New Jersey is on the brink of one year since it reported its first case of the coronavirus in the state, a milestone not lost on Gov. Phil Murphy as he announced easing of some restrictions Wednesday.
"More than a year ago, we knew that we would have to prepare our state – and all of you – for the worst and hope for the best," Murphy said. "None of us could even imagine what it was we ultimately would be up against."
Since the first case was reported on March 4, 2020, the state has had just under 800,000 COVID-19 cases (PCR and antigen test confirmed) and more than 23,000 people are confirmed or presumed to have died from coronavirus complications.
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Murphy said that many more likely contracted COVID-19 but never knew it, especially when testing was scarce early in the pandemic.
He looked back on hospitals becoming strained at points in the spring and medical personnel coming from other states to help out as the state scrambled for more PPE.
"Because of our actions last March and the sacrifices of all New Jerseyans, the crippling worst-case scenarios we feared for our hospitals did not come to fruition," the first-term Democrat said.
He noted, however, that people continue to battling the virus at hospitals even as vaccine doses go into arms today.
A Year of Sacrifices and COVID-19 Isn't Done
Murphy remarked on what the state has been through:
"For twelve months, we have had to take extraordinary and painful steps to beat back this virus and save lives. We have asked a lot of you."
Among those measures were a stay-at-home order, closing of schools, mask-wearing orders and calls for distancing from friends and loved ones.
"To every New Jerseyan who has joined our fight over the past year: Thank for you showing that when we fight COVID together, we can beat it together," Murphy said.
The pandemic isn't done with New Jersey. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Wednesday that they have recently seen a slight uptick in COVID-19 infections.
Persichilli noted that the health department continues to worry about COVID variants spreading. She said Wednesday that the state was reporting its first two cases of the so-called Brazilian variant in the northern part of the state.
Sleepaway Camps Given Go-Ahead; Weddings Can Have Up to 150 People
With daily cases and hospitalizations lower than high points just a couple months ago, Murphy announced Wednesday that sleepaway camps will be permitted to open again this summer after being one of the many activities halted last year.
He also increased the capacity allowed for weddings to 35%, up to 150 people, indoors and up to 150 outdoors. The new capacity limits go into effect on Friday and should give people time to plan ahead for wedding receptions, he said.
Murphy on Wednesday also extended to moratorium on utility shutoffs until the end of June. The measure covers gas, water and electricity as well as Internet in homes where children are virtually learning.