Daily cases of COVID-19, the rate that people are testing positive for coronavirus and the number of people being treated in New Jersey's hospitals have been ticking up recently, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
The first-term Democrat was joined by state officials Thursday afternoon for a coronavirus briefing.
With 973 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday -- the third-straight day with nearly 1,000 new daily cases -- the total number of positive coronavirus cases reported in New Jersey since the start of the pandemic approached 217,000.
Recent outbreaks in the state amid college students and in parts of Ocean County have driven up the daily positive tests in New Jersey, but community spread is being seen throughout the state. The rate of people testing positive for COVID-19 was above 4% Thursday. The number of people in hospitals was above 700, with 178 patients in intensive care and 60 people on ventilators.
The hospitalizations have ticked up over the past week.
"We need to get these numbers down," Murphy said. "Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands."
To date, at least 14,408 people have died from coronavirus-related complications. Another nearly 1,800 deaths are suspected to be due to COVID-19.
Murphy has not restored any restrictions in the state again, but has not ruled it out -- in a lesser form -- if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.
On Thursday, Murphy urged residents to start thinking about Thanksgiving and not having large indoor gatherings as the virus is spreading among family groups -- even among a small group -- inside. He suggested gathering outdoors, if possible, and not having a traditional meal around a dining room table if you do have extended family in your home.
He said people must sacrifice this year to be more normal next year.
Moratorium on Utility, Internet Shutoffs
With no cure for coronavirus in sight, Murphy on Thursday announced he would be extending the moratorium on utility shutoffs untilat least mid-March -- that way no families would be left out in the cold this winter.
"No household may have its electricity, gas service, or water shut off for nonpayment through March 15th, 2021," Murphy said. "Service must be restored if it’s been disconnected during the public health emergency."
New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso urged people struggling to keep up with utility bills to contact utilities to put together a payment plan as eventually the money will be due.
Murphy on Thursday also extended the moratorium on shutting off Internet service until Nov. 15. households with schoolchildren won't be disconnected until at least March 15.
Cable providers also must work with customers behind on their bills to lay out a 12-month repayment plan before disconnecting any services.
"We will continue to have your back," Murphy said to people struggling amid the pandemic.
Unemployment in New Jersey
New Jersey's unemployment rate, driven up by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, fell by more than 4 percentage points to 6.7% in September, state officials said Thursday.
The Labor Department attributed the decline to workers leaving the job market and not to jobs gains.
New Jersey has regained about 467,000 jobs that were lost because of the outbreak, or about 56%.
About 60,000 jobs were added in September, according to the department, mostly in the private sector. The leisure and hospitality industries had the biggest growth, followed by the trades, transportation and utilities. The information sector in New Jersey saw a decline of 100 jobs for the month.
The virus has resulted in more than 216,000 positive cases and 14,402 deaths, according to state health officials.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.