By CBS3 Staff


TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey recorded the state’s highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day as Gov. Phil Murphy closed state and county parks. Officials announced 232 additional deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 1,232.

Murphy says there are 3,361 new COVID-19 cases as the statewide total climbed to 44,416.

“Sadly, we’ve lost another 232 of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19-related complications,” Murphy said. “We don’t need to, nor do we want to, in any way lose any more members of our family. The best way we can protect this New Jersey family is by social distancing.”

Murphy is extending the public health emergency he initially declared on March 9 by 30 days.

“Extending this order ensures we will continue to take appropriate steps to protect the public health and welfare of New Jerseyans,” the governor said.

While residents cope with the extended measures, they’re thinking about their own personal measures too.

“Now we’re really wondering maybe we should be wearing a mask even when we’re just walking through the park, and not really coming into contact with people,” Andrew Massaro said.

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All state and county parks and forests across New Jersey were also closed to further social distancing due to an abundance of gatherings.

“We’ve seen far too many instances in our parks where people are gathering and socializing in groups. We need to flatten the curve,” Murphy said. “I do not take this action lightly. Some of my fondest memories with my own children are beautiful spring days in parks playing soccer and enjoying our family.

“But my focus, and my sole mission in life right now, is the health of every New Jersey family.”

“The trails are perfectly wide. Like close an outdoor space. Ok so now where is everyone going to go? They’re going to be walking up and down the sidewalks of their neighborhoods, and they’re going to be talking to their neighbors, and they’re going to be even closer together,” Dave Babcock said.

While some nature lovers in the historic Smithville Eastampton Park are disappointed with the governor’s executive order, other parkgoers say they understand his decision.
“It’s definitely sad because this is kind of our escape from our house but I also definitely know that there are people not following the rules and they have to crack down on it a little more,” Stacy Massaro said.

Murphy has spoken with other governors to discuss a more regional approach to mobilizing resources to fight the coronavirus or any future pandemic.

Murphy also signed an executive order to waive the 2019-2020 school year assessment requirements for eighth and 12th grade students due to COVID-19. The order was signed to make sure none of the students are left behind, or penalized, due to the pandemic.

State health officials said Tuesday they’re developing a new statewide plan to address staff and equipment shortages at nursing homes, which have been hit hard by COVID-19.

“This will be a whole of government approach, it will cover from North Jersey to South Jersey,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “It will require, in some cases, to be moved around. And that’s extremely disturbing to elderly individuals.”

In an extraordinary effort to stop the spread of the virus, Logan Township in Gloucester Township will begin distributing free face masks to all of its 6,300 residents on Friday.

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“We need to find a way to maybe Saran Wrap ourselves from this virus,” Logan Township Mayor Frank Minor said, “and flatten the curve as they talk about.”

The free face masks in Logan Township came by way of an anonymous donation from a local business.

A new drive-thru coronavirus testing site is set to open at Rowan College in Gloucester County on Wednesday. It will be open to symptomatic county residents by appointment only.

While taking further steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus, New Jersey officials say for the first time, they’re having preliminary discussions with neighboring states about what it will look like when they can reopen businesses and return to some sense of normal.

CBS3’s Cleve Bryan and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.