As new COVID-19 cases continued to break over 4,000 and hospitalizations climbed to just under 2,500 last night, state officials are warning residents to take masking, social distancing and gathering limits seriously as we move into the holidays.

Gov. Phil Murphy joined six other northeast governors in pushing that universities and colleges ramp up COVID testing for students before they leave campus and encouraging students to quarantine for 14 days. Health officials also encouraged students to stay separate from relatives, especially those with high-risk family members.

Yesterday, indoor gatherings were limited to no more than 10 people. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150 on Monday. Murphy told residents not to gather with anyone beyond their immediate family. 

“This is not the year to squeeze around the table. The dinner table could be a COVID hotspot,” he said. 

Officials announced another 4,063 new cases, on track with the 4,060 reported yesterday, bringing the state total to 289,562. On Sunday, New Jersey reported 4,540 COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number at any time during the pandemic. Saturday had the second-highest number, at 4,395.

Twenty-seven deaths were reported today, on top of the 31 reported from hospitals last night. Yesterday, 38 deaths were reported. New Jersey’s death toll has now reached 14,843. 

As residents seeking tests are waiting two to three days to get an appointment and waiting in lines for hours, with New Jersey now testing as many as 75,000 a day, the positivity rate has risen to 10.88 percent. The rate of transmission also rose slightly from 1.40 yesterday to 1.43 today.

Last night, hospitals reported 2,446 COVID-19 patients, with 461 in ICU and 223 on ventilators. On Nov. 16, 2,320 patients were hospitalized, with 327 in critical-care and 98 on ventilators. 

School outbreaks are also rising, with 56 schools reporting outbreaks affecting 239 people. On Monday, 51 schools reported outbreaks with 193 cases.

Essex County, which has been among the hardest-hit counties in the second wave, reported 388 up from the 357 new cases reported on Tuesday. The total now stands at 31,143. After reporting 11 new deaths on Tuesday, the county reported two today. The death toll is now 1,958.

Montclair reported 10 new cases today, down from the 16 reported yesterday. Cases now total 870. The number of individuals who did not survive remains at 57. 

The seven governors are also suggesting that colleges and universities remain remote through January.

Exceptions to the indoor gatherings limit include religious services and celebrations, political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services and performances, which are all subject to the 25-percent capacity rule.