New Jersey reports 29,895 coronavirus cases; 646 deaths

New Jersey now has at least 29,895 coronavirus cases, with 646 reported deaths, according to state health officials.

FULL COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS

On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced 4,372 new coronavirus cases and 113 new virus-related deaths. As the death toll continues to mount, Murphy ordered flags across the state to be flown at half-mast to honor those who have succumbed to the virus.

"COVID-19 has taken far too many relatives, friends, and loved ones in New Jersey,” Governor Murphy said. “This virus has affected every corner of our state, and as we continue to work to break the back of this pandemic."

The death toll is a reminder that the best thing residents can do is to continue to avoid social interactions, Murphy said.

“I cannot be any clearer in my call: Stay at home before this hits home. Please do your part to flatten this curve,” Murphy added.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (Edwin J. Torres/Governor's Office)

A closer look at the latest developments:

CASES

Below is a breakdown of positive COVID-19 cases by county:

– Bergen County: 4,866, including 132 deaths

– Essex County: 3,067, including 118 deaths

– Hudson County: 2,835, including 59 deaths

– Union County: 2,487, including 45 deaths

– Passaic County: 2,216, including 34 deaths

– Middlesex County: 2,125, including 56 deaths

– Monmouth County: 1,743, including 48 deaths

– Ocean County: 1,685, 45 deaths

– Morris County: 1,298, including 43 deaths

– Somerset County: 641, including 23 deaths

– Mercer County: 484, including 5 deaths

Camden County: 406, including 7 deaths

Burlington County: 367, including 9 deaths

– Sussex County: 210, including 8 deaths

Gloucester County: 183, including 3 deaths

– Warren County: 149, including 3 deaths

– Hunterdon County: 148

Atlantic County: 72, including 1 death

– Cape May County: 44

Cumberland County: 36, including 1 death

– Salem County: 25, including 2 death

A graphic illustrates the importance of social distancing in order to reduce the number of infected patients during a pandemic. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

WHAT TO DO

State health officials have recommended calling your health care provider if you have symptoms, including fever and shortness of breath. Officials also point people to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which recommends people stay home except to get medical care.

New Jersey residents with coronavirus-related questions can call 211 or text NJCOVID to 898-21.

NEW TESTING CENTERS

Camden, Middlesex and Ocean counties are opening or have opened new drive-thru COVID-19 testing facilities, Murphy said.

Camden’s will be open starting Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m. during the week.

Middlesex opened a facility in Edison that will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Ocean’s center will be open weekdays, though a time wasn’t given. All the centers are only for county residents who have symptoms of the virus, including shortness of breath and fever.

The testing centers join two statewide facilities in Bergen and Monmouth counties and a handful of other centers just for county residents.

NURSING HOMES

The number of nursing homes and long-term care facilities hit by the virus continues to climb, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. Some 81 centers have a coronavirus case, up from just over a dozen facilities about a week ago.

The state is now requiring all nursing home workers to wear masks to help prevent them from bringing the virus into centers, Persichilli said.


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MORE BUSINESSES DEEMED ESSENTIAL

Murphy expanded the kinds of businesses that are permitted to operate while the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders are in place. The list of businesses considered essential now includes:

— Mobile phone retail and repair shops

— Bicycle shops, but only to provide service and repair

— Livestock feed stores

— Nurseries and garden centers

— Farming equipment stores

The list also includes groceries and supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations.

BREW PUBS, AUTO RETAIL AND GUNS

New Jersey brew pubs will now be able to deliver, Murphy said Monday. The state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control had previously barred such delivery.

He also said that auto retailers would be permitted to conduct online sales, with customers allowed to pick up vehicles at dealers or for dealers to deliver

Gun retailers, which were shuttered, will now be able to reopen but by appointment only, Murphy said. He said the decision wasn’t his but came from guidance from the White House.

SCHOOLS

Murphy announced the closure of all schools and colleges in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak The state’s more than 600 school districts were affected. Most of them had already closed.

Murphy announced Tuesday that New Jersey was granted a federal waiver to cancel statewide assessments for this spring. This will not prevent students from meeting their graduation requirements.

SUPPLIES

The state got 350 new ventilators from the federal governments, bringing the statewide total of new equipment to 650, according to the governor.

The state needs 2,300 ventilators from federal officials, Murphy said.

Murphy has also said the state needs personal protective equipment (PPE). Anyone with PPE to donate is urged to visit the state's dedicated COVID-19 hub.

MORTGAGE RELIEF

Murphy announced a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments for borrowers affected economically by the coronavirus. Not making payments during that period can’t be used to downgrade borrowers’ credit ratings, and late fees won’t be allowed, Murphy said. He also urged landlords taking advantage of the grace period to pass relief onto renters, and reminded landlords that renters cannot be evicted during the crisis.

OCEAN CITY RENTALS

In Ocean City, Mayor Jay Gillian said he has spoken with leaders of the resort’s real estate community, who agreed to halt all short-term rentals.

He asked private property owners to do likewise, citing an executive order by governor prohibiting online marketplaces from offering rentals during the virus outbreak.

In a message to residents issued Sunday night, Gillian, who has tried to avoid being drawn into disputes between year-round and summer residents over whether owners of second homes should stay away from Ocean City, said: “Although Ocean City ordinarily welcomes all visitors, at this time we must take all available steps to enforce social distancing recommendations and limit nonessential travel to Ocean City.”

MORE BEACHES CLOSED

The Ocean County beach towns of Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head and Mantoloking jointly decided to close their beaches to help slow the spread of the virus. Point Pleasant Beach had previously banned walking on its boardwalk but still allowed people to cross over it onto the sand. The new restrictions, announced on Tuesday, will take effect on Friday.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.