COVID-19: Holiday season could be a difficult one, officials say
By ERIN ROLL
With Thanksgiving over, state officials are now wary of the upcoming holiday season, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that this Friday, Dec. 4, will be exactly nine months since New Jersey reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Officials had been discussing the pandemic since January, just before it began. “This virus has been a part of our life … for almost a year,” Murphy said on Wednesday, Dec. 2.
Pfizer’s vaccine is anticipated to arrive in New Jersey later this month, with Moderna’s expected to follow a week later. From there, state officials hope to vaccinate 70 percent of adults over the next six months, starting with health-care workers and other vulnerable populations.
In the meantime, Murphy reminded residents, they need to continue practicing social distancing.
The governor acknowledged that the need for social distancing and the rising number of cases might make for a difficult holiday season.
State epidemiologist Christina Tan said it is still too early to tell if the Thanksgiving holiday would result in a spike, since the incubation period for the virus is 14 days. But she said that is a concern that has been on the minds of health officials.
Murphy urged residents not to travel out of state for non-essential reasons; that includes day travel into nearby states like New York. And he said that holiday activities may be impacted as well.
“We’re asking, folks, this is Grinch times five. Don’t travel, stay 6 feet away from Santa, Santa has to wear a face mask,” and holiday meals have to be limited to a certain number of people, he said.
But Murphy added that he was hopeful there will not be a season like this one again next year, and he urged residents to remember that it would only be a few more months before vaccines become available to the general public.
As of Dec. 2, 438 school districts were in hybrid mode, 246 – including Montclair – were all-remote, 89 had all of their buildings open for full in-person instruction, and 36 had some combination of the three.
Murphy said that while officials took every school-related COVID case seriously, the fact remained that case numbers associated with in-school transmission were low, and that many school-related cases stemmed from out-of-school activities such as sports.
He added that since New Jersey’s schools were not a monolith, unlike the New York City school system, the state could help each district make the decision best for it.
As of Dec. 2, there were 33,851 children who lacked a device or reliable internet access, down from 231,000 during the summer, and Murphy said that in the case of most of those children, it was an issue of supply-chain problems or delivery delays.
New Jersey health officials reported 4,350 new cases on Dec. 2, compared to 4,661 on Dec. 1. The total number of cases now stands at 346,206. The rate of transmission is at 1.08, the lowest rate since Sept. 16, and the positivity rate is at 13.68 percent, up from 11.34 on Dec. 1.
Officials reported 56 new deaths, down from the 90 reported on Dec. 1. The total number of confirmed deaths now stands at 15,309, in addition to 1,836 deaths probably due to COVID-19.
Hospitals reported 3,287 patients on Dec. 1, compared to 3,129 the night before, including 599 critical-care patients. Of the critical-care patients, 59 percent – 354 – were on ventilators, Tan said. By comparison, there were 601 critical-care patients, with 359 on ventilators, on Nov. 30.
Essex County health officials reported 292 new cases and two new deaths Dec. 2, compared to 431 new cases and eight new deaths on Dec. 1, bringing the totals to 36,045 cases and 2,008 deaths.
Montclair health officials reported 13 new cases on Dec. 1, up from 12 on Nov. 30, bringing the total to 996. The number of deaths remains at 57.