The pace of new coronavirus infections in New Jersey is slowing even as the number of cases rises, indicating that the state's efforts to contain the pandemic are "clearly working," Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
The state confirmed 3,219 new cases on Sunday, a 4% jump from the previous day and the lowest percentage increase in new infections since the Covid-19 outbreak began, Murphy said. Officials believe the curve, or the daily rate of new infections, is "undeniably now flattening."
However, he said more than 2,400 people in the state have now died from Covid-19, more than the number of New Jerseyans who died in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.
"It's still rising, these cases are still rising," Murphy said. "We have got to hit that plateau and then aggressively bring it down back on the other side."
New Jersey has been the second hardest-hit state in the U.S., following New York. The coronavirus has infected at least 64,584 people in the state, Murphy said. There are now over 7,700 people in the hospital with coronavirus-related illnesses, but 556 have been discharged since Sunday.
"We're slowly making progress, discharging more people and holding hospitalizations and critical care patients somewhat even," said Judy Persichilli, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health.
Although the rate of new infections seems to be flattening, Murphy said the state is "right in the thick of it" and can't take its foot off the gas. He has taken a series of actions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the state, including closing all state and county parks. On Saturday, he said he would sign an executive order to cut capacity on all transit systems by half.
Murphy announced Monday that he would sign an additional executive order that will prohibit internet and phone service from being shut off until 30 days after the state's public health emergency has ended.
"If we stop doing what we're doing, even one bit, Covid-19 can boomerang on us and bring about the worst-case scenario," Murphy said. "So let's stick together, and let's keep working together. It is clearly working."
Earlier on Monday, Murphy joined a group of governors from Northeast states, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to announce that they are forming a working group to examine when it will be safe enough to start reopening commerce in the region. Cuomo said the states plan to begin discussions on Tuesday.
Murphy said the economic recovery cannot come before a health-care recovery, urging residents to continue social distancing.
"Our jobs right now collectively, first and foremost, is to put the fire out in the house, and we are still not there yet," Murphy said.