NEW JERSEY — The governor on Friday advised the public to continue to stay home and be careful about drive-by parades being held across the state as a means for people to connect during a time of social distancing.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the gatherings can be emotional, particularly when held during funeral services as was the case when the City of Passaic memorialized firefighter Israel Tolentino, who died from COVID-19 complications.

“I don’t believe there’s one fast, quick answer on that, but I do think we’ve got to be very careful,” Murphy said when asked during his daily press briefing. “I think we’ve got to stay at home.”

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The parades have also included those for some schools, which have held them as a way to connect students and staff physically separated during distance learning. As reported by TAPinto, elementary schools in Westfield, Nutley and Princeton are among those to have held the parades — even amid Murphy’s statewide stay-at-home order.

A particularly elaborate caravan held by an elementary school in Westfield drew criticism from both local residents and the town’s mayor, Shelley Brindle, who also warned against celebratory birthday drive-bys for now distant friends and neighbors. The concern, she said, is that people could gather on the streets to look on.

Achieving social distancing during such parades can be easier in less densely populated areas, Suzanne Willard, an associate dean of global health at Rutgers University School of Nursing, said in a recent interview with TAPinto.net.

“If everyone got the message to just be outside their homes, this is something you could do in an upscale neighborhood like [Westfield],” Willard said. “You could not do this in Newark, and that’s one of the challenges we’re seeing with this illness is the disparities.”

Across New Jersey, state officials reported Friday morning that 233 more people with COVID-19 had died bringing the death toll to 1,932 people. The state reported 3,627 more people tested positive for COVID-19 with the total number of cases at 54,588 people.

With worries mounting about hospitals’ capacity, Murphy reported that as of 10 p.m. Thursday, 682 residents admitted to due to COVID-19 had been discharged. The state’s figures also showed 7,570 people hospitalized across New Jersey with 911 of them in critical care.

“You are starting to see some glimmers of hope,” Murphy said. “Look at the people who were discharged yesterday.”

Murphy, who could be seen taking off and putting on a cloth face covering before and after speaking to the public, continued state and local officials’ drumbeat of warnings to continue social distancing.

“Please don’t wake up Monday morning and behave differently,” Murphy said. “We’ll tell you when you can behave differently.”

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