The Montclair Department of Health and Human Services reported the current number of positive COVID-19 cases in Montclair is up to five, two of whom have died.

The two residents, one of which resided at a long-term care facility, were inpatients at Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside hospital. Both had multiple chronic conditions, the department said. Officials would not release any other information.

Last Friday, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli created an executive order banning all visitations to long care facilities with the exception of end of life cases. Employees and delivery people who enter the building are being screened.

Yesterday, two more Montclair State University employees and a Renaissance School teacher tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials.

The Renaissance teacher was present in the district during the March 13 professional development. The last day of school for students was Thursday, March 12. The teacher is not a Montclair resident.

People who have been identified as a close contact with the Renaissance teacher (within six feet for 10 minutes or more) will be contacted directly by the Health Department where the staff member resides to be told to self-isolate for 14 days. The teacher’s hometown was not released.

New Jersey is up to 742 total cases, with 318 new cases reported on March 18. A total of nine people have died.

“Let me say as clearly as possible, we have expected this number,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “These numbers, I am certain, sooner rather than later, will go into the many thousands.”

The state is also restricting gatherings to no more than 50 people, and Murphy said that number is likely to be reduced further. There may also be the need for further enforcement of that rule, and State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said the state has been in talks with assistant county prosecutors on the matter.

The governor reiterated the need for social distancing. “We know it’s not easy being cooped up in a house,” Murphy said. But he said it was necessary, in order for everyone to make it through. “And we will get through this together.” He added, “I cannot say it enough. We are one family. We may not always agree, but we always look out for each other.”

The new cases range in age from three years old to 95, Persichilli said.

Persichilli said that cases of COVID-19 have been identified in at least six nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the state. The division has been in touch with each of those facilities to make sure the staff is aware of proper procedures on managing the cases.

Visitors are being turned away, except for end-of-life situations, and vendors may not proceed past the front door. All employees must be screened, with their temperatures taken and vital signs checked, before entering the building.

The state announced Thursday that all special elections that had been scheduled to take place in March and April will instead be moved to May 12, which is the day of Montclair’s municipal elections. All May 12 elections, including Montclair’s will be held via vote by mail. The move is to protect both poll workers and voters, as well as to give election officials more time to process ballots, Secretary of State Tahesha Way said.

Effective 8 p.m. Thursday, all personal care businesses that cannot practice social distancing will be required to close. This includes barber shops, hair salons, nail and eyelash salons, tattoo parlors, spas and social clubs.

A testing facility will open tomorrow at Bergen Community College. It will operate seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A second testing facility is in the process of being set up at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel.

The two new cases at Montclair State University bring the number up to three there. The first Montclair resident announced to have tested positive, on March 12, was an MSU employee who was last on campus on Feb. 28 and was not showing signs of the virus at the time. She was hospitalized at Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside hospital.

In the two new cases at MSU, the first person identified worked in an office at 855 Valley Road. The employee was last in the office on Thursday, March 12. She or he was not hospitalized and is recovering at home, according to university officials.

The second reported case is an employee who was last on campus on Friday, March 6. That person is a resident of New York City and is recovering at home.

Staff who work in the offices of the employees who have tested positive were notified today. They are being placed on quarantine until Monday, March 30.

The university is on spring break until March 23. On Thursday, university spokesperson Erika Bleiberg told Montclair Local that the dorms are remaining open to accommodate students who are permanent residents and have nowhere else they can live. Certain facilities, including certain dining facilities with grab-and-go meals, and the library, are remaining open to provide basic support for those students.

Students who do have family homes to return to are being asked to move out, in order to allow the students who can't leave to practice social distancing, Bleiberg said. Additionally, Bleiberg said, the university is also being asked to prepare for the possibility that dorms could be requisitioned as auxiliary hospital space, in the event of a shortage of hospital beds.

The university is allowing remote working arrangements for employees who can work from home, with their supervisors' permission. Employees who cannot work from home, but do not feel comfortable coming to campus, will be allowed to use sick time or vacation time.

All classes are being taught online starting on March 23, and the vast majority of faculty will be working remotely, Bleiberg said. Large events like athletics have been canceled. Student activities are suspended through March 31, and groups are encouraged to interact electronically.

In a letter from Tim Haresign, president of the Council of New Jersey College Locals, to universities and college presidents across the state, he reprimanded MSU’s decision to stay open. The council represents all college and university unions in New Jersey.

“The Union has been provided with no information as to why that institution [MSU] has not shut down in the same manner as its sister colleges and universities. Aside from the obvious health concerns this situation raises, it is symptomatic of a more general failure of some of the institutions to share vital information with the Unions,” he wrote.

Eighteen more Essex County cases of COVID-19 were announced Thursday bringing the total to 63. Essex County’s total is the second-highest in New Jersey, behind Bergen County’s 195. Nine deaths have been reported statewide.

The Montclair Health Department reminds the public to practice proper hygiene:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and remember to throw the tissue into the trash
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Stay home if you are sick

Symptoms to monitor include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you experience any symptoms, please contact your medical care provider. This information may change with further notices from the NJDOH.