Houses of worship can now have 50% capacity

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that houses of worship and religious services may now operate at 50% capacity with no cap — as long as social distancing and mask wearing are required.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have strived to accommodate our communities of faith to the greatest extent possible,” he said. “We know that, for many of our residents, the ability to worship together plays a central role in well-being and mental health. As our numbers continue to decline, we believe we can safely take this step.”

Other notes from Monday’s COVID-19 briefing:

Vaccination update

Vaccination doses continue to rise in New Jersey, as the governor announced that 1,676,496 doses have been placed in the arms of residents as of Monday morning. Murphy also provided an update on the status of the vaccine delivery that was delayed due to inclement weather.

“Many of last week’s backlogged deliveries from both Pfizer and Moderna are scheduled to arrive today (Monday),” he said. “We are also expecting this week’s supply from Moderna for about half of our sites to arrive today as well.”

In total, there have been approximately 1.14 million first doses of the vaccine administered and 509,000 second doses. Despite this increase in doses, many residents have said that the vaccine hotline has told them the vaccine scheduling system is currently down and has been down since Feb. 9.

Commissioner of the Department of Health Judy Persichilli hopes that this system will be back up soon.

“I don’t have a hard date on when they’ll start scheduling,” she said. “I hope that by the end of the week. We’re stilling having some system issues, but they are being worked out. There was a new release at the end of last week that went fairly well, so that bodes well for the call center.”

Health metrics

More and more COVID tests continue to come back positive throughout the state, as 2,165 new cases from PCR testing and 682 new cases from antigen testing have now been confirmed. This puts the statewide cumulative total at 684,902 cases via PCR testing, and 84,207 via antigen testing.

Murphy said 186 COVID patients were discharged by hospitals across the state Sunday, while 198 others were newly admitted. There were also 31 in-hospital deaths Sunday, but they are still awaiting lab confirmation.

In terms of confirmed deaths, New Jersey is reporting 17 new deaths Monday that have been confirmed. A total of 20,585 residents have now lost their lives to COVID-related complications since March, with an additional 2,289 probable deaths.

Other hospital numbers:

  • In hospital: 2,023 (1,888 confirmed, 135 awaiting confirmation);
  • In ICU: 438;
  • On ventilators: 289;
  • Rate of transmission: 86;
  • Positivity rate: 36% (from Feb. 18).

Final word

Murphy on the passing of Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Cresskill):

“I know hearts are heavy today in the Senate. For more than half a century, he served Bergen County on the Demarest board of education, then as their mayor, then in the assembly, and then since 1982 in the Senate. All-in-all, he was the second-longest-serving state legislator in our long history and authored a number of landmark laws, including Megan’s Law and historic casino reform legislation.

“Gerry was 86 years old — a giant in not just our state’s Legislature, but our state’s history.”