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Murphy provides coronavirus update as newest medical field station opens

<p>New Jersey's third and final medical field station opened today in Atlantic City to help expand the state's hospital capacity during the pandemic.&nbsp;</p>

New Jersey's third and final medical field station opened today in Atlantic City to help expand the state's hospital capacity during the pandemic. 


Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference and announced 3,643 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey, bringing the state’s total to 92,387 cases. He also announced 379 new deaths, which is the highest number of reported deaths in a single day and brings the state’s total to 4,753 deaths.

Murphy said the number of reported cases daily is continuing to remain approximately the same. 

“We have a significant — there’s no question about it — flattening of the curve, but that is not enough — and I wish it were — to go back to business as usual. Not by a long shot,” he said. “We need to begin to see this curve finally start its decline, and so we must keep our strong social distancing and policies in place for at least the next several weeks.”

Murphy said as of 10 p.m. last night, 7,594 residents were hospitalized with 1,930 in critical or intensive care and 1,501 ventilators being used. He said the number of patients in critical or intensive care and the number of ventilators being used have also been stable over the past week and that the goal is to eventually reduce these numbers.

In order to increase the state’s hospital capacity, officials decided to set up three regional medical field stations for non-COVID-19 patients in Paramus, Edison and Atlantic City, The Daily Targum reported. The Atlantic City location was recently completed and Murphy said he toured the station this morning. He said this location could potentially begin admitting patients sometime today or tomorrow.

“We’re bringing this station up just as we are beginning to see more hospitalizations migrate in the state toward the Central and Southern regions,” he said. “We had predicted that the spread of the virus would move from North to Central to South and had prepared and built (up) capacity to — God willing — stay one step ahead of that.”

Murphy also said the state is continuing to test as many people as possible at the state’s 73 testing centers. He said the state has still tested the fourth-largest number of people out of all 50 states but called on the federal government for help.

“We’re working with every partner that makes sense, including our state’s flagship university, Rutgers, but the federal government must step up in a big way here,” he said. “That means not only on the kits and the (personal protective equipment), which we do need help with, but also on the resources to do this work, potentially for an extended period of time in the absence of either … proven therapeutics or ultimately a vaccine.”

Murphy said collecting data on COVID-19 hospitalizations and testing is important for officials to determine when it is safe to begin reopening the state, including schools. The Targum previously reported New Jersey schools will remain closed until at least May 15. Today Murphy did not officially change the May 15 potential reopening date, but said schools will be closed as long as necessary to ensure students and faculty are safe.

“We cannot rush to reopen anything and risk undoing all the extraordinary work that you have done so far,” he said.

When schools do reopen, he said, additional safety measures could be implemented, such as requiring face coverings or reconfiguring classrooms.

For college students, Murphy announced a new program for those who were not eligible for benefits from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. He said those who have Federal Family Education Loans or certain private student loans can receive a minimum of 90 days forbearance with waived late fees, protection for the borrower against negative credit reporting and a temporary cease in debt-collection lawsuits. Students can also still enroll in other assistance programs. Murphy said students should check with their student loan servicer to see if this program is available.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli spoke about proper hygiene and cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said poison control centers across the nation have experienced a 20 percent increase in calls related to household disinfectants.

“We know we have been encouraging everyone to clean frequently touched surfaces, but it is important to do so safely,” she said. 

Persichilli said the public should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, such as using disposable gloves when cleaning, using approved household cleaners, following product instructions and making sure there is proper ventilation.

New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan spoke about mental health issues people may be experiencing during the pandemic, such as anxiety or depression. He said New Jerseyans struggling with these issues can speak to a specialist through the Department of Human Services hotline that operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Murphy said it is important for residents to support one another during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“People overwhelmingly get that this is war, and we have to do unusual things, including this bonding that’s taking place even though we’re all staying away from each other,” he said. “But, to (Callahan)’s point, that doesn’t apply to everybody. Folks with mental health challenges, with addictions, folks who may be in an unsafe domestic environment. There are folks that we cannot leave behind.”


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