TRENTON, NJ - The resumption of contact sports practices and new state guidance for all-remote learning were announced by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy during his COVID-19 briefing Monday.

Murphy said he signed an executive order today allowing for sports practices that require contact drills and competitions for "high risk" sports at outdoor venues only. Last month the governor announced he would permit such activities as long as he believed it was supported by health data. High risk sports include football, rugby, boxing, martial arts, wrestling, and cheerleading among others for which the state Department of Health has released guidelines, the governor said.

"All sports will have to abide by a number of health and safety protocols including screenings for athletes, coaches and staff," Murphy said, noting teams and groups would have to limit equipment sharing and sanitization and ensure proper disinfection practices.

Sign Up for New Brunswick Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Sports teams and clubs under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association must abide by those associations' rules, Murphy added.

"We feel confident in an outdoor setting and with the proper public health and safety protocols in place and being followed these sports, as we predicted, may resume," the governor said. 

Murphy also announced that his administration would soon be releasing detailed guidance for parents who want their school-aged children to participate in all-remote learning when the new school year commences in September. He did not share any other information, only to note that the state Department of Education would be releasing its plan later this week. 

The Murphy administration has previously announced that individual school districts would be developing their own plans for re-opening doors to students in the fall.  Those plans can include continuation of remote learning, but also had to include some provision for in-school instruction as well. Parents have the option of keeping their children at home. 

"There are a lot of moving parts to this. We want to get it right, and we want to do it responsibly," Murphy said.

Overnight health data showed numbers trending in a hopeful direction, with 177 new positive cases reported bringing the state's overall total of COVID-19 cases to 176,963. Murphy noted at the outset of his report that data could be skewed low because one testing lab was having difficulty transmitting its data to the state.

The statewide positivity rate is 2.8%, down from 3.5% on Sunday, the governor said. Positivity rate is a measure of how many people are being infected by the disease by looking at the number of people who test positive against the total number of people who are tested. 

Murphy also reported that the rate of transmission once again fell below 1 to 0.90. The rate of transmission measures how many people are being infected by a single infected person. If the number is below 1, it means the disease is slowing.  The rate of transmission had been hovering at just above 1 for most of last week.

The governor reported 798 patients in hospitals being treated for the disease with 146 of those in critical care or intensive care units, and 72 patients on ventilators.  Murphy said over the weekend that it was the first time the state reported fewer than 800 patients being treated for the disease in more than three months.

Nine new fatalities were reported, bringing the statewide total to 15,715 fatalities, which includes 13,741 laboratory-confirmed fatalities and 1,974 fatalities that were probably caused by the disease.