Retailers may see some the return of activity with curbside pickup of orders allowed starting Monday. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

[See UPDATE below]


HOT-TOPIC_03Citing continued gains in the fight against COVID-19, Governor Phil Murphy loosened his clampdown on retail business and construction Wednesday.

Separately, his administration reported 18 cases of a “serious” and possibly related illness in children and teens, a cohort that has been relatively spared in the two-month-old crisis.

red bank 96-98 west frontPreliminary demolition work on two buildings on West Front Street was halted with the onset of the health crisis in mid-March. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

• Murphy said he had issued an executive order to permit curbside commerce at non-essential retail businesses. Customers will not be permitted into stores, and must instead order goods in advance for pickup, he said.

“The data we have seen gives us the confidence that we can begin the careful and responsible restart of our economy, to begin to get people back to work and to set the stage for the steps to come,” Murphy said at his daily crisis briefing.

The change takes effect Monday, he said.

Asked by a reporter why he wouldn’t permit stores to allow in masked customers, on the condition that they maintain six-foot spacing, as supermarket and other retail businesses classified as essential have done, Murphy said the latest step was a “responsible,” interim measure.

“We’re still in a stay-at-home mode unless you have to go out,” he said. “We just don’t want people congregating. The numbers are allowing us to take incremental steps.”

• Murphy said he was lifting a ban on non-essential construction, provided that workers wear masks, maintain social-distancing protocols and take staggered breaks.

In addition, Murphy said drive-in movies and religious services were being allowed, as long as participants remain in their vehicles, parked six feet apart or with windows and roofs closed.

• For the first time, the state Health Department has 18 received reports over the past two days of minors being hospitalized with systemic inflammatory response syndrome, also referred to as Kawasaki disease, said health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Eleven reports were received Tuesday, and another seven Wednesday morning, she said. The patients range in age from 3 to 18 years old, and were in hospitals over a wide area of the state, including an unspecified location in Monmouth County.

Four have tested positive for COVID-19, and the others are under investigation, she said.

Persichilli called the outbreak “concerning.” No fatalities have been reported, she said.

As of Tuesday, the mysterious illness had killed at least three children in New York, according to reports.

Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Ed Lifshitz said the illness is a “rare, serious” one that should not be confused with another pediatric ailment with a similar name: Coxsackie virus, or hand, foot and mouth disease.

•  Murphy’s administration also reported 194 more COVID-19 deaths statewide, for a total 9,702.

Of those, 6 more were in Monmouth County, bringing the county’s total to 466, according to the health department database.

The county’s tally of deaths associated with longterm care facilities rose by 7, to 342, the state reported.

A separate update to state data showed another death at the Hackensack Meridian Health facility on Chapin Avenue in Red Bank, for a total of 11 since the pandemic began. Six new confirmed infections were also reported at the facility, for a total of 66.

Red Bank’s only other longterm care facility, the Atrium at Navesink Harbor on Riverside Avenue, showed no change in cases, for 9. As reported by redbankgreen Monday, four deaths previously associated with the site’s longterm care facility have been reclassified because they occurred in the independent living facility.

•  Here are the latest statewide COVID-19 figures, according to the state Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard:

Deaths since March 10: 9,702, up 194 from Tuesday’s report

Positive tests: 141,560, up 817

Patients in hospitals: 4,226, down 102

Patients in intensive/critical care: 1,226, down 80

Patients on ventilators: 928, down 54

Patients discharged in preceding 24 hours: 382, up 218

[UPDATE] •  Monmouth County reported 7,140 confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday, an increase of 72 from Tuesday. Here’s the cumulative case totals by town:

  • Aberdeen: 214
  • Allenhurst: 5
  • Allentown: 7
  • Asbury Park: 178
  • Atlantic Highlands: 27
  • Avon-by-the-Sea: 12
  • Belmar: 27
  • Bradley Beach: 41
  • Brielle: 26
  • Colts Neck: 73
  • Deal: 24
  • Eatontown: 242
  • Englishtown: 38
  • Fair Haven: 22, unchanged
  • Farmingdale: 13
  • Freehold Borough: 352
  • Freehold Township: 590
  • Hazlet: 257
  • Highlands: 25
  • Holmdel: 221
  • Howell: 578
  • Interlaken: 2
  • Keansburg: 153
  • Keyport: 82
  • Lake Como: 16
  • Little Silver: 34, up 1
  • Loch Arbour: 1
  • Long Branch: 419
  • Manalapan: 437
  • Manasquan: 30
  • Marlboro: 418
  • Matawan: 164
  • Middletown: 596
  • Millstone Township: 81
  • Monmouth Beach: 19
  • Neptune City: 51
  • Neptune Township: 423
  • Ocean: 261
  • Oceanport: 56
  • Red Bank: 173, up 9
  • Roosevelt: 6
  • Rumson: 31
  • Sea Bright: 9
  • Sea Girt: 13
  • Shrewsbury Borough: 48
  • Shrewsbury Township: 9
  • Spring Lake: 13
  • Spring Lake Heights: 17
  • Tinton Falls: 178
  • Union Beach: 39
  • Upper Freehold: 46
  • Wall: 283
  • West Long Branch: 58
  • Unknown: 2