4-year-old among 162 additional COVID-19 deaths reported in New Jersey on Friday

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey reported more than 150 new deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, including that of a 4-year-old, even as a continuing decline or leveling in the number of cases and hospitalizations gave cause for cautious optimism.

"We've lost another blessed soul and it is unfathomable that it is a child," Gov. Phil Murphy said during his daily press briefing.

The numbers "are absolutely going in the right direction," Gov. Phil Murphy said at a news conference, and must continue that trend as a big decision looms: when, and how, to reopen beaches as summer approaches.

Murphy said he expected to give guidance on early steps by next week.

The state also will open up testing for people not showing symptoms, at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, Monmouth County, and Bergen Community College in Paramus. The state needed to receive a waiver from the federal government before going ahead, Murphy said.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

More coronavirus-related developments in New Jersey:

NUMBERS

The state reported 162 deaths, bringing its total to 8,952. Officials didn't provide details on the death of the 4-year-old, who became the state's first fatality under 18, other than to say the child had an additional health problem.

Nearly 2,000 new cases were reported, giving New Jersey more than 135,000 overall. About 4,600 people remained hospitalized, a decrease of about 1,000 from a week ago, Murphy said.

More than 300 people were hospitalized in the past 24 hours, but more than 400 were discharged.

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THERE SHE IS

Add the Miss America pageant to the list of events canceled this year because of the pandemic.

The Miss America Organization announced Friday that a competition will not be held this year, and that it would resume next year, which will be its 100th anniversary.

The most recent Miss America, Virginia's Camille Schrier, was crowned in December at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

A location for the 2020 pageant had not yet been announced; its longtime home had been Atlantic City, aside from a brief detour to Las Vegas.

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BEACHES AND BOARDWALKS

Murphy said Friday that the reopening of beaches would proceed like the recent reopening of state parks in many respects.

That means the state probably will limit parking and seek to enforce social distancing and other measures, though Murphy said it would be difficult to enforce masks on the beach.

"Folks are just going to have to accept that going to the beach will be an experience that will feel in some ways like it always has and in some ways like it never has," he said.

Belmar reopened its boardwalk Friday. Cool weather and cloudy skies kept traffic on the boardwalk to a minimum afternoon.

Belmar's neighbor to the south, Spring Lake, has its boardwalk shut, while to the north, Avon allows people to walk on its boardwalk. Point Pleasant Beach, one of the state's most popular boardwalks, also remains off limits.

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TEMP HOSPITAL TO CLOSE

A field hospital set up in a convention center in Secaucus last month will close over the weekend, Murphy said.

The hospital, the first of four such centers built in the state, opened in early April to treat non-COVID-19 patients to ease the burden on traditional hospitals. The 250-bed Secaucus hospital treated a total of 268 patients and discharged 251, Murphy said.

Operations will transfer to East Orange General Hospital, and remaining supplies will be stored by the state Office of Emergency Management.

"It is a sign that the work we've all been doing to slow the spread of COVID-19 is working and that has put us in this position," Murphy said.

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