Murphy announces 935 new coronavirus cases, 7 additional deaths in NJ
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced 935 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New Jersey today at a press conference along with seven additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 2844 cases and 27 deaths.
“This increase is not a surprise nor is it necessarily a cause for great alarm for those seated up here,” he said. “There’s clearly some community spread going on … but there’s also a lot more testing going on, and as we’ve said all along, as the testing regime expands, we’re going to see these numbers go up in a big way.”
The Daily Targum previously reported a new testing center was scheduled to open today at 8 a.m. at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. Another testing location at Kean University also opened today for Union county residents, first responders and county workers by appointment only.
At the press conference, Murphy said the PNC Bank Arts Center testing site quickly reached capacity on its first day and will continue opening each day at the same time to provide access to testing. He also said Hudson County was opening a testing center for residents and first responders who schedule appointments at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Murphy said more data on COVID-19 cases and how they are spread allows officials to respond more efficiently to the outbreak. To improve data collection, Murphy said Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Jared M. Maples and New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judith Persichilli directed all private labs conducting testing for the virus to report results directly to the NJDOH. Murphy said there were previously discrepancies in the results and issues with how quickly they were submitted.
New initiatives to prevent the state’s healthcare system from becoming overloaded were also introduced. Murphy passed an executive order effective Friday at 5 p.m. to suspend medical and dental elective surgeries and invasive procedures.
“No operation that can be safely delayed, as determined by a patient’s doctor or dentist, will be performed after this time and until further notice,” he said. “We must take this step … to lessen the burden on our healthcare system and to preserve, especially, the personal protective gear that our medical responders need, in which as we know is in short supply.”
Murphy also said the New Jersey Hospital Association, the NJDOH, the New Jersey State Police and the Office of Emergency Management partnered to monitor the state’s supply of personal protective equipment through an ongoing, statewide inventory and ensure that the needs of all hospitals are being met.
Potential resources and aid from the federal government could also be coming. Murphy said he has been in contact with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald J. Trump.
He said he discussed securing funding, the need for more personal protective equipment and setting up four pop-up field hospitals with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Trump said he supported the creation of these field hospitals, and Murphy said he will be in touch with federal officials continuously as the outbreak continues.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal also spoke about the legal repercussions for disobeying executive orders, price gouging and hate crimes during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Targum previously reported Murphy passed an executive order requiring all nonessential businesses to shut down. Anyone who is not an essential worker or seeking goods or services from an essential business must stay home. All gatherings and parties are canceled until further notice.
Grewal said violating executive orders is a criminal offense and issued a final warning to businesses who may still be operating or individuals hosting gatherings.
“There are a range of charges available to us to ensure compliance (with the executive orders). They include everything from disorderly persons offenses, to second degree, to third degree and fourth degree indictable charges,” he said.
Grewal said following Murphy’s stay-at-home order allows law enforcement to focus on public safety issues and prevents additional strain on the criminal justice system, courts and jails.
As for price gouging, Grewal said the Division of Consumer Affairs has received approximately 1400 complaints related to COVID-19 among approximately 900 businesses in New Jersey. He said the majority of the complaints pertained to raised prices for surgical masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays and wipes, food and bottled water.
Grewal said in many cases, the increased price is due to the manufacturer or wholesaler, not the individual retailer. Although only a small percentage of complaints dealt with actual price gouging, he said the number of fraud cases will likely increase.
Grewal also spoke out against racist incidents against Asian-Americans due to COVID-19 and said victims of hate crimes or discrimination should seek help from law enforcement.
“In my mind, even though there are a handful of incidents, that’s a handful too many in this state,” Grewal said.
Murphy said the state will continue working to slow the spread of COVID-19 and asked the public to remain calm and practice both good hygiene and social distancing.
“We are at war, and you win wars, like World War II, not because you panic, but because you’re aggressive, you’re smart, you’re proactive, you shoot straight with each other, you’ve got courage,” he said. “That’s what we need right now. We’re all in this together.”
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