Last March we got word of the first confirmed COVID-19 fatality in the Garden State.

Ten months later, as the pandemic continues, the total of number of confirmed and probable deaths caused by the virus in New Jersey has topped 20,000.

During all of his COVID updates since March 30, Gov. Phil Murphy has used a part of every presentation to remember and honor three  New Jerseyans who died from the virus — some young, some old, some who relocated to the Garden State, some who were lifelong residents.

Over the past nine months, the governor has memorialized 413 Garden State residents.

During these commemorations, Murphy has displayed their pictures, described their interests, their careers and families, and shared tidbits of information about their lives and expressed his heartfelt condolences to their families.

The governor said he began doing this because he wanted to make sure as much as “data and facts and science matter — and they do and they drive our decisions — at the same time none of these folks who we’ve lost could ever become mere statistics, they are the faces of New Jersey in all of our great diversity.”

He said they are faces and lives worth seeing and remembering, the souls that have been lost to COVID-19.

Another reason this remembrance began was because the pandemic forced thousands of New Jersey families to change the way they honored and memorialized their loved ones. In the spring and summer, families couldn't hold funerals, while funerals today are kept small.

Murphy said he’s heard from countless families that suffered the “three strikes you’re out” reality of losing a loved one, not being able to see them in the hospital and then not being able to give them a proper sendoff after they passed away.

Murphy said by remembering three people who have died from the virus during every update, the hope is that families have been able to achieve a measure of closure.

“That’s just a small percentage of all those we’ve lost but they also represent the whole,” he said. “It is their stories yes, but their stories are mirrored in the stories of countless thousands of others.”

He added we remember every single resident who has perished “and may God bless and watch over every single one of those we’ve lost and the families they leave behind.”

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READ MORE: LOVED & LOST — NJ’s lives lost to COVID-19

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