After taking a detour to swear in new Montclair mayor Sean Spiller and the new township council Wednesday morning, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at his daily COVID-19 briefing that casinos would be added to the list of recreational areas allowed to open Thursday, July 2. But the governor continued to urge caution for residents as they venture out into public areas.

The opening of casinos joins a list of new openings tomorrow that include outdoor amusement and water parks, museums and libraries, and indoor recreation areas such as bowling alleys and shooting ranges. Gyms and fitness centers have been allowed to open for individualized instruction only.

With New Jersey seeing a slight increase in the rate of positive COVID-19 tests Wednesday, as well as a bump in the number of residents hospitalized with the virus, state officials are wary of a potential spike in cases, as has been seen in other states that have resumed indoor dining.

Gov. Murphy reversed course earlier this week and announced that indoor dining would remain forbidden indefinitely in New Jersey; New York City and Philadelphia have delayed the reopening of indoor dining as well.

Murphy said that most restaurants and eateries may be doing their best to abide by social distancing guidelines. “But even one knucklehead bar can ruin it for everyone.”

To the general public, Murphy added, “Don’t be the match that starts a COVID wildfire. Use your common sense for the common good.”

Murphy shared a photo of a crowd at the Factory Restaurant and Lounge in Jersey City, which was cited earlier this week for violations of COVID-19 restrictions.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli cited statements from Dr. Anthony Fauci indicating that the rate of new cases nationally could double to 100,000 a day.

“I feel strongly that it’s better to be cautious than to be sorry later,” Persichilli said.


Lauretta Freeman, the co-founder of the Montclair Cooperative School, was among the recent COVID-19 victims honored by Murphy Wednesday. Freeman died in April at the age of 97.

Murphy praised Freeman’s years as an educator, as well as her involvement in civil rights work and social justice work in Montclair.

“A tremendous life of service,” Murphy said. “Thank you for all you did, Lauretta.”

Today’s numbers:

New Jersey officials reported 423 new cases, compared to 461 on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 171,928.

The positivity rate stood at 2.29 percent for tests taken on June 27. This represents an increase from the rate of 1.82 percent for June 26 tests.

The virus transmission rate declined slightly, from 0.88 on Tuesday to 0.82 on Wednesday.

Officials reported 45 new deaths, down slightly from 47 on Tuesday, bringing the state total of confirmed deaths to 13,224. The number of probable COVID-19 deaths remains at 1,854.

Hospitals saw an increase in patients Tuesday night compared to Monday, including in critical care and ventilators in use. State hospitals reported 1,080 patients, including 217 critical care patients and 178 ventilators in use on Tuesday night; up on all accounts compared to Monday night’s totals of 992 patients, 211 in critical care, and 174 on ventilators.

On Tuesday, hospitals admitted 54 new patients and discharged 87, compared to 44 new admissions and 50 discharges on Monday.

Essex County health officials reported 43 new cases, compared to 37 on Tuesday, bringing the county total to 18,787. There were no new deaths, and the total remained at 1,778.

Montclair health officials reported 445 total cases and 52 total deaths on Wednesday, the same number as reported on Tuesday.