Jersey’s coronavirus figures in a good place, one reporter asked state health officials what would need to improve at this point in order to prompt the governor to further lift indoor restrictions. 

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