Reopening New Jersey: 'Alarms are going off' as NJ coronavirus cases rise

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Saturday, August 1, 2020
'Alarms are going off' as NJ coronavirus cases rise
The "alarms are going off," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy warned as the coronavirus transmission rate hit its highest level in three months.

TRENTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- The "alarms are going off," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy warned as the coronavirus transmission rate hit its highest level in three months.

The state reported 699 new positive COVID-19 test results on Friday, another daily increase, and pushing the cumulative total since March 4 to 181,660.

Governor Phil Murphy said that the state is cracking down on the house parties that he pointed to as one of the reasons for the increase. He said he could change the gathering numbers for indoor and outdoor gatherings at any time.

"I am not announcing any specific action today, but consider this as being put on-notice. We will not tolerate these devil-may-care, nonchalant attitudes any more," he said. "We are not past this. Everyone who walks around refusing to wear a mask, or who hosts a house party is directly contributing to these increases."

Airbnb said Friday it's cracking down on party houses throughout New Jersey, suspending or removing altogether 35 listings.

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"We ban party houses and will not tolerate irresponsible behavior on our platform," Airbnb executive Chris Lehane said in a statement. "We know that there is still more work to be done, we ask that neighbors contact us as soon as possible through our Neighborhood Support Hotline, to directly communicate any concerns."

Airbnb did not disclose the addresses of the 35 locations, but indicated they're across the state, including Jersey City and Newark in the north, as well as a number of shore towns like Asbury Park, Atlantic City and Ventnor, among others.

State health officials cited one house party on Long Beach Island that led to an outbreak among Harvey Cedars lifeguards, sidelining nearly three dozen. A party among teens in Middletown was linked to 50 new positive cases, Murphy said, though he did not say those cases were tied to Airbnb, and a graduation party in Cape May County in late June led to 46 COVID-19 cases among New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents from the ages of 16 to 23.

Health officials advise holding gatherings outdoors, with masks and social distancing in place. Murphy's executive order allows for outdoor gatherings of up 500 people, with face coverings and 6 feet (2 meters) of distance between people.

"You should assume we're not going to sit and take this much longer" Murphy said that of the people violating the social distancing orders.

There is some good news.

"Even with the increases we've seen in the latest case numbers, New Jersey remains among the ten states nationwide with the lowest number of active cases per capita," Governor Murphy said.

Another positive, it was the first day with no hospital deaths since March 10th.

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