Statistics are moving in the right direction, school is back in session and Governor Murphy recently announced the return of indoor dining, with caveats. Please review an update on COVID-19 from the Heath Department for the latest information.
The numbers of new COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths in NJ continue to decline. The rate of transmission has recently been fluctuating between .80 and .92. Anything above 1.0 is considered concerning. The higher the number, the greater the risk of viral spread throughout the community. The good news is that this rate has consistently averaged well below 1.0 over the last several weeks. The numbers are particularly better in the Northeast and Northwest regions of the State, but the remainder of the state has also been consistently improving. Within the Pequannock Health Department’s jurisdictions, the number of new cases has been relatively flat for some time.
NJ Regional COVID Activity Report
Contact Tracing and Disease Investigation
Training and infrastructure for the contact tracing work force continues to be built at the State, County and municipal levels. In theory, this augmented contact tracing response capability will be in place to address flare-ups. This will enable increases in positive cases to be dealt with swiftly and more effectively by the timely quarantine or isolation of those exposed or infected. The NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) has provided additional contact tracers to our local Health Department from this newly formed State work force. They will support the operation while under Pequannock Health Department supervision. With schools and universities reopening, the Pequannock Health Department will be working closely with these institutions to contact trace, isolate and quarantine individuals to quickly contain any spread of the COVID-19 virus that may be identified within these institutions.
As of this week, of the 584 public school districts in New Jersey have indicated they plan to begin the 2020-2021 school year with all-remote learning, while 59 districts plan to fully reopen. The remaining districts, which represents the majority, plan on starting the new school year with a hybrid mix of in-person and remote learning, according to state officials. All school reopening plans need to be reviewed and approved by the NJ Department of Education before they can be implemented. The Pequannock Health Department is providing guidance and is working closely assisting with COVID planning in all five public school districts, private schools and universities within our jurisdictions.
Attendance at Crowded Gatherings Can Increase Risk of COVID Transmission
For this Labor Day weekend, which thankfully may now include indoor dining and visits to a theater, it cannot be stressed enough that large, crowded gatherings, where social distancing isn’t being practiced and where face masks aren’t being worn when necessary, may be unsafe and could contribute to the spread of COVID-19. The public must continue to be diligent about the following, while enjoying the holiday:
- Distancing six or more feet
- Wearing masks/face coverings when appropriate
- Practicing hand hygiene
- Avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth
- Disinfecting commonly touched surfaces
- Staying home when symptomatic
- Following all of the requirements and advisories set forth in the Executive Orders and Executive Directives.
- Adhering to isolation and quarantine recommendations and orders from the Health Department’s contact tracers and disease investigators
Executive Order No. 180 Extends the Public Health Emergency
On August 27, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 180. The Order extends the Public Health Emergency that was declared on March 9, 2020 through Executive Order No. 103, which was previously extended on April 7, May 6, June 4, July 2, and August 1. Under the Emergency Health Powers Act, a declared public health emergency expires after 30 days unless renewed.
Executive Order No. 180 extends all Executive Orders issued under the Governor’s authority under the Emergency Health Powers Act. It also extends all actions taken by any Executive Branch departments and agencies in response to the Public Health Emergency presented by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Executive Order No. 181 Allows Gyms, Indoor Amusement and Water Parks
Effective 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 1, 2020 “Health clubs,” as defined by N.J.S.A. 56:8-39, which include gyms and fitness centers, as well as amusement and water parks, can open their indoor premises as of 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 1, 2020, provided that such businesses adopt policies that include, at minimum, the following requirements:
- Limit occupancy of any indoor premises to 25 percent of the stated maximum capacity, if applicable, at one time, excluding staff.
- Require that reservations, cancellations, and pre-payments be made via electronic or telephone reservation systems to limit physical interactions. Such policies shall, wherever possible, consider populations that do not have access to internet service or credit cards.
- Install a physical barrier, such as a shield guard, between customers and employees wherever feasible or otherwise ensure six feet of distance is maintained between those individuals, except at the moment of payment.
- Limit the use of equipment rented or otherwise provided by the business to one person at a time, and that a distance of no less than six feet distance form others utilizing exercise equipment is maintained, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, and sanitize such equipment before and after use.
- Demarcate and post signs that denote six feet of spacing in all commonly used and other applicable areas or where people may form a line.
- Require infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal.
Executive Order No. 183 Allows Indoor Dining and Performance and Entertainment Venues
Effective at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, September 4, 2020, restaurants, cafeterias, dining establishments, and food courts, with or without a liquor license, bars, and all other holders of a liquor license with retail consumption privileges, collectively referred to as “food or beverage establishments,” are permitted to offer in-person service at indoor areas, provided that the establishment complies with the following requirements:
- Limit the number of patrons in indoor areas to 25 percent of the food or beverage establishment’s indoor capacity, excluding the food or beverage establishment’s employees.
- Ensure that tables where individuals or groups are seated are six feet apart in all directions from any other table or seat and that individual seats in any shared area that is not reserved for individual groups, such as an indoor bar area, are also six feet apart in all directions from any other table or seat.
- Require indoor patrons to wear face coverings while inside the indoor premises of the food or beverage establishment. When seated at their table or their individual seat, indoor patrons shall wear face coverings until their food or drinks arrive, and after individuals have finished consuming their food or drinks, they shall put their face coverings back on. The face covering requirement does not apply if the patron has a medical reason for not wearing a face covering or is a child under two years of age.
Performance and Entertainment Venues
Effective at 6:00 a.m. on September 4, 2020, entertainment centers where performances are viewed or given, including movie theaters, performing arts centers, and other concert venues, may open their indoor spaces to the public with the following requirements:
- Limit the number of patrons in any indoor room where a performance is viewed or given to 25 percent of the stated maximum capacity, if applicable, at one time, excluding the entertainment business’s employees.
- Regardless of the capacity of the room, such limit shall never be larger than 150 persons.
- Require workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings while in the indoor portion of the premises, except where doing so would inhibit that individual’s health or where the individual is under two years of age.
Other restrictions may be applicable for the activities specified in the above mentioned Executive Orders. For additional information, please refer to the entire Executive Orders and Executive Directives at the links below.