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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks after taking the oath of office in Trenton, New Jersey, January 16, 2018.

Lucas Jackson | Reuters

New Jersey is extending its public health emergency order and closing all state and county parks as coronavirus deaths hit the highest single-day increase in COVID-19 deaths yet, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.

Murphy announced that 232 people died of the coronavirus over the past day, bringing the state total to 1,232. He added that 3,361 people tested positive in the past day, which brings the total in New Jersey to 44,416.

“We have also lost, and this is sadly our highest toll to date, we have lost another 232 of our precious fellow New Jerseyians to COVID-19-related complications,” he said. “The best way we can protect this New Jersey family is by social distancing.”

Despite the jump in deaths, Murphy noted that the spread of the virus appears to be slowing down, though he cautioned that it’s too early to say so definitively. Epidemiologists and public officials are closely watching the so-called curve of new infections, which plots out the percentage increase in new cases. They are trying to “flatten the curve” of the line graph, which would indicate that the outbreak is slowing.

“Yesterday, we noted that we’re beginning to see, and I don’t want to overstate this in anyway, the very first potential signs that the curve may be finally flattening,” he said. “But we cannot be happy with only reaching a plateau.”

Social distancing appears to be effectively curbing the spread of the virus in New Jersey, Murphy said, telling residents to “stay at your home unless you absolutely need to go out.”

He said he will sign four new executive orders that will extend the state’s public health emergency by 30 days. Murphy initially declared a public health emergency on March 9. He also announced an order to close all state and county parks throughout New Jersey, adding that residents have been crowding the parks and disregarding social distancing guidelines.

“We have seen far too many instances where people are gathering in groups in our parks erroneously thinking since they’re outside social distancing doesn’t matter,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

This is breaking news. Check back here for updates. 

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