With Thanksgiving fast approaching and people being urged not to gather indoors for large extended family meals, Gov. Phil Murphy is urging people to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus and offering help for those dealing with stress.
"This Thanksgiving, we hope that you and your loved ones have made plans to remain safe this year so we can look forward to bigger celebrations next year," the first-term Democrat said at his Monday coronavirus news briefing.
Indoor private gatherings in New Jersey are capped at 10 people in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially during the holiday season where extended groups of people traditionally gather for meals.
New Jersey has laid out guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving amid the pandemic. The state health department suggests any gatherings be outdoors, that family groups are spread out and that people remain masked as much as possible.
"If you are going to get together with a big group this Thanksgiving, please do so outside where social distancing can be better ensured and you can better protect your loved ones from this deadly virus," Murphy said Monday, which will be his only coronavirus briefing this week.
New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy weighed in on Monday, as well, by asking people to show gratitude by staying home for the holiday.
Gov. Murphy urged people to not gather with large extended family and friends because this isn't a normal year.
"We know that this Thanksgiving is not what we’re used to – nor what we any of us want to do," he said. "We know that there are those who are so yearning for normalcy that they’re willing to risk their family’s health for a big Thanksgiving. We urge you to think beyond this holiday."
Gov. Murphy noted that the holidays could bring on new stresses for people and reminded New Jerseyans that help is available for those in need.
Coronavirus cases have rapidly increased this month in New Jersey as the state broke 300,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic this weekend. The state reported 3,592 new cases on Monday to bring the statewide total to nearly 310,000.
Hospitalizations have also been on the rise in recent weeks. Nearly 2,700 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 heading into Monday. More than 500 coronavirus patients were in ICUs.
The positivity rate for tests as of Thursday was 8.65%, with a statewide rate of transmission at 1.32, Murphy said.
With 11 new deaths reported Monday, at least 14,960 people have died from coronavirus-related complications with another about 1,800 deaths suspected to be related to the virus.
Murphy said that enough people have already died and left empty spaces at Thanksgiving tables this year.
"The last thing we want is for anyone’s Thanksgiving to lead to empty spots in their homes for the celebrations to come," Murphy said. "Plan for a small gathering. Be safe and smart."
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that the vast majority of deaths from the virus have been people 65 and older but that recently 19 to 49 year olds are making up many of the recent cases. She said that shows that younger people are unwittingly spreading the virus to older relatives.
On Sunday, Murphy signed an order to extend the public health emergency another 30 days as needed with the virus still spreading.
"These declarations, unless extended, expire after 30 days," Murphy said Monday. "We’re in the midst of the second wave, and we can’t let our guard down."
There is a glimmer of hope, however. last week, New Jersey spoke of hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccines by early 2021. On Monday, Persichilli said that the state should get around 1.1 million monthly doses on a rolling basis.