Trenton, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy on Monday pleaded with New Jersey’s youth and their parents to protect public health by not holding secret indoor parties and other large indoor gatherings.

“We have many examples of people congregating indoors without face coverings, without social distancing and in close proximity.  There is no good that will come from this,” Murphy said, noting there are numerous examples of this activity around the state that have led to outbreaks of the virus, particularly among younger residents.

“Please, I’m asking parents and asking the kids themselves.  Be responsible in your own home,” he said. “It’s okay to gather, but gather outside and gather responsibly.”

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Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli acknowledged recent gatherings at homes in Middletown, the governor’s hometown, and on Long Beach Island at which young residents, teenagers and older, were the source of worrisome outbreaks at a moment when infection rates around the state have steadily decreased since their peak in April and remained low for several consecutive weeks.

Murphy and State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan also reported on a large house party in Jackson on Sunday night at which approximately 700 people attended and took law enforcement five hours to clear. Neighbors reported that party-goers spilled out of the house and into the streets.

In noting these rising gatherings among young people, Persichilli said that while generally younger individuals do not experience severe symptoms if they contract the virus, she admonished them “to take the disease seriously” because they can then spread the disease to more vulnerable populations.

Murphy said state officials are generally pleased with the success of outdoor dining and drinking rules that are a big step in returning the state to a sense of normalcy. In June, the governor suddenly pulled the plug on impending indoor dining relaxations, leading state officials to speculate that these activities are moving “underground.”

Murphy reported 446 new positive test cases brining the state’s total to 179,812. The governor explained recent positive test case numbers have risen which officials believe is due to testing labs catching up after experiencing a delay in reporting over the last two weeks.

The state’s positivity rate, which is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus against all who have been tested, is low at 1.72 percent.  The rate of transmission ticked up to 1.09.  Any measure above 1 shows that each infected person is transmitting the disease to one or more people.  The rate of transmission was below 1 for the last several days.

The number of individuals hospitalized in the state is 695 and continues to trend downward. There were 17 new reported fatalities bringing the state’s total to 13,884 lab-confirmed deaths and 1,920 deaths most probably caused by the virus.

This article was made possible by a grant from Googles Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.