Murphy: Celebrate Christmas with your immediate family to prevent spread of COVID-19

Gov. Phil Murphy is urging state residents to keep their Christmas celebrations small this year to avoid spreading COVID-19.
Murphy used his final coronavirus briefing Wednesday before Christmas Day to urge people not to see elderly family members.
State health officials are concerned that a spike in coronavirus cases that happened in the weeks after Thanksgiving could be worse after gatherings on Christmas Day.
“Don't screw up Christmas. Don't go big, don't go multi-generational. Stay within your immediate family,” Murphy urged.
It's not a very merry message from Gov. Murphy in his last pre-Christmas coronavirus briefing, but one he says is necessary to keep people safe over the holiday.
“This year, cannot be the year for the large Christmas for family and friends, I hate even saying that, I hate hearing it, it's lousy for all of us but that's the way it's got to be,” he added.
In the wake of Thanksgiving, hospitalizations for COVID-19 - along with patients in intensive care and on ventilators - all went up. State health officials want to avoid a similar spike that could come from large gatherings on Christmas.
“The hospital system is the main focus here, we cannot let it get overrun,” Murphy said.
The nearly 4,000 hospitalizations Wednesday are the highest number since May 13 and could continue increasing until the middle of January.
But a slowly, but steadily decreasing rate of spread of the coronavirus gave medical director of the State's Communicable Disease Service, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, some optimism.
“But my hope is that what we are seeing is that we are now cresting near the top of the curve and that we will hopefully begin to see it begin to drop down again. The deaths are a lagging indicator, meaning unfortunately as things begin to look better, deaths will increase,” Lifshitz said.
In answering questions about Santa, it's a ho-ho-no from the Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli on whether to leave out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.
“Judy says, please remind everyone to not leave milk and cookies for Santa. What your concern is, we want Santa to keep his mask on,” Murphy said.
For the 24 hours ending Tuesday night, 426 COVID-19 patients were safely discharged from hospitals across the state, but 498 patients were admitted during the same period.