Guidelines issued by the Murphy administration could put a serious crimp in making merry this holiday season, and make it harder for kids to get their wish list to Santa. The new restrictions come as the governor sought to squash rumors he was planning another statewide shutdown.

Fresh off a Thanksgiving that saw severe restrictions on how many people you could have at your holiday table, the guidance for December holidays is similar in terms of gatherings and social distancing. However, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, medical director for the Communicable Disease Service at the state Department of Health, says parents should absolutely not let their kids sit on the laps of Santa or one of his helpers.

In addition, carolers should be socially distant and behind barriers; tree and menorah lightings need to limit attendance; and people need to keep their distance and mask up.

Other holiday celebrations, such as parades and festivals, may need to be canceled. Lifshitz warned, "This year we will need to change how we enjoy the holidays."

It is unclear how many families adhered to Thanksgiving rules. Because of a lag in reporting data, we may not know for another week or more if outbreaks can be traced to Thanksgiving gatherings.

The most recent data, however, does show some positive trends. The rate of transmission has dropped to 1.11, meaning coronavirus is still spreading but nearly at the rate we saw in the spring. Below 1.0 means COVID is not actively spreading. Hospitalizations and deaths also remain a fraction of what was being reported in March and hundreds continue to be discharged after recovering.

Many in New Jersey also continue to resist contact tracing. Gov. Murphy laments nearly 7 in 10 are refusing cooperation and 20% wont even take a phone call from a contact tracer. The governor thinks it's most likely because they don't want to feel like they ratted out their friends, neighbors or even their kids.

Murphy continues to plead for cooperation, saying this is not a witch hunt and that contact tracers are only trying to protect community health.  The 30% that DO cooperate, Murphy calls "heroes."

One of the biggest challenges health officials face is so-called "COVID fatigue." Nine months after the start of the pandemic, people are tired of the restrictions. This fatigue manifests itself in many ways, from outright defiance to lazy mask wearing. Even those who agree with restrictions may tend to be lax at times. Outdoor activities are being reduced by gathering restrictions and winter weather, forcing more activities inside. Health officials warn that people can have a false sense of security indoors, especially inside their own homes, and continue to stress social distancing and mask wearing.

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