By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey is now heading into a second wave of COVID-19.

“It’s coming, and it’s coming fast,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at an Oct. 29 press briefing. “We are now urging you to double down on the practices that helped us flatten the curve in the spring and in the summer.”

Health officials reported 1,477 new cases, down from 1,682 the day before, bringing the state total to 234,547 cases.

Eight new deaths have been reported, down from 14 on Oct. 28, bringing the total to 14,539 confirmed deaths, and the number of probable deaths stands at 1,793. An additional 16 hospital deaths are under investigation at this time. 

Murphy reiterated that private, in-home gatherings are the likely driving force behind the increase in cases. 

The statewide positivity rate rose to 6.54 percent, up from 4.48 percent yesterday. The virus transmission rate dipped slightly to 1.23, from 1.26 the day before. 

Hospitalizations have now begun to exceed 1,000 for the first time since July 2. Last night, hospitals reported 1,072 patients, up from 1,010 on Oct. 27. That number includes 217 critical care patients and 79 ventilators in use, an increase of the 194 critical care patients and 80 ventilators on Oct. 27. 

Essex County health officials reported 279 new cases on Oct. 29, down from 280 on Oct. 28, bringing the county total to 24,711. Officials did not report any additional deaths, and the total number of deaths remains at 1,913. 

Montclair health officials reported five new cases on Oct. 28, bringing the total to 642. The number of deaths remains at 57. 

An additional 11 outbreaks were reported in schools, bringing the number to 28 outbreaks affecting a total of 122 people. 

State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said authorities have not seen a rise in executive order violations, and therefore does not correlate with the rise in cases. He concurred that private in-home gatherings are the contributing factor. 

State health officials have been working to stockpile personal protective gear, ventilators and other needed equipment. The goal is to have 5.9 million N95 masks, 14.3 million surgical gowns, 2.15 million face shields, 4.5 million hospital gowns, 117 million surgical gloves and 2,050 ventilators. 

Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said contact tracing, testing, and partnerships with community and faith leaders is essential to help bring down spread of the virus. In Lakewood, which had been experiencing an increase in cases in late September, the overall positivity rate has dropped significantly, from 33 percent to 5.64 percent. Persichilli said health officials worked with county and local leaders to set up pop-up testing sites at different locations and increased contact tracing, along with education about the virus throughout the community. 

Many of the hotspot team personnel that had been deployed to Ocean and Monmouth counties have been deployed to other areas of the state, such as Newark, which are also experiencing rises in cases. 

With Halloween approaching, Murphy advised families to celebrate safely. Guidelines include wearing a protective face covering (not a costume mask), arranging candy for trick-or-treaters to grab and go and having parties outside.

“While you may wish to dress up as a knucklehead on Saturday night, we encourage you to not to act like one,” Murphy said.