Murphy: COVID-19 hospitalizations down, but mask mandate not expected to end any time soon

More than 1 million New Jersey residents have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and state officials are still encouraging more people to sign up for appointments.
Gov. Phil Murphy said at his COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday hospitalizations from the virus are also down.
“These numbers all continue their downward trend. That’s a very encouraging sign,” Murphy said.
The rate of transmission is still below 1 and infection numbers are also down.
“This is the lowest census we have had since mid-November,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
Murphy said that the downward trends could prompt him to more fully reopen restaurants and the state economy in the near future. But he said that despite the increased levels of vaccination, he does not foresee lifting a mask mandate anytime soon. And he was not clear about when he would expand indoor dining.
“I do not see a step that we’ll take that will lift mask mandates indoors. It’s not in the cards anytime soon,” Murphy said.
But despite the improving data, officials also announced that 42 additional people died of COVID-19-related complications as of Tuesday night.