WESTFIELD, NJ — The number of coronavirus cases confirmed in the town continues to rise as authorities brace for major stresses on the healthcare system while telling people to avoid physical contact with others as a means to mitigate the virus’ spread.

On Friday evening, Mayor Shelley Brindle announced three new coronavirus cases confirmed in the town: all men ages 60, 45 and 19, bringing the total number of people known to have the condition locally to 10. In Union County that figure stood at 43 and across New Jersey the number of cases rose to 890, up from 742 the day before, state figures show.

With a live streamed “Porch Performance” by Westfield’s John Rzeznik, of the Goo Goo Dolls, earlier in the day to kick off a fundraiser for the Westfield United Fund, some spirits were lifted after a week of cancelations, anxiety and transition.

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“Hearing today’s performance and knowing it brought a much-needed mental break to the community was a very good way to wrap up what has been an extremely challenging week for everyone,” Brindle wrote in the latest of what have become regular nightly updates. “I am so grateful for all of your messages of support, resilience and concern for one another.”

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The mental break in Westfield came on the same day state Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli at a press briefing announced two more COVID-19 deaths: a man in his 30s from nearby Essex County and a man in his 50s from Bergen County. It brought the number of deaths statewide to 11 people nearly all of whom had preexisting medical conditions, Persichelli sad.

Still, confirmed COVID-19 cases are anticipated to rise as more testing is rolled out, she said.

“We expect increases in cases,” Persichilli said. “We expect a surge in cases that will stress the healthcare system seriously.”

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The state’s top health official reiterated the message that handwashing and physical distancing measures are essential to stem the virus’ spread. While younger people may not be ill, she said, they can still carry the virus and spread it.

“It’s vital that our younger individuals take this illness seriously,” Persichilli said. “You may not feel sick but it’s possible you could transmit COVID-19 to someone who is more vulnerable.”

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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