By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

In addition to wearing face masks in retail stores, New Jersey residents will also have to wear them if they ride public transportation or pick up carry-out orders from restaurants, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Saturday.

Stores can not exceed 50 percent capacity, and NJ Transit and other transit agencies can only have train cars and buses filled to 50 percent.

As of Saturday, April 11, there were 3,599 new positive cases, below the 3,627 announced yesterday. But, the state has reported 251 more deaths today, more than the 233 announced yesterday.

Today Montclair reported 228 residents have tested positive and and the number of deaths remains at 24. On Friday, Montclair reported 220 COVID positive cases.

Today, Essex County has 458 new cases with a total of 7,007, and has reported 61 new deaths up to 412 in total.

The total number of COVID-19 positives throughout New Jersey is now 58,151, and 2,183 residents have died.

Of the recent deaths, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, 148 were male and 103 were female. The deaths range in age from 23 to 100. Ninety-seven of the deceased had underlying health conditions, such as cardiac disease or diabetes.

Fifteen deaths were patients in long-term care facilities, Persichilli said. As of Saturday, 305 of New Jersey’s 375 long-term care facilities had at least one reported case of COVID-19.

The state has been able to compile demographic data of 1,350 of the total deaths, Persichilli said. Of that number, 704 or 52 percent were white; 298 or 22 percent were black or African American; 237 or 17 percent were Hispanic or Latino; 79 or 6 percent were Asian; and 38 or 3 percent identified as other.

As of 10 p.m. Friday, there were 7,618 people who were hospitalized. Of that number, 1,746 were in critical care, with 1,650 of them being on ventilators. Additionally, 682 more people have been discharged from the hospital.

The USNS Comfort, the Navy hospital ship docked at Pier 90 in New York, will now be accepting certain patients from New Jersey’s hospitals, Persichilli said.

The top five counties for COVID-19 cases continue to be Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Union and Middlesex counties.

The state’s requirement of face masks and extension of social distancing to NJ Transit and other public transportation modes, comes as the state received concerns about overcrowding on NJ Transit buses due to the reduced number of buses running.

NJ Transit has seen a sharp drop in ridership, as much as 90 percent, since the beginning of the outbreak. Murphy noted however that many essential workers rely on NJ Transit to get to work, and that it was crucial to keep public transportation safe for them.

Additionally, the executive order requires restaurant customers to wear a mask when walking into a restaurant to pick up a carry-out order. Customers who are receiving curbside pickup do not need to wear a mask.

The new guidelines will take effect on Monday, Murphy said.

Transportation companies must provide masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to their staff as well, if they are not already doing so.

On Friday, an executive order requiring employees and customers at grocery stores and other businesses to wear masks officially went into effect. The order also requires stores to limit the number of customers in a store to no more than 50 percent capacity at a time.

“For some of you, you may view this as just another inconvenience,” Murphy said of customers who might forget to bring their masks with them. But it would be more of an inconvenience if people or their family members ended up in a hospital, he said.

“I know we’re going through hell and back, but we will get through this, and we will get through this together,” Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Persichilli urged everyone to continue practicing social distancing, which they acknowledged as being difficult during a time of religious holidays and celebrations.

On Thursday, Persichilli said that the Innovation Center reported that New Jersey could see a peak in patients having to be hospitalized this weekend, with 14,400 residents being hospitalized of which 2,880 could need critical care beds.