New Jersey ‘close’ to announcing new steps to combat spread of Covid

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy indicated Thursday that he’s preparing to roll out new statewide restrictions to combat the increased spread of Covid-19 in the state.

“How close are we to doing something? Close,” he said in response to a reporter’s question during his regular briefing in Trenton. “We will be clearly taking action, and I hope it will be action that balances all the various challenges and interests that we have. But right now, we’ve had really good success with the hot spot teams.”

Murphy did not offer any details as to what steps might be taken.

Hot spot teams are working with local health departments to increase testing, contact tracing, community engagement and enforcement measures in areas with outbreaks. So far, those teams have been deployed to nine of New Jersey’s 21 counties, as well as to major population centers like Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Lakewood and Newark.

While deploying hot spot teams will continue, Murphy said, “we collectively, all of us, think we need to augment that with some broader steps. It’s not either-or.”

Murphy‘s comments came as he announced 2,104 new positive Covid-19 cases for a statewide total of 247,219 since March 4, along with 12 more coronavirus-related deaths. More than 16,400 residents are believed to have died as a result of the pandemic. There were 1,224 hospitalizations, the highest in months.

New Jersey, like much of the rest of the country, is seeing an increase of Covid-19 cases, which Murphy and other administration officials believe indicates the early stages of a second wave.

Despite the rising number of cases, the Murphy administration has not rolled back any reopenings or implemented new limits on gatherings.

“While we are seeing cases related to activities such as sports or school or day care or workplaces, the majority of our cases are not easily traced back to a single exposure and are likely related to routine gatherings in places such as your homes,” said Judith Persichilli, the state health commissioner, reminding residents to continue taking precautions and wearing masks.

Last week, Newark imposed an 8 p.m. curfew on indoor dining and nonessential retail after case totals and spot positivity in the majority-minority city spiked. That action was soon followed by the city of Hoboken, whose leaders acted to limit dining and enact stricter penalties for indoor gatherings of more than 25 people.

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