The coronavirus continued its relentless regional toll Sunday as New Jersey’s death toll neared 15,000, Philadelphia restaurants faced fresh bans on indoor dining, officials said Independence Hall would stay shut for at least the rest of the year, and Thanksgiving week dawned amid renewed calls for holiday caution.
“As we approach the holidays, protect yourself and your loved ones,” Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted Sunday. “Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid large gatherings.”
New Jersey reported 15 deaths Sunday, putting total fatalities at 14,949. However, the 3,998 new cases reported Sunday was substantially lower than the state’s largest single-day tally during the pandemic reported on Saturday: 4,679. The Garden State’s total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 is now 306,007.
Pennsylvania released no new coronavirus data Sunday, having ended last week with a disturbing streak: The 112 deaths reported Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day deaths in the state exceeded 100. The Department of Health also said hospitalization rates had reached a level not seen since the virus surged in May.
Citing the City of Philadelphia’s new “Safer at Home” restrictions that took effect 5 p.m. Friday, which shut down indoor restaurant dining, gyms, museums, libraries, and theaters through at least Jan. 1, the Independence Visitor Center Corp. Sunday announced the temporary closure of Independence Hall, as well as the Liberty Bell Center and the Independence Visitor Center, all for the same time period.
And for the second weekend in a row, parents rallied Sunday morning outside the Wyndmoor home of Val Arkoosh, chairperson of the Montgomery County Commissioners and a physician, protesting the county board of health directive that all K-12 schools close for two weeks effective Monday.
Shutdown opponents say the more time children spend outside school, the higher their risk of mental heath harm and adverse impact on their ability to learn. Protesters say they believe it is critical that teachers, parents, and students be given a choice about the closure.
On Friday, Montgomery County Judge Richard Haaz turned down a request by the parents to halt the shutdown of school. Parents promptly filed a second lawsuit in federal court.
Also over the weekend, Murphy signed an executive order extending New Jersey’s state of emergency due to the pandemic, in effect since March 9, for another 30 days.
“Despite the hope that is on the horizon, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over,” Murphy said. “We continue to utilize all resources available and will need the ability to do so as we battle this virus through the second wave that has enveloped our nation and our state.”