Gov. Phil Murphy: 'My Level Of Concern Is High' As Numbers Rise, Colder Weather Leads To More Indoor Gatherings

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork)Gov. Phil Murphy says the second wave of the coronavirus has arrived in New Jersey.

As the weather gets colder, more people are moving their gatherings indoors despite warnings from state health officials who say it’s a direct link to the rising number of cases.

“My level of concern is high,” Murphy said.

That’s because New Jersey hasn’t seen daily case numbers over 2,000 since May, but Friday, the governor reported 2,089 new positive cases.

At University Hospital in Newark, COVID hospitalizations have tripled since early last week. The hospital’s CEO says there are now 30 patients battling the virus with a growing number needing critical care.

The numbers are also startling within the Hackensack Meridian Health System, says Dr. Daniel Varga.

“We’re right around 190 today. A week ago, we were at 150. A month ago, we were at 50,” Varga told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

He says they’re seeing a lot of 18- to 40-year-olds getting sick, but fortunately, not as severely as we saw in the spring, which may be due to lessons learned in the first wave.

“We administer oxygen, both regular and high-flow oxygen early. That tends to keep people off ventilators,” Varga said.

Watch Meg Baker’s report —

The second wave is being linked to private indoor gatherings. The fear is that Halloween parties will lead to more.

As a deterrent, in Hoboken, Mayor Ravi Bhalla is pushing an ordinance that imposes up to a $1,000 fine if more than 25 people get together, but it didn’t pass in time for Halloween.

“This would have given us a real enforcement mechanism for the police department to crack down on a very real source of the spread of COVID in our community,” Bhalla said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Even a small indoor gathering can have consequences. An animation posted by the Spanish-language newspaper El País shows how the virus can spread. If there are six people in a room and one person is contaminated, all six can be infected if they’re not wearing masks, even if they’re sitting at a distance, because tiny contagious particles exhaled by an infected person remain suspended in the air.

The risk of infection drops when the group uses face masks, shortens the length of the gathering by half and ventilates the space used, but that’s not happening, leading to thousands of new cases.

Some people may show up to a gathering wearing a mask, but then take it off to eat, drink and chat — similar to what you would do at a restaurant.

CBS2’s Meg Baker asked the governor if he’s rethinking indoor dining.

“The economic pain has been overwhelming, but as a health matter, the incremental approach I think has saved cases and lives. So I think we’re there for the time being. If we were to take step back, you’re shutting those restaurants down, which is something we absolutely do not want to do,” he said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

But Murphy says if the numbers continue to rise, the idea of a statewide curfew is on the table. His biggest concern is Thanksgiving gatherings.

“Understand the spectrum of risk. Inside is riskier than outside,” Varga said. “Gatherings that involve older people are riskier than gatherings that only involve younger people.”

CDC data shows 49 states in an upward trajectory of new cases.

RELATED STORY: Gov. Cuomo Announces New Testing Plan For New York Schools In COVID-19 Hot Spots

In New York this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has one of the lowest positivity rates in the country, but micro-clusters remain a concern.

Officials are reminding people to wear masks, wash hands, social distance and answer calls from contact tracers so a full investigation can be completed.

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