With the next steps in the state’s gradual reopening three days away, New Jersey on Friday announced 37 new deaths attributed to the coronavirus and 516 new positive tests, while hospitalizations fell again after ticking up slightly the day before.

The state has now reported 12,835 known fatalities and 168,496 known cases in the more than three months since the outbreak here began March 4.

New Jersey, a densely populated state of 9 million residents, has more deaths and cases than any American state but New York.

Still, with new cases spiking in numerous other states, Gov. Phil Murphy and other officials continue to point to how the Garden State’s overall trends of daily deaths, cases, and hospitalizations have dropped considerably since peaking in April.

A recent report from nonprofit Covid Act Now says New Jersey is one of three states on pace to contain COVID-19. New York and Michigan are the other two.

“The great work millions of you have done so far to crush the curves has been working, and we need to keep at it,” Murphy said Friday at his daily coronavirus briefing in Trenton.

The governor put the state under months of sweeping lockdown orders to reduce the virus‘ spread, though he has been gradually peeling back his restrictions in recent weeks. Some lawmakers, businesses, and residents have criticized Murphy for reopening too slowly as the state’s economy continues to suffer during the pandemic, with more than 1.2 million residents having filed for unemployment since mid-March.

Friday marks the 21st straight day New Jersey has reported fewer than 1,000 new cases and the 16th straight day with fewer than 2,000 coronavirus hospitalizations. The Garden State hit a one-day high in deaths, 468, on April 30 and a one-day high in new cases, 4,305, on April 3.

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state fell below 1,200 on Thursday, after peaking at more than 8,000 in mid-April.

Meanwhile, the state’s daily positivity rate — the number of COVID-19 tests that come back positive in a single day — was just under 2.5% on June 14, the most recent date with available data.

Officials also tout how the state’s retransmission rate remains below 1 and is currently 0.70 — meaning each infected person gives the virus to fewer than one person.

Friday’s numbers include one fewer new death in the Garden State but 74 more new cases than were reported Thursday.

Murphy said notable increases in new positive cases are likely “related to the fact we are testing the heck out of the state right now.”

There have now been nearly 1.2 million tests conducted in New Jersey since the outbreak started.

Officials say the most critical numbers for determining how the state is handling the pandemic is daily positivity rate, the rate of transmission, and the number of hospitalizations.

”They are immediate here and now,” Murphy said. “There’s no confusion about what the denominator is.”

Meanwhile, officials reported 22 new deaths attributed to COVID-19 at longterm care facilities, such as nursing and veteran homes, as well as 116 new cases. About 48% of the state’s lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths have been of residents or workers at those facilities.

Murphy said deaths and cases at those facilities are “both significantly down from peak levels, but in these facilities, any number is too high.”

The governor also cautioned that New Jersey still ranks second nationally in total new daily COVID-19 deaths and fourth in total hospitalizations per 1,00000 residents.

In addition, the state will see its overall death toll rise significantly next week, because of a new calculating method. Murphy announced Friday that New Jersey will soon start counting a number of past deaths that will now be attributed to the coronavirus after more investigation.

That comes after a report released last month that pointed to the state’s official death count potentially undercounting deaths in New Jersey during the coronavirus pandemic by nearly 25 percent, or more than 2,000.

Murphy said the state’s Communicable Disease Service has been analyzing thousands of death certificates to “identify those residents whose passing can, with a high degree of certainty, now be attributed to complications from COVID-19.”

”We do this with no sense of pride, but with a sense of duty and closure,” he added.

This all comes as a number of other states are becoming new coronavirus hotspots, some after reopening their economies. Murphy said officials are watching New Jersey’s numbers closely as Stage 2 the state’s incremental reopening plan continues Monday, when hair salons and other personal-care businesses are allowed to reopen, with restrictions.

Murphy called this a crucial step because these will be the first indoor, largely sedentary businesses to open their doors again. He called on customers and workers to wear face coverings and practice social distancing to help make sure the state doesn’t see a spike in cases.

“We’re going to have to be really careful on this one,” the governor said. “Everyone has to approach this with a sense of responsibility.”

HOSPITAL TRENDS

Officials said there were 1,177 coronavirus patients reported across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of 10 p.m. Thursday, the latest available data. That’s down 81 patients from Thursday after a slight increase Wednesday.

There were 286 patients in critical or intensive care, while 231 were on ventilators — about 7% of the state’s ventilator capacity, according to the state’s tracking website.

Officials reported 61 new coronavirus patients admitted to hospitals in the state Thursday, while 108 patients were discharged.

“These are all very good signs that our hospitals past the worst yet remains fully capable of caring for those who are still coming through their doors,” Murphy said.

Coronavirus hospitalizations

New Jersey’s coronavirus hospitalizations over time.

LONGTERM CARE NUMBERS

There have now been at least 35,600 coronavirus cases across 555 of the state’s longterm care facilities, according to the tracking website. That includes 23,656 residents and 11,944 staff members.

Total cases include at least 6,117 lab-confirmed deaths at those facilities.

The number increases to 6,493 deaths when you include fatalities suspected to have been related to COVID-19. Of those, 6,377 were residents and 116 were staff members.

Meanwhile, the state’s longterm care facilities will be allowed to accept visitors for the first time in three months, but only in outdoor settings and with restrictions, starting Sunday — which is Father’s Day.

NUMBERS BY COUNTY

The county-by-county number of cases and deaths includes:

  • Bergen County: 18,967 with 1,691 deaths
  • Hudson County: 18,761 with 1,261 deaths
  • Essex County: 18,533 with 1,758 deaths
  • Passaic County: 16,725 with 1,013 deaths
  • Middlesex County: 16,563 with 1,097 deaths
  • Union County: 16,391 with 1,131 deaths
  • Ocean County: 9,382 with 842 deaths
  • Monmouth County: 8,876 with 694 deaths
  • Mercer County: 7,463 with 525 deaths
  • Camden County: 7,088 with 415 deaths
  • Morris County: 6,679 with 639 deaths
  • Burlington County: 4,981 with 370 deaths
  • Somerset County: 4,796 with 438 deaths
  • Cumberland County: 2,767 with 119 deaths
  • Atlantic County: 2,619 with 188 deaths
  • Gloucester County: 2,451 with 169 deaths
  • Warren County: 1,209 with 141 deaths
  • Sussex County: 1,176 with 151 deaths
  • Hunterdon County: 1,050 with 67 deaths
  • Salem County: 745 with 64 deaths
  • Cape May County: 681 with 62 deaths

Another 693 cases remain under investigation to determine where the person resides.

A new analysis from NJ Advance found the virus is spreading the fastest in the South Jersey counties of Cumberland, Salem, and Atlantic.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Live map tracker | Newsletter | Homepage

The total number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey is cumulative and does not reflect the likely thousands of residents who have recovered. There may also be infected residents who have yet to be tested, though the state has more than doubled the daily tests being administered in recent weeks.

Officials also say increases in new deaths and positive tests may produce total figures that don’t match the previous day’s numbers because the state is constantly investigating and re-evaluating cases.

New Jersey began Stage 2 of its reopening Monday, when eateries were allowed to offer outdoor dining and nonessential businesses were allowed to welcome customers back inside, at half capacity.

In addition to personal-care businesses, pools and outdoor, non-contact organized sports can resume Monday. Murphy stressed that personal-care businesses will mark the first opening of indoor, largely sedentary businesses.

Both youth day camps and in-person summer school can operate beginning July 6. And indoor shopping malls can reopen June 29. All will have restrictions.

Murphy said Stage 3 — which includes indoor dining, bars reopening, and limited entertainment — could come within weeks, not months, if the state’s outbreak continues to slow.

The governor has not outlined specific benchmarks the state has reached as he gradually lifts his lockdown restrictions. Instead, he has pointed to an overall drop in the state’s daily metrics, as well as a steady decrease in the virus’ rate of retransmission.

Murphy has also noted that New Jersey has ramped up testing and is expanding contact tracers, which will allow officials to more easily track and snuff out any coronavirus spikes.

As of Friday morning, more than 8.5 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 across the world, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. Of those, more than 454,500 have died, while more than 4 million have recovered. There have been more than 118,400 deaths in the United States.

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Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com.

Rodrigo Torrejon may be reached at rtorrejon@njadvancemedia.com.



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