Even while acknowledging that ridership still is nowhere near where it was before COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy increased the capacity on New Jersey Transit trains and buses, eliminating the 50% limit.
Murphy acknowledged ridership is still down — especially on the train lines — but said he was making the change in anticipation of upcoming rush-hour scenarios needing to be able to handle more capacity.
Murphy said the state is lifting the limits currently enforced on NJ Transit and private-carrier buses, trains, light rail vehicles and Access Link vehicles, effective 8 p.m. Wednesday.
“As we have undertaken our restart and recovery, and as more New Jerseyans begin getting back to their jobs, we are seeing increases in ridership, which are quickly approaching 50% of the stated maximum capacity of these vehicles,” he said. “We want to ensure that people are able to get to their jobs and that the system continues operating as efficiently as possible.”
Murphy said the increased capacity should not be viewed as a decrease in concern about safety.
“To be sure, all other coronavirus mitigation efforts implemented by prior executive order — including the wearing of face coverings by both NJ Transit and private-carrier employees and customers while in all vehicles — remain in effect,” he said.
“And, through this order, face coverings are now also required in all NJ Transit and private-carrier indoor stations, as well as those outdoor stations where social distancing is not practicable.
“Do it for yourself and do it for your fellow riders, do it for the men and women who are making your trip possible. Make sure your mask covers both your mouth and nose — no chin guards. And, if a transit employee asks you mask up, they’re doing their jobs — please be respectful to them and your fellow passengers.”
Murphy did not give any specifics on how the state or NJ Transit will monitor the situation, but did ask anyone who is continually riding in a situation where they feel capacity is an issue to let NJ Transit or the state know.
Other items from Monday’s briefing:
Murphy said the state takes no joy in the fact that New Jersey is now consistently measuring lowering than just about every other state in the nation — a marked contrast from just a few months ago.
That being said, the numbers continue to be impressive. As of 10 p.m. Sunday, the state had fewer than 100 people on ventilators for the fourth consecutive day. In addition, the state’s rate of transmission is still below the 1.0 line. A look at the numbers:
- In hospitals: 892;
- In ICUs: 166;
- On ventilators: 81;
- Rate of transmission: 0.91;
- Positivity rate: 1.51 % (from July 9).
Murphy said the state was announcing 231 additional COVID-19 cases, raising its total to 175,522. And there were 22 more fatalities, pushing the state total to 13,613. That number does not include 1,947 probable fatalities.
Murphy signed an executive order on two issues concerning elections.
- All elections scheduled to be held before the Nov. 3 general election will now be held on Nov. 3.
“Given the public health challenges of in-person voting in a pandemic, and the cost and logistical challenges of all-mail-in voting, this is also a prudent and necessary step,” he said.
- The state is suspending the statutory requirement that municipal and county political parties hold their reorganizational meetings either Monday or Tuesday and allow for them to be held after the certification of last week’s primary election results.
“Given that some local elections have yet to be decided, this is a prudent, if necessary, step,” he said.
Murphy said residents should not feel the state has beaten COVID-19 in any way.
“What we are seeing across the nation, with other states setting and resetting records for the numbers of positive cases, is requiring us to stay vigilant here at home,” he said. “We cannot forget that it was only a few short months ago that we were being slammed full-force by new coronavirus cases.”
Murphy said testing is still necessary and urgent.
“Just because it is now some other states that are in the news, and not New Jersey, doesn’t mean that testing is any less important,” he said. “In fact, as we look to both protect our state against a resurgence of COVID-19 because of the national spike and continue moving forward on our road back, getting tested is perhaps even more important than ever.
“As we noted here Friday, testing is our best early-warning tool for knowing where coronavirus is lurking, so our Community Contact Tracing Corps can get to work to stop a flareup before it happens.”
The final word
Murphy on more openings:
I keep hearing the voices of those who look only at our hospital numbers to say we need to reopen everything right now. I would remind them that we just reported an additional 231 cases. We still rank in the Top 20 nationally in terms of the number of residents per capita in the hospital, and we are still in the Top 3 for the number of people who are dying.”