By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey is continuing to see a flattening of new COVID-19 cases, and the number of hospitalizations due to the virus has continued to decrease for four consecutive days.

But on Saturday, April 25, state officials continued to call for people to keep their social distancing, especially as warmer spring weather may draw more people outside.

Gov. Phil Murphy acknowledged that it would be more difficult for residents to stay completely home, especially since the weather was growing warmer. “But you’ve got to stay at it, folks.”

Public parks and golf courses are to remain closed and Murphy said the decision to reopen them rested with him.

As of Saturday, 3,457 new positive COVID-19 cases were reported, up from the 3,047 reported on Friday, bringing the state total to 105,523 cases.

The state’s death toll is now 5,863, with 249 new deaths related to the virus reported today, slightly fewer than the 253 new deaths reported yesterday.

Murphy said New Jersey’s death toll due to COVID-19 has exceeded the number of New Jersey residents who died in World War I, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

On Saturday, Montclair health officials reported the number of residents with COVID-19 had reached 338, up from 334 on Friday, and 39 residents had died due to virus, up from 38.

Murphy said that hospitalizations had been on a gradual consecutive decrease since Thursday.

As of 10 p.m. Friday, there were 6,722 people in the hospital with COVID-19 related illnesses. Of that number, 1,971 people were in critical care, and there were 1,442 ventilators in use. There were 561 new hospitalizations and 686 people discharged.

On Thursday, by comparison, 6,847 people were in the hospital, including 1,933 in critical care, and there were 1,442 ventilators in use. There were 752 people admitted to the hospital that day and 752 discharged.

Essex County has the highest number of deaths of any New Jersey county: 1,019 as of Saturday, according to the state, followed by Bergen County with 954 and Hudson County with 655 cases.

The top six counties for total cases continue to be Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Union, Passaic and Middlesex counties.

Essex County had a reported 12,545 cases as of 9 a.m. Saturday, up from the 12,340 cases that the county reported at 5 p.m. Friday.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and First Lady Tammy Murphy conferenced with Germany’s minister of health Jens Spahn this week to discuss how Germany is beginning a gradual lessening of lockdown measures and a slow re-opening of certain non-essential businesses, such as bookshops, Persichilli said.

New Jersey is seeing a flat rate of critical care patients, Persichilli said, but what is needed is for those numbers to start decreasing.