When Gov. Phil Murphy announced the stay-at home order in March, the COVID-19 outbreak was nearing its peak, with a one-to-five virus transmission rate among patients.

Now, that number has dropped significantly, by about 83 percent, since then, and those rates help show that New Jersey is able to continue with its reopening process, Murphy said Tuesday.

Late last week, the state announced that child care will be able to resume on June 15, and businesses such as salons and barber shops will be able to resume business, as part of Phase Two of New Jersey’s reopening.

Murphy said that the data on virus transmission, including a lowering of infection rates over the past two months, has made it safe to do so, and he praised residents for practicing social distancing measures. But he warned that residents must continue to remain vigilant, since there is no known treatment or cure for COVID-19 at this time.

On March 21, at the time Murphy issued the stay-at-home order, each infected person, on average, transmitted the virus to 5.31 other people. Since that time, that level has gone down to fewer than one per person on average: 0.88 people.

The state is also seeing a continued decline in hospitalizations, with more days of decreases than increases over the past two weeks.

Protests and policing

The national outrage over the death of George Floyd, and the protests that have taken place in response to it, was among the key focuses of Tuesday’s press briefing.

“The pain and fatigue felt by our black and brown communities is real, and it is palpable,” Murphy said.

Murphy said that many peaceful protests were taking place, often with police officers marching alongside protesters or taking a knee.

virus infection rate
COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY Attorney General Gurbir Grewal speaks during a Tuesday, June 2 press briefing in Trenton.

“Like so many Americans at this difficult time, I’m still reeling from the footage of George Floyd’s murder,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “Like so many Americans, I too am angry. Like so many Americans, I’m angry that a white officer suffocated a black resident in broad daylight. I’m angry that at least three officers watched and did nothing. I’m angry that these officers disgraced their entire profession and undermined the good work that so many others do on a daily basis.”

New Jersey saw many protests and rallies over the weekend, including a gathering of local residents in Glen Ridge. To the protesters, Grewal said, “We hear you. We see you. We respect you. We share your anger, and your commitment to change.”

Grewal announced that New Jersey is working on the Excellence in Policing initiative: five proposed reforms related to community policing, use-of-force and civil rights. The reforms include a pilot program for an extended crisis intervention team; a statewide licensing program for police officers; the expansion of the state’s use-of-force database; an updated policy on use-of-force, which was last updated in 2000; and a designated incident response team within the Division of Civil Rights.

Grewal said that all of these measures have been in discussion and development for a long time. “We’re in this for the long haul, not because it’s popular, not because it’s easy, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Today’s numbers

New Jersey reported 708 new cases on Tuesday, up from 509 new cases on Monday, bringing the state total to 161,545 cases.

The state also reported 51 additional deaths, up from 27 on Monday, bringing the state total to 11,170.

As of 10 p.m. Monday night, there were 2,372 people in the hospital, up slightly from 2,344 on Sunday night, but Murphy cautioned that not all of the hospitals had reported in with their data. There were 639 people in critical care and 459 ventilators in use, compared to 646 critical care patients and 469 ventilators on Sunday. Tuesday marks the fourth consecutive day that ventilator use was below 500, Murphy said. Hospitals discharged 109 patients and admitted 151 new patients on Monday, compared to 160 discharges and 36 new patients on Sunday.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Essex County reported 28 new cases and five deaths, upping the county's total to 17,761 cases and 1,671 deaths.

Montclair Township’s most updated numbers, released Monday night, report that 417 residents have contracted COVID-19, up two from Sunday, resulting in 49 deaths thus far, unchanged from Sunday.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said there was one more reported case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, bringing the state total to 32. All of the children have tested positive either for active COVID-19 or for antibodies.

The ages of the affected children range 1 to 18 years.

It appears, Persichilli said, that the syndrome is a new condition, an aggressive inflammatory immune response to COVID-19. The condition was initially compared to Kawasaki syndrome. However, Persichilli said that Kawasaki syndrome predominantly affects infants and small children, whereas the new syndrome has been reported in older children as well as young children. The condition also has similar symptoms to toxic shock syndrome, but does not appear to be a form of that disease.

The demographics of the children affected by the condition are 26 percent white, 26 percent black, 37 percent Hispanic, seven percent Asian and four percent other races, Persichilli said.

Ed Lifshitz, the communicable disease director, said a syndrome was a “constellation” of conditions that make up an illness. He emphasized that health officials in New Jersey and around the country are still in the early stages of learning about the syndrome.