In order to “tighten up” social distancing measures, Gov. Phil Murphy announced two executive orders Wednesday, April 8, regarding masks and construction. 

All store employees and shoppers must now wear face masks, and stores must limit their occupancy to a maximum of 50 percent of the store’s capacity to aid in combating the spread of COVID-19. Murphy said that stores would be responsible, however, to accommodate people who can not wear a mask due to a medical condition, or children under the age of 2. Yesterday, two ShopRite grocery stores in West Caldwell and Bloomfield, reported that they had at least one employee test positive for COVID-19.

Murphy also ordered the halt of all non-essential construction in New Jersey by Friday, April 9, at 8 p.m. Construction projects that are exempt from the order include hospitals, schools, affordable housing, transportation, utility work, emergency repairs and individual housing sites.

The state reported 3,088 new positive cases and 275 new deaths Wednesday. Positive cases now total 47,437, with 1,504 New Jersey residents having died. Cases announced today could be from tests gathered up to two weeks ago due to backlogs at the labs. 

The state is reporting that 44 percent of all residents tested have tested positive for the virus, 41,550 positive results out of 94,525 cases. New Jersey is only testing individuals showing symptoms.

“Even if our rate is lessening, there are two realities: it is still increasing... and fatalities are increasing,” Murphy said. 

Bergen County still leads in the number of cases at 7,874 with 341 new cases reported today. Deaths there total 314, with 51 new fatalities reported today. 

Essex County is reporting the second highest rate with 520 new cases reported today, totaling 5,598 to date. Deaths in Essex County increased by 44, now totaling 276. 

The confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair is 203, increasing by 10 from the  number reported on Tuesday. As of Wednesday afternoon, 22 residents had died due to complications with the virus.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that 7,026 residents are now hospitalized for COVID-19 or are under investigation of having the virus. Twenty-two percent are on ventilators.  Of the total COVID patients, 1,617 are in critical care and 97 percent of those critical patients are on ventilators. 

Of the fatalities to date, 59 percent were male, 41 percent female. Forty-four percent of the deceased were over 80 years old; 33 percent were between the ages of 65 and 79; 17 percent between 50 and 64; 4 percent between 30 and 49; and 1 percent under the age of 30. Forty-four percent had underlying medical conditions.

Wednesday night also marks the beginning of Passover, and Gov. Murphy reminded celebrants to stay at home and keep it to immediate family only.

“Tonight, traditionally families would gather for the seder. Tonight is different,” he said “We can not gather tonight either outdoors or indoors, we have to gather virtually. We have got to stay home.”