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Pastor, EMT, Supermarket Operator Among NJ COVID-19 Deaths, Cases Surge Above 51,000

Kevin Leiva of Paterson Photo Credit: NJ Governor's Office
Gov. Phil Murphy announces the COVID-19 death of the Rev. H. Gene Sykes of Bayonne Photo Credit: NJ Governor's Office
Steve Ravitz, ShopRite operator Photo Credit: NJ Governor's Office

The owner of several South Jersey ShopRite stores and a pastor from Bayonne are among the 1,700 coronavirus deaths in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday as cases climbed to 51,027

"The number of cases by county are doubling," the governor said.

Nearly 7,400 residents remain hospitalized with COVID-19, Murphy said, including 1,523 in intensive care. 

Of the 1,700 fatalities, 198 new deaths were accounted for Thursday, Murphy said. Those include Steve Ravitz, who operated five ShopRite supermarkets, and the Rev. H. Gene Sykes, 78, who preached at Friendship Baptist Church in Bayonne for more than 25 years.

Kevin Leiva, 24, of Paterson was an Emergency Medical Services responder in North Bergen and St. Clare's Hospital. He passed away of coronavirus-related complications, too.

Sykes was a beloved religious figure and a local activist who founded the Bayonne Community Action Project to create more affordable housing. Before joining the ministry, he worked as an engineer and flight crew trainer, first in the U.S. Air Force and later for multiple private companies, the governor said.

“During my time as mayor, I have been fortunate to have the friendship of Rev. Sykes, as I valued and respected his counsel,” Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis wrote on Instagram. “On behalf of the city of Bayonne, I would like to offer our condolences to his family, friends and congregation.”

Ravitz, 72, known for his philanthropy and faith, built a chain of five ShopRite stores and one Price Rite outlet, his son, Jason, told the Burlington County Times. The chain includes stores in Mount Laurel and Evesham in Burlington County

“It doesn’t seem real,” Jason Ravitz told the Times. “He loved life. He just wanted to enjoy life.”

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