After consistently asking New Jersey residents to adjust their Thanksgiving plans over the past month, Gov. Phil Murphy made one last request to families to begin their adjustments now for what is sure to be a hectic holiday season.
“This is a big week,” he said. “It’s almost an inflection point. It’s the front end of the holiday season that will last 5-6 weeks. It is the quintessential American holiday … We just have to find a way to both respect this extraordinary American holiday and celebrate responsibly.”
Of all the things Murphy and his administration have been touting to help with managing a COVID-19 holiday gathering, the governor says the best two lines of defense are keeping the number of people at the celebration under 10 and avoiding multigenerational gatherings.
Commissioner of the Department of Health Judy Persichilli joined Murphy in his pleas, and urged residents that it is up to them to keep the state safe.
“We need you to be vigilant during this upcoming holiday,” she said. “We cannot let our guard down. We must adhere to those public health measures. They’re the only tools we have in our tool kit. Masking, social distancing and testing.”
Persichilli ended her remarks with a sobering message for New Jerseyans that she delivered in an almost-broken voice that only a health commissioner who has been working in a global health pandemic would have.
“This has to stop,” she said. “You need to be more careful. You need to be safe. Not only for yourselves, but also for your loved ones. Please be careful this Thanksgiving.”
Other notes from Monday’s COVID-19 briefing:
New Jersey on Monday reported 3,592 additional positive COVID-19 cases. Since March, the statewide total is now at 309,588 cases. In hospitals around the state Sunday, 247 COVID-19 patients were discharged, while 333 were admitted.
There have now been 11 more deaths confirmed to be from COVID-related complications. The death total in the state is now 14,960, with an additional 1,812 probable deaths. On Sunday, there were 21 additional deaths reported in the state, but they are not yet lab-confirmed.
“We are now back in a place we haven’t seen in many months,” Murphy said on these increasing numbers. “However, unlike some across the country who seem content to just let the virus have its way, that’s not what we are about in New Jersey.”
Other hospital numbers:
- In hospital: 2,693;
- In ICU: 537;
- On ventilators: 240;
- Rate of transmission: 32;
- Positivity rate: 65% (from Nov. 19).
With news coming out Monday that AstraZeneca also has developed an effective vaccine boasting a 90% effectiveness, Murphy has vaccines on the mind. According to the governor, President Donald Trump’s administration’s reluctance to begin the transition process is harming potential distribution plans.
“The time for politics has passed. The time for coming together to save lives is now,” Murphy said. “Judy (Persichilli) and I sent a letter to Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration in Washington, imploring her to immediately sign the paperwork necessary for President-elect (Joe) Biden and his team to begin in earnest the transition process, which right now also includes sharing public health information vital to our national response.”
The GSA is the agency in charge of the presidential transition brief. Thus far, Commissioner Emily Murphy — no relation to the governor — has refused to sign a letter of “ascertainment,” as is required under federal law to start the transition process.
Last Friday, pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna announced their COVID-19 vaccines with a 95% and 90% effectiveness, respectively. Also last week, Pfizer applied to the Food & Drug Administration for authorization of emergency use for its vaccine. Moderna plans to follow suit.
Murphy continued to worry about delays in transition and how they can affect vaccination.
“Maintaining a supply chain that requires careful cold storage and mobilizing resources for distribution, including potentially our National Guard, is not something we can leave to chance or which can wait until Jan. 20,” he said. “This will be an enormous logistical undertaking, and any break or disruption in the supply chain will be paid for in lives. Make no mistake.”
Murphy on the future of indoor dining:
“It will be possible, but I don’t see it in the foreseeable future, it’s just hard to see it. If there are outbreaks at ‘restaurant X’, that is a very specific reality, and we haven’t had a whole lot of those. … When you open up indoor activities, you assume a certain amount of risk. I don’t see our changing posture on indoor dining on the increase side.”