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VIRUS UPDATE: ‘MASK UP,’ MURPHY ORDERS

red-bank-phil-tammy-josh-murphy-061820-500x332-2043096Governor Phil Murphy donned a mask while dining with his wife, Tammy, and son, Josh, at Char in Red Bank last month. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

[See UPDATE below]

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919New Jerseyans must wear face coverings outdoors when social distancing is not practicable, Governor Phil Murphy ordered Wednesday.

The mandate marked the latest sign of concern about that Murphy labeled “backsliding” from earlier progress against the COVID-19 pandemic.

red-bank-buona-sera-062020-500x303-2546012Masked servers and unmasked diners at well spaced tables outside Buona Sera restaurant in Red Bank last month. Below, the rate of COVID-19 transmission has risen recently. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

murphy-070820-1-220x127-3187262Murphy’s new mask-up order requires face covering be worn in places where six-foot social distancing isn’t maintained, such as on a “packed boardwalk or a line that is not property spaced apart,” he said.

Exceptions will be made for restaurant customers while eating or drinking; children under two years old; and people whose health or safety would be impaired by the mask, he said.

Information about penalties was still pending, but Murphy acknowledged that enforcement would be difficult.

But the move is “absolutely necessary” in light of both an increase in the rate of virus transmission in New Jersey and “exploding” number of COVID-19 cases in other states, Murphy said.

“Unfortunately, we have been seeing a backslide” within the state, Murphy said. “The rate of transmission has crept up,” from a low of .07 to just above 1.0, which means that one future infection can be expected to follow every new case.

“Not wearing a mask isn’t a sign of strength, it’s not a symbol of politics,” he said. “Not wearing a mask is a sign of selfishness, plain and simple. It’s a sign that you think you’re invincible, and the hell with everyone else.”

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli cited three studies that she said show masks are “important barriers” to transmission of the virus.

Following his now three-times-a-week news conference, Murphy blasted a Hunterdon County lawmaker, Republican state Senator Mike Doherty, for tweeting that Murphy was “exploiting a public health crisis for power” with the mask order.

“STOP PLAYING POLITICS WITH PEOPLE’S LIVES,” Murphy responded, also on Twitter.

• Murphy said the state would now permit restaurants that have ample open-air exposure beneath their roofs to seat diners in those areas.

“We’re tying everything we can to give more oxygen to the [restaurant] community, in this case literally and figuratively,” he said.

Murphy had previously delayed the gradual resumption of indoor restaurant dining just days before it was to take effect at 25-percent capacity levels.

• Statewide, the confirmed COVID-19 death toll stood at 13,476 Wednesday, with another 1,947 “probable” fatalities from the virus, according to the department’s online database.

• In Monmouth County, 729 deaths have been reported, with another 96 considered probable.

The figures include 506 resident fatalities at longterm care facilities in Monmouth County: 7 staff deaths, according to state data.

• Among the recent victims of the pandemic he called out during the news conference, Murphy spotlighted Elia Nicolaides, the late mother of Red Bank resident J.P. Nicolaides. You can see Murphy’s tribute to her starting at 22:10 of this video.

J.P. Nicolaides is the the husband of borough Councilman Ed Zipprich.

[UPDATE]

• Separately, Monmouth County’s government reported it has had 9,519 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in early March.

Here are the cumulative totals by town:

  • Aberdeen: 249
  • Allenhurst: 9
  • Allentown: 9
  • Asbury Park: 321
  • Atlantic Highlands: 38
  • Avon-by-the-Sea: 15
  • Belmar: 48
  • Bradley Beach: 61
  • Brielle: 40
  • Colts Neck: 92
  • Deal: 37
  • Eatontown: 320
  • Englishtown: 50
  • Fair Haven: 33
  • Farmingdale: 15
  • Freehold Borough: 427
  • Freehold Township: 714
  • Hazlet: 339
  • Highlands: 37
  • Holmdel: 320
  • Howell: 707
  • Interlaken: 4
  • Keansburg: 204
  • Keyport: 107
  • Lake Como: 18
  • Little Silver: 39
  • Loch Arbour: 1
  • Long Branch: 636
  • Manalapan: 512
  • Manasquan: 36
  • Marlboro: 509
  • Matawan: 215
  • Middletown: 768
  • Millstone Township: 89
  • Monmouth Beach: 22
  • Neptune City: 67
  • Neptune Township: 630
  • Ocean: 377
  • Oceanport: 66
  • Red Bank: 265
  • Roosevelt: 7
  • Rumson: 51
  • Sea Bright: 11
  • Sea Girt: 18
  • Shrewsbury Borough: 58
  • Shrewsbury Township: 11
  • Spring Lake: 21
  • Spring Lake Heights: 30
  • Tinton Falls: 232
  • Union Beach: 46
  • Upper Freehold: 65
  • Wall: 434
  • West Long Branch: 77
  • Unknown: 12
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