Murphy said the rolling three-day average of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline. (New Jersey Department of Health graphic. Click to enlarge.)


HOT-TOPIC_03Governor Phil Murphy signaled loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on sporting events and indoor religious services Wednesday.

Separately, Monmouth County reported the number of county residents with confirmed cases of the illness has now surpassed 8,000.

In response to a a reporter’s question about whether and when horse racing fans could attend Monmouth Park this summer, Murphy said it was “too early to tell.” The Oceanport facility is tentatively scheduled to begin its summer meet July 3.

“I hope we can have horse racing without fans sooner rather than later,” he said, “and then we’re going to assess the question of fans, not just for racing” but other sports “not a lot further down the road.”

Murphy said that as of May 23, the seven-day average “spot positivity,” or indication that a person has the virus at the time of the test, was down to just 7 percent.

“That gives you a lot of confidence” in reopening decisions, he said. “That’s hugely valuable.”

Yet he noted that 241 New Jerseyans were admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, a sign that the pandemic remains a health threat.

He also said he would issue “guidance, I hope sooner than later,” on indoor religious services attended by more than 25 people.

With continued gains in the effort to tame the spread of the virus, Murphy said growth in the number of tests administered was key to further relaxation of his March 21 stay-home order.

He touted his administration’s expansion of testing, saying it had met its pledge to enable 20,000 state residents per day to get tested by the end of May.

After a dip below that that threshold Monday, which was Memorial Day, 24,400 tests were performed Tuesday, he said.

“The most important containment activity that we have is isolation and quarantine, said state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “But in order to do that, you need to test people, find the positives, isolate the positives, find your contacts” and isolate and quarantine people who need it, she said.

Testing is “the best tool we have in our toolkit to stop the spread,” she said.

On Tuesday, Murphy said he was partially lifting a ban on large gatherings as it applies to school commencement ceremonies. They may resume starting July 6, provided they are held outdoors and other safety precautions are implemented, he said.

• A state health department report issued Wednesday showed 12 more COVID-19 deaths among residents of longterm care facilities in Monmouth County since Tuesday’s update, for a total of 705.

Among them was an additional victim at the Hackensack Meridian Health facility in Red Bank, where 12 residents have now died in the pandemic, according to the report.

• The state reported that 575 Monmouth County residents have now died in the pandemic, an increase of 16 from Tuesday’s report.

• In its own news release, the Monmouth County government reported 8,006 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, an increase of 75 from Tuesday. Here’s the breakdown by municipality:

  • Aberdeen: 233
  • Allenhurst: 5
  • Allentown: 8
  • Asbury Park: 213
  • Atlantic Highlands: 29
  • Avon-by-the-Sea: 12
  • Belmar: 31
  • Bradley Beach: 44
  • Brielle: 29
  • Colts Neck: 76
  • Deal: 26
  • Eatontown: 270
  • Englishtown: 44
  • Fair Haven: 25, unchanged from Tuesday
  • Farmingdale: 13
  • Freehold Borough: 385
  • Freehold Township: 641
  • Hazlet: 286
  • Highlands: 32
  • Holmdel: 266
  • Howell: 611
  • Interlaken: 4
  • Keansburg: 178
  • Keyport: 93
  • Lake Como: 16
  • Little Silver: 36, unchanged
  • Loch Arbour: 1
  • Long Branch: 507
  • Manalapan: 454
  • Manasquan: 30
  • Marlboro: 441
  • Matawan: 188
  • Middletown: 679
  • Millstone Township: 83
  • Monmouth Beach: 20
  • Neptune City: 59
  • Neptune Township: 517
  • Ocean: 305
  • Oceanport: 58
  • Red Bank: 211, up 6
  • Roosevelt: 6
  • Rumson: 34
  • Sea Bright: 10
  • Sea Girt: 14
  • Shrewsbury Borough: 50
  • Shrewsbury Township: 9
  • Spring Lake: 16
  • Spring Lake Heights: 21
  • Tinton Falls: 194
  • Union Beach: 43
  • Upper Freehold: 53
  • Wall: 331
  • West Long Branch: 63
  • Unknown: 3

• On its COVID-19 dashboard, the state reported 148 more lab-confirmed deaths statewide reported since Monday, for a total 11,339.

Here are the latest figures:

Deaths since March 10: 11,339, up 148 from Tuesday’s report

Positive tests: 156,628, up 864

Patients in hospitals: 2,761, up 38

Patients in intensive/critical care: 768, down 18

Patients on ventilators: 583, up 5

Patients discharged in preceding 24 hours: 164, up 33

Patients hospitalized in preceding 24 hours: 241