On difficulty of outdoor dining, starting visits to long-term care facilities and spending CARES Act money

Gov. Phil Murphy said he has had two outdoor meals since the ban was lifted Monday — and that he hopes to have two more this weekend, weather permitting.

Murphy acknowledged weather — which is supposed to be questionable all weekend — makes it tough for outdoor eating.

“Weather is going to be an issue,” he said. “We are, at least for some amount of time here, beholden to Mother Nature.”

He said it’s not a permanent problem — but gave no specifics on when the ban on indoor dining may be lifted.

“This isn’t a life sentence,” he said. “We are hoping — I don’t know when yet — we are hoping under certain parameters to have indoor dinner. I would hope sometime sooner rather than later. And when we have that, then you’ve got at least the beginning of getting back to some balance and you’re not as beholden to Mother Nature or extra resources.”

Murphy said he also hopes to give guidance — perhaps as early as next week — for banquet and catering halls and other facilities that hold events such as weddings.

Visits to long-term care facilities

Beginning Sunday, Father’s Day, a number of long-term care facilities will be allowed to accept visitors on a limited and well-defined manner, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced Wednesday.

The meetings must take place in designated outdoor spaces and include only two visitors — as well as a member of the staff at the facility. COVID-19 patients — as well as those quarantined or suspected of potentially having COVID-19 — will not be allowed to participate. And, obviously, anyone showing symptoms cannot visit.

Persichilli said the state will release more guidance Friday and that facilities must present a plan — and get approval from the state at least 24 hours in advance. This will create an incredible time squeeze for facilities to be ready by Father’s Day.

The facilities this involves include:

  • Nursing homes;
  • Assisted living residences;
  • Dementia care homes;
  • Pediatric transitional care homes;
  • Comprehensive personal care homes.

CARES Act money

Murphy, responding to a letter from Republicans requesting the state release more CARES Act funding, said any hesitation is “overwhelmingly likely” related to the state seeking proper guidance from the federal side on how to disperse money.

Matt Platkin, his chief counsel, said the administration had presented the Legislature with a plan for the Cares Act spending and was awaiting its feedback.

The numbers

Murphy announced Friday there were 37 additional fatalities, raising state total to 12,835. That number may soon be jumping.

Murphy said that number may rise appreciably next week, as the state adds more fatalities of people who had COVID symptoms but were never actually tested.

Meanwhile, Murphy and Persichilli always warn to not read too much into one-day drops in reporting numbers, as there are a number of factors that go into them. However, the totals announced Friday (based on Thursday night numbers) represent significant 24-hour drops:

  • In hospital: From 1,268 to 1,177;
  • In ICU: 319 to 286;
  • On ventilators: 257 to 231.

This being said, the state still ranks fifth in the nation in total number of hospitalizations.

Final word

Gov. Phil Murphy, wearing a facemask at his briefing.

Murphy on facemasks, which he said he is not seeing enough of in public:

If anything, I think we’re going to get more belligerent about face coverings, as opposed to less.”

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