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Murphy updates state on coronavirus cases, hospital capacity

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said state officials are looking to increase the number of available beds at each hospital in New Jersey.
Photo by Photo by Pixabay | The Daily TargumGov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said state officials are looking to increase the number of available beds at each hospital in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) spoke at a press conference today and announced 3,347 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and 37 new deaths, bringing New Jersey’s total to 16,636 cases and 198 deaths. 

“These numbers, as I have said before, never get any easier to report. They're never going to be any easier until that number, frankly, stands at zero,” Murphy said. “But I also shudder to think about what these numbers would be had we not taken the strong stance we have as it pertains to social distancing.”

Murphy presented a chart showing the projected spread of COVID-19 if no social distancing policies were enacted. The model projects New Jersey hospitals would hit capacity for intensive care beds by April 1 and hit total capacity for hospital beds by April 9.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli showed a second chart, which shows the projected spread of COVID-19 if 31 percent of residents are practicing social distancing. This model projects intensive care beds would be filled by April 11 and the state’s overall hospital capacity would not be reached until May 8.

“This (first) chart is the nightmare scenario that we are desperately working to avoid and that we are urging every New Jerseyan to help us avoid,” Murphy said. “This is what we mean by ‘flattening the curve’ and why we have taken all the steps we have taken since January.”

Murphy said the state is continuing to work with hospitals to expand the number of beds they can hold. Officials are also looking to reopen closed hospitals and are in the process of opening three regional medical stations with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Persichilli said the regional medical center in North Jersey is almost complete and will likely be able to accept patients sometime next week.

The state is also seeking retired healthcare workers to volunteer to help fight COVID-19, Murphy said, with approximately 3,600 individuals already signing up.

Murphy said he is continuing to work with President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to secure resources for the state. He said the federal government is sending 300 extra ventilators to New Jersey, a donation Murphy said was welcome but not enough to meet the needs of the state.

New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan said the state originally requested 2,300 ventilators from the federal government. He said officials are also looking into whether they can purchase 2,000 ventilators from an outside source.

Persichilli said as of right now, no hospitals in the state have run out of ventilators because the state still has some to distribute when resources are running low.

Murphy said officials are also considering the option to have patients “co-vent,” meaning two patients would be connected to the same ventilator.

During the press conference, Murphy also issued some clarifications regarding his “stay-at-home” order. The Daily Targum previously reported this executive order suspended all gatherings and non-essential businesses. It provided a specific list of which businesses counted as essential. 

In his clarification, Murphy said realtors are allowed to show individual clients properties for sale, but cannot hold group events such as open houses. Auto dealerships are also allowed to conduct online or remote sales, he said.

Murphy also said a federal rule mandated that firearm stores are part of “critical infrastructure,” meaning firearm retailers in New Jersey can now sell to clients by appointment only. 

Callahan provided updates on violations of the stay-at-home order. He said a gym in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and a barbershop in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, were found operating, resulting in charges against the owners. Charges were also filed against the organizers of a bat mitzvah in Lakewood Township, New Jersey, for violating the ban on gatherings implemented by the executive order.

Police also arrested a man in Harrington Park, New Jersey, for driving under the influence who then coughed on the officers and told them he had COVID-19, Callahan said.

Since the executive order was issued, Callahan said, there have been 70 total compliance issues with 34 indictable offenses.

Murphy said the stay-at-home order was implemented to help keep New Jerseyans safe and asked residents to follow the state’s guidance. 

“We can crush the top of that curve (of COVID-19 cases) if we act as one, if each one of the nine million of us does our part, including the little things,” Murphy said. “No more knucklehead parties or gatherings ... no more abhorrent behavior. We have got to stay home. We have got to stay away from each other. We’ve got to set a bar in terms of our social distancing that no other state has set before.”