Governor: Eight more people in NJ test positive for the coronavirus (updated)

Governor Phil Murphy said in a radio interview on Wednesday afternoon that eight more people in New Jersey have tested positive for the coronavirus overnight, bringing the total number of residents in the state who have tested positive to 23.

Twenty people are hospitalized, two people are self-quarantined at home, and one person has died, Murphy said.

State health commissioner Judy Persichilli broke down the eight new cases by county. Two are in Middlesex County, two are in Monmouth County, and four are in Bergen County. Three patients are women and five are men. The youngest patient is 17 and the oldest is 66. Persichilli said contract tracing was not available yet Wednesday afternoon. An exposure link has not been determined for two of the eight cases.

The state has tested 80 people, and 57 tests have come back negative. Thirty-seven cases are under investigation, with 20 tests underway and 20 specimens still being collected for testing, Persichilli said.

Currently, the risk for the general public is still low in New Jersey, health officials said. Persichilli said officials are tracking any community spread of the virus, which is defined as person-to-person transmission of the virus without exposure to confirmed cases or in the nexus of an area where community spread has been identified.

“We’re looking at all the cases to assure that a majority of cases have a confirmed exposure,” Persichilli said. “For those that do not have a confirmed exposure, we will be investigating further. Why? The reason being that community spread indicates that the coronavirus is amongst us, and we have an expectation that this may be the case. We do not have that analysis today to point us in direction a direction of a community spread, but we are stepping up our efforts in various areas.”

Persichilli said, for example, that all outside activities are being restricted for patients at psychiatric facilities in North Jersey, and visitors are being screened and restricted where appropriate. Visits are also being restricted at longterm care facilities. “The people in these facilities are some of the most vulnerable populations and we must protect them,” Persichilli said, adding that the state is also working to protect vulnerable children in pediatric residential facilities.

The state has received $14 million from the CDC to boost its efforts to combat the coronavirus, Persichilli said. “The lab is busy testing specimens. We have the capacity to test 400 specimens,” Persichilli said. “We’ve added new staff and add equipment. We’re hoping that the Hackensack University Medical Center will be brought online to assist with testing. It’s a rapidly evolving situation.”

Test results are expected by the end of the day today for two Princeton staff members who attended a party at a private home in Princeton where two of the guests later tested positive for the coronavirus. The two people who tested positive were from the Boston area, and contracted the virus at the Biogen conference in Boston. Local health officials have been working since Tuesday to identify the other people at that party.

It was first reported that about 30 people attended the party in Princeton on Feb. 29, but officials now say the number is closer to 40 people. Some of the attendees are from neighboring communities, including servers who worked at the gathering. The South Brunswick Public Schools are closed because of the Princeton incident.

The Princeton Medical Center is asking that people not visit patients at the hospital.

Many events in the Princeton area for the rest of March and early April have been canceled or postponed. We will post a list of events we have been notified about on Wednesday evening and we will continue to update that list as the situation evolves.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following to stop the spread of the coronavirus:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Social distancing is also a strategy to combat the coronavirus. People are working from home, attending school via distance-learning technologies, avoiding large groups and conferences, and maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others in public spaces.