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November 12, 2020

New Jersey provides local officials with greater regulatory powers in fight against COVID-19

State also among first to receive new rapid diagnostic test

Government Coronavirus
New Jersey COVID-19 business Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is giving local officials more regulatory powers against COVID-19, but he warns them not to implement policies that contradict state protocols.

New Jersey counties and municipalities now can regulate the operating hours of non-essential businesses after 8 p.m. – an additional tool to mitigate the escalating spread of the coronavirus. 

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order providing localities with greater regulatory powers Thursday. But they cannot adopt any actions that go against statewide protocols.  

"Our surgical approach empowers local officials to take actions to prevent localized hotspots from becoming COVID wildfires," Murphy said. "We believe we can have a more effective and efficient means of attacking COVID-19 in the second wave. What we are facing today is different from what we faced in the spring."

The new options being afforded to local officials are the latest state effort to curtail the surge of COVID-19 infections, which Murphy referred to as "stark and sobering."

New Jersey has implemented tougher restrictions on indoor dining and banned all out-of-state travel for youth sports. Starting Thursday, restaurants and bars must stop indoor service by no later than 10 p.m. 

The state reported 3,517 additional coronavirus infections Thursday, increasing the statewide total to 266,986 since the pandemic began. New Jersey has recorded 10,472 new cases since Monday.

More than 1,800 patients suffering from COVID-19 are hospitalized, 360 of whom are in intensive care units. Those hospitalization numbers are the highest that the state has recorded since June. The 117 ventilators in use is the highest since July. The death toll stands at 14,694. 

Despite the statewide rise in cases, Murphy said the reopening of schools has been working. Only 51 of more than 3,000 schools have experienced coronavirus outbreaks – about 1.7%. He does not have any immediate plans to shut schools down. 

New rapid COVID-19 test now accessible  

New Jersey will be one of the first recipients of a new rapid molecular COVID-19 test developed by Cue Health.

The test, which returns results in roughly 20 minutes, has a highly-accurate 99% sensitivity rate and 98% specificity rate. Sensitivity measures the proportion of patients with a disease who have a positive test. Specificity measure the proportion of people without the disease who have a negative test. 

The test, which received an emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in June, can be administered via a direct nasal swab.

Highly vulnerable communities in New Jersey will be among the first to access the test, Murphy said. The state is currently processing approximately 45,000 PCR tests per day.

"We have a much stronger testing regime in place and a greater ability to effectively mobilize resources," Murphy said. "Our testing capabilities are much stronger than they were in the spring. Rapid-testing resources have been deployed statewide and are in regular use.”

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