NJ coronavirus cases climb past 100, with two deaths reported

Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli told reporters Sunday afternoon that 98 residents of the state had tested positive for the coronavirus as of late Sunday morning. Just as they were starting their daily press briefing, reports of other cases in the state were coming in, including an update by local health officials who told reporters that three more residents in Princeton had tested positive for the coronavirus. A few hours later, Princeton University also confirmed that another staff member there tested positive as well.

What we know and don’t know so far about the local cases as of 9:30 p.m. Sunday:

  • Four Princeton residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. The first resident to test positive on Friday, March 13, was a staff member at Princeton University. The second, third and fourth residents to test positive on Sunday, March 15, are all part of the same family. One of the members of the family works at Rutgers University. Rutgers announced on Sunday that the employee had tested positive. The child attends Stuart Country Day School. Stuart sent a letter to parents on Sunday. The school is closed for at least the next two weeks. All four of the Princeton cases are tied to a party at a private Princeton home on Feb. 29 that was attended by 47 people. Fourteen of the attendees were Princeton residents and nine had symptoms. Seven were tested.
  • Two Boston area residents who attended the same party on Feb. 29 had attended the Biogen conference in Boston just two days before the party. More than 70 people from that conference have since tested positive for the coronavirus. The two people who attended the Princeton party after the conference then tested positive for the coronavirus after they returned to New England.
  • Three Pennsylvania residents who also attended the party in Princeton tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, March 11.
  • Two South Brunswick residents tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, March 14. Both were working at the party. One was a high school student.
  • Two more staff members at Princeton University tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. The two staff members are not Princeton residents. It is unclear whether the two are connected to other cases that have been announced by public health officials in surrounding municipalities. Representatives from the university’s communications office have not responded to inquiries about the residency of the two staff members. The second Princeton staffer attended the party on Feb. 29. It is unclear whether the third staff member had a connection to one of the other two staffers, which would make the person a second-degree contact of the party attendees.
  • We don’t have a breakdown of the towns for all the people who attended the party. We don’t know how many attendees were from other states yet.
  • We don’t know yet whether cases in Montgomery (a family of three tested positive Saturday night) and other municipalities like Bridgewater and Franklin Township are tied to the Princeton case in any way or not.
  • A resident in Bridgewater and a resident in Franklin Township tested positive over the weekend. We do not know yet whether these cases are related to the Princeton gathering.
  • We do know that so far, at least 12 people who attended the Feb. 29 Princeton party have tested positive for the coronavirus, but the number is likely higher given that local officials are not tracking cases outside the municipality, and the towns are not being identified for some people who test positive, for example, the case of the two Princeton University employees. We have reached out to state and local officials and hope to have more information. State officials Sunday night referred us back to local officials.

We have been asked questions about the names of people who have tested positive, where they live, where the party was in Princeton and other related information. We will not release any of that information if we know it. Also, as state health officials have said, the coronavirus is spreading. People should assume they could be at risk of contracting it, regardless of whether they were in contact with anyone from the party or not. Everyone should take precautions and distance themselves from others or self-quarantine to protect both themselves and others in the community.

Gov. Murphy told reporters Sunday during his daily briefing that a statewide shutdown of schools is imminent. He said officials need another day or two to get prepared in school districts, especially because plans need to be developed for children who depend on free and reduced lunch programs. Many of the children don’t have access to the internet at home for distance learning, many of the children’s parents work, and many of their parents work in healthcare, Murphy said.

All of the water companies serving the state have voluntarily suspended shutting off people’s water for nonpayment, Murphy said. He expressed concerns for small business owners and the impact the public health crisis is having on them. “Small businesses are paying a huge price,” he said. Murphy also said all non-essential state employees will be issued a directive no later than Wednesday to work from home. “We have to walk the talk,” he said. “We have to be willing to make that a state government reality, and with this directive, we are.”

Murphy said many people in the state aren’t taking the crisis seriously enough when it comes to the need for social distancing.

“People can’t be cavalier. I’m particularly giving a shoutout to young folks. This is not hitting them as much and they may feel healthy, but what if they are asymptomatic and they are carrying the virus, and they are then in the midst of a parent, grandparent, or coach who is in a population that is much more vulnerable to the coronavirus?”

Murphy said he would possibly be announcing steps to enforce social distancing on Monday such as limiting bar hours. “I will almost certainly be taking more steps,” he said, adding that he saw too many videos on Sunday of people in packed bars late at night Saturday, drinking from the same bottle, and in some cases climbing on top of each other. “Clipping establishments’ hours each night will have an impact on that,” he said. “This is not business as usual. We need to flatten the curve. Tomorrow I will be announcing more steps.”

Murphy said the New Jersey Department of Health coronavirus test result figures each day may not match up to figures reporters have because of the timing of state website updates and that fact that commercial labs report to local health officials first, and the state then receives the numbers and reconciles them.

Two people in the state have died related to complications from the coronavirus. The first was a 69-year-old Bergen County. The second death was a woman in her 50s from Monmouth County. Persichilli said Sunday that the woman had ties to the Bergen County cases that are connected to a family gathering.

Officials said while they can connect many of the cases to clusters or points of exposure, there are still isolated cases in other counties that show that there has been community spread of the virus. Officials are working on being able to provide more testing throughout the state. Currently, those being tested include healthcare workers, people connected with a known cluster who are sick, and people who have been hospitalized because of their symptoms.

Persichilli said the state is distributing equipment like masks to protect healthcare workers. Asked by a reporter about an incident at Bayshore Medical Center in Holmel, Persichilli confirmed that nurses in the emergency room there were exposed to a coronavirus patient and had to be quarantined. Bayshore was then unable to keep the emergency room open because of the staffing shortage and had to divert patients to other hospitals.

“We are continuing to see cases rise in the state,” Persichilli said. “As we see cases increasing, we are going to see more measures taken to encourage social distancing in the state. Social distancing is vital to decrease the spread of the virus. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take personal responsibility and avoid gatherings both small and definitely large.”

Planet Princeton. Local journalism that matters.

Investigative and community reporting. Funded by our readers, available to all.


  1. Princeton Hospital was not prepared on Thursday, with no separate ER for people with respiratory symptoms. This may have changed. Please report on what the hospital is doing.
    Also, testing is very difficult to obtain. Private labs send only limited kits (5 daily) to doctors’ offices, and some offices do not provide the test at all. Please tell people how to obtain the test.

  2. Social distancing? I had to go shopping for food and other essentials. McCaffrey’s was crowded, no toilet paper whatsoever but plenty of facial tissues. Weird. I also had to go to CVS on Nassau Street for prescriptions. I asked if they could mail me the Rx in the future, the cashier seemed lost for an answer but the pharmacist said that it can be done by smart phone or via the computer. What about elderly folks who might not have a smart phone or computer? It’s really stupid that one is in the flesh at the CVS pharmacy asking for mailing of the Rx and they can’t accommodate you then and there. Get with it CVS!

  3. ‘but what if they are asymptomatic and they are carrying the virus, and they are then in the midst of a parent, grandparent, or coach who is in a population that is much more vulnerable to the coronavirus?”
    Dear Governor – get tests for everyone who can be linked to anybody potentially infected. It is amazing that all the 47 attending the party in Princeton were NOT tested, and were not traced by the Princeton Health Department. How did it happen? Who decided that it was not necessary and mandatory? We lost an opportunity to grow a tree of infections originating from this event.

Comments are closed.