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Coronavirus update: Cases spike among farmworkers, N.J. curbs ‘wave parades’

Thomas Harden rings a cowbell as he stands up through the vehicles sun roof waving a supporters during a neighborhood parade honoring 2020 student graduates from both J.J. Pearce and Richardson High Schools in Richardson, Texas, Saturday, May 9, 2020.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Thomas Harden rings a cowbell as he stands up through the vehicles sun roof waving a supporters during a neighborhood parade honoring 2020 student graduates from both J.J. Pearce and Richardson High Schools in Richardson, Texas, Saturday, May 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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New Jersey reported 1,453 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the state’s total to 139,945. Over the past seven days, there were 9,352 new cases.  This is the first time that 7-day total was under 10,000 since March.

Another 59 people died of complications from COVID-19. The state has now lost 9,310 residents to the pandemic.

‘Wave parades’ for graduates OK as long as no one gathers

Schools can organize so-called “wave parades” for graduating high school seniors as long as they don’t involve people gathering in a central location, State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said Monday.

The comments sought to clarify a letter he sent to school districts Friday about acceptable graduation ceremonies as administrators search for creative ways to celebrate their seniors in the middle of a pandemic.

For example, it is not allowed under New Jersey’s social distancing rules for students to gather on the lawn of the high school while well-wishers drive by in cars to celebrate them, Callahan said.

However, he said, it would be acceptable for caravans of cars to drive past the homes of individual students standing outside with their families.

“If people wanted to get in cars and drive to every graduate at a high school across town, and that graduate and mom and dad were on the front porch or front lawn, that certainly is OK,” he said. “When there’s 50 people standing on top of each other on the curb of a hospital or in front of a high school, that’s where the problem comes in.”

In a separate memo last week, the state Department of Education provided tips for holding virtual celebrations. Suggestions included streaming ceremonies on the district website or even using student avatars on gaming platforms to participate in simulated commencements.

Cases spike among South Jersey farmworkers

More than half the seasonal workers at a South Jersey farm have tested positive for COVID-19, raising fears of an unchecked outbreak ahead of the blueberry and other harvests.

At least 59 migrant workers at a farm in Upper Pittsgrove, in rural Salem County, have been infected, NJ Spotlight reported Monday. The news came just as the state Department of Health and local federally qualified health centers prepared to launch a testing program for all such workers.

Upper Pittsgrove Mayor Jack Cimprich said he didn’t know how the farmer was isolating infected workers in camp dormitories, dining halls and fields. “I wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, if it hasn’t spread to the whole group,” he told NJ Spotlight.

Several thousand migrant farmworkers — many from Mexico, Hati, Puerto Rico and Central America — come to the region for the spring and summer harvests. One immigrant advocate interviewed by the outlet called the rise in cases among workers “a potential crisis.”

Patients on ventilators dip below 1,000

The number of New Jersey COVID-19 patients on ventilators dipped below 1,000 over the weekend for the first time in at least a month, according to state data.

That’s a significant decrease from a high of 1,705 patients using the life-saving breathing machines on April 14 and an encouraging sign that social distancing continues to have its desired effect.

Ahead of the April surge, officials were scrambling to grow their stockpile of ventilators to some 4,200 — more than double the 1,700 that the state’s hospitals had on hand before the pandemic.

The Trump administration provided more than 1,500 from the national stockpile, while California and New York each lent New Jersey 100. Two weeks ago, New Jersey paid the favor forward and sent 50 ventilators to Massachusetts as that state dealt with an uptick in cases.

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