NJ coronavirus cases rise to 18,696 total with 267 deathsPhoto by PixabayNew Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli discussed new guidelines for long-term care facilities and how to properly separate patients to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) reported an additional 2,196 cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and 69 deaths at a press conference today, bringing New Jersey’s total to 18,696 cases and 267 deaths.
“This is a reality for all of us. This is not abstract, no matter how good our health is, no matter how young we might be,” Murphy said. “Even if it doesn’t impact you, nevermind kill you, you may unwittingly carry this virus and pass it on to someone else who you hold dear.”
Murphy also announced three new testing sites that will open in Middlesex County, Camden County and Ocean County. Each site has a different operating schedule and only serves residents of their county who have appointments.
Individuals who think they need COVID-19 testing should visit the state’s online COVID-19 Information Hub to take a symptom self-test and then contact their doctor, Murphy said.
Murphy also announced the state received its fourth shipment of personal protective equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency last night. The shipment contained approximately 260,000 pieces of equipment, including masks and gloves.
“We are grateful for (the shipment), it by no means alleviates our need for (personal protective equipment),” he said. “We continue to work every single avenue to get more for our state and our front line responders and to also ensure that our community health personnel have what they need as well.”
Murphy said the state currently has 280,466 N95 masks, 399,440 surgical masks, 150,665 gloves, 50,778 gowns and 74,052 face shields based on a statewide inventory of hospitals and healthcare systems. He said officials will continue to monitor the amount of supplies available to make sure they are distributed efficiently and seek out more equipment from outside sources.
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli also discussed new guidelines for long-term care facilities. She said 81 of the 375 facilities in New Jersey have at least one resident infected with the disease.
These facilities must now require all staff and or others entering the facility to wear masks, Persichilli said. Residents with symptoms of COVID-19 should also wear a mask while staff members are caring for them directly.
Additionally, Persichilli said residents being readmitted to a long-term care facility or new residents must be monitored for COVID-19 symptoms. Asymptomatic residents must be housed in a separate wing, and those who test positive or are suspected of having the virus must also have a specific wing or unit. Staff members should avoid working in multiple units, she said.
Murphy also discussed the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Daily Targum previously reported the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Community Affairs and the Board of Public Utilities asked all municipal water companies to voluntarily suspend water shut-off orders during the outbreak. Murphy announced today that 100 percent of municipal water companies have agreed to halt shut-offs.
“Clean water is essential for public health at any time and at all times, but it’s especially critical now when we are spending so much time every day, as I’m sure all of you are, washing our hands and being sure that we are paying attention to the critical hygiene needs,” said DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe. “We also recognize that many families are struggling to pay their bills with so many businesses closed to fight this outbreak, and they are facing … difficult choices about which bills to pay first.”
Murphy provided more information for employers and those who may have lost their job due to COVID-19. He said the majority of employers in New Jersey are eligible for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit if they keep their employees on the payroll.
Workers eligible for unemployment will receive an additional $600 per week beginning next week until July 31 due to the federal COVID-19 relief bill, he said. Those who just filed for unemployment may have to wait longer, but Murphy said the Department of Labor is working overtime to process the high volume of applications.
Murphy said an additional COVID-19 relief bill could potentially be coming soon. He said he has been in contact with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and is advocating for assistance for workers, small businesses as well as flexible aid for states based on how severe the impact of the virus has been.
“New Jersey and New Jerseyans who are in the eye of the storm should not be treated the same way as states less impacted by this invisible enemy,” Murphy said. “As we continue to think about a Main Street stimulus, Congress should undo the (state and local tax) deduction cap to help New Jersey’s middle-class homeowners.”
New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan said local law enforcement agencies are continuing to crack down on those who violate the stay-at-home order. He said last night in Newark, New Jersey, officers wrote 161 summonses and closed 15 businesses across 21 separate incidents.
Callahan said law enforcement officers are at risk of contracting COVID-19 when they are forced to go shut down gatherings and asked the public to stay at home.
Murphy said he understands it is difficult for the public to stay at home but asked them to continue social distancing in order to bring an end to the outbreak sooner.
“It’s March 31, so let’s just make sure we say it again: We’re not getting out of this in the next few days,” he said. “This is a marathon. We’re going to be hunkered down for a while … in our isolation, ironically, we’re coming together because we’re all in this together. That sort of spiritual side of this I think can … get us through that extra mile, because we’re going to need it.”