TRENTON, NJ -- Gov. Phil Murphy announced at his daily press conference on Wednesday that the state has 2,481 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing New Jersey's overall total to 116,264. Among those cases, we have lost an additional 329 New Jersey residents to the disease, which brings the state's total of loss of life to 6,770.

Ventilator use ticked up a touch to 1,327 currently in use, but that's also significantly lower than even one week ago, according to the governor. There were 426 new hospitalizations yesterday, and the trend line continues to point in the right direction, Gov. Murphy said. 

"Last night, our hospitals discharged 474 live patients. Again, 48 more than folks who came in," Gov. Murphy reported. 

Sign Up for Scotch Plains/Fanwood Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Unfortunately, the governor also announced the loss of an additional 329 more deaths due to the pandemic.

"We've now lost a total of 6,770 blessed souls from our New Jersey family to COVID-19 related complications," the governor said. "To put that in perspective, and let's just pause and think about this for a second. The number of 6,770 is more than New Jerseyans lost in World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, Superstorm Sandy and 9/11 combined."

"Our goal has been simple and clear, and that is to slow the spread and decrease the rate of infection in the absence of either a vaccine or proven therapeutic," Gov. Murphy said. "There's been some good vibrations around both of those over the past couple of days. I hope that all turns out to be true. The only tools we have are covering your face and social distancing."

The governor then announced at the press briefing that state parks and golf courses will be permitted to open beginning at sunrise on Saturday, May 2. He said reopening comes with a strong recommendation that everyone wear a face covering.

"I have not mandated this as part of the Executive Order. It is a strong recommendation that you cover your face," the governor said, adding that he reserves the right to mandate it.

"We'll be looking very, very closely this weekend in how people adhere to these, both social distancing guidelines as well as whether or not you're covering your face," he said. "But for passive recreation, including running, and hiking, biking, fishing, boating, kayaking, and horseback riding, come Saturday morning, our state parks will be open once again."

The governor said that many people, including friends, had reached out to him via text, phone calls and publicly over the past several weeks -- including protesters who urged this action.

"I don't know how to say this delicately, but with the exception of the mental health case that many of you have come my way, your interventions to me did not matter one little bit. With all due respect to all the pressure that's been out there, we couldn't frankly care," the governor said. "We make this call based on data, science, fact and again, the exception is also on mental health."

"Trust me, I did not order these closures on a whim. They were made only after detailed discussions with... our public health and public safety personnel," he added. "We've had to make hard choices, but these choices I know have saved lives. I am the one who bears the burden of making these decisions and there is no amount of incoming that I won't take to save the life of one child, one mother, one father, one grandparent, one neighbor."

The governor explained that he made this decision based on "facts and the data on the ground" as he did in developing the reopening plan that he detailed on Monday.

"We have seen a consistent reduction in some key metrics, including hospitalizations. I am hopeful that we are getting on the road back and with what appears to be a beautiful spring weekend before us, I am pleased to make this announcement today," Gov. Murphy said.

Positive COVID-19 Cases (by County):
Atlantic: 908 • Bergen: 15,446 • Burlington: 2,606 • Camden: 3,385 • Cape May: 305 • Cumberland: 687 • Essex: 13,445 • Gloucester: 1,208 • Hudson: 14,596 • Hunterdon: 583 • Mercer: 3,725 • Middlesex: 11,436 • Monmouth: 5,907 • Morris: 5,213 • Ocean: 6,253 • Passaic: 12,185 • Salem: 227 • Somerset: 3,372 • Sussex: 900 • Union: 12,380 • Warren: 880 • Under Investigation: 617

COVID-19 Deaths (by County):
Atlantic: 37 • Bergen: 1,057 • Burlington: 117 • Camden: 136 • Cape May: 21 • Cumberland: 10 • Essex: 1,139 • Gloucester: 40 • Hudson: 758 • Hunterdon: 23 • Mercer: 220 • Middlesex: 531 • Monmouth: 317 • Morris: 387 • Ocean: 367 • Passaic: 516 • Salem: 9 • Somerset: 252 • Sussex: 99 • Union: 653 • Warren: 81