EWING — Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday recommended that all public gatherings of more than 250 people be canceled in order to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus.

The announcement ratchets up the state's response to the pandemic, which has sickened at least 29 people and killed a 69-year-old man in the state in a span of a week.

It follows an address by President Donald Trump on Wednesday night in which he announced restrictions from travel to the United Stated from Europe. The NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons while the MLB has suspended spring training. Broadway shows also are going dark for a month starting Thursday night.

As of Thursday, 207 out of nearly 700 school districts had canceled classes as a result of the coronavirus scare. Only one district has closed schools because of a confirmed case with a student.

Even before Murphy's recommendation, cities were canceling St. Patrick's Day parades.

The state's two largest cities also took aggressive measures on Thursday.

COVID-19 IN
NEW JERSEY

Number of positive cases as of March 12:
BERGEN: 13 (including 1 death)
BURLINGTON: 2
MONMOUTH: 5
MIDDLESEX: 2
CAMDEN: 1
ESSEX: 1
HUDSON: 1
MORRIS: 1
PASSAIC: 1
SOMERSET: 1
UNION: 1

Newark canceled all non-essential public gatherings of at least 50 people for the next 30 days. Jersey City also canceled non-essential city-sponsored events for the next seven days, imposed a 10 p.m. curfew for all establishments with a liquor license and ordered all establishments with a public capacity of at least 25 people to keep a sign-in sheet of people entering their premises. Mayor Steven Fulop said the information would be used to provide health officials with a means of notification of potential exposure

While the state's recommendation was not a mandate, state officials said they reserved the right under the state's emergency health declaration to force events to close.

"We are as close to a mandate that we felt necessary at this time," Health Commissioner Judith Persichili said Thursday during a daily news briefing. "What if it’s a wedding? What if it's a private event? Part of the personal responsibility of these people is to consider the impact of having 250 people in a contained space for a period of time."

Health officials continue to recommend that people practice "social distancing" by keeping a space of 6 feet between themselves and others. People who are sick should remain home.

The virus, which developed in China late last year, results in mild to severe symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath in most people. Those who have died have been older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Health officials have said that the virus could be at least 10 times as deadly as the seasonal flu.

State health officials said Thursday that the overall risk for the state remains low although Bergen County has been listed as being in moderate risk because of its 13 cases and one death. Nevertheless, measures to limit public spread of the virus are critical to keeping illnesses from spiking and overwhelming hospitals, which already are operating close to capacity.

The latest positive cases in New Jersey:

  • A 16-year-old girl from Englewood who is currently at Englewood Hospital. Information about her case was limited Thursday because her testing was conducted by Labcorp.
  • A 66-year-old woman from Montclair who is at Mountainside Hospital. Health officials were still investigating how she was exposed.
  • A 51-year-old man from Butler Borough who is at Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains. Officials have confirmed his exposure to a COVID-19 patient.
  • A 23-year-old man from Bridgewater who officials believe may have been exposed through close contact with an infected Pennsylvania resident.
  • A 53-year-old man from Manalapan who is at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold Township. Health officials said he had exposure to a known COVID-19 case.
  • A Teaneck woman who is at Holy Name Medical Center. Officials, who did not know her age on Thursday, said she was exposure to a known infected person at synagogue carnival March 1 in New York state.

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