Governor: Confirmed NJ coronavirus cases climb to 427, two more deaths

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy addresses reporters at a coronavirus press briefing in Trenton on Wednesday afternoon.

The New Jersey Health Department has received results for 163 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 427. Two more residents of the state have died as a result of complications from the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The two residents who died were over 60 and had medical conditions that made them at a higher risk for complications from the coronavirus, officials said. The two women were from Essex and Hudson counties.

State officials reported that at least six of the new confirmed cases that were reported to the state today are in Mercer County, 17 are in Middlesex, five are in Burlington, eight are in Monmouth, and two are in Hunterdon County (we are listing counties in our region, not the entire state). The state residents whose tests were confirmed Wednesday range in age from five to 95. Officials cautioned that the statistics on Wednesday’s cases are incomplete. Residencies need to be confirmed for almost 30 of the cases, and new results are coming in from testing sites and local health officials on an ongoing basis.

“Cases are increasing with a pretty steep curve, as we had expected,” Murphy said. “It’s a combination of a couple of things — there is some amount of community interaction and spread, but also a lot more people are getting tested.”

A total of five people in the state have died because of complications from the virus.

Murphy said a statewide 211 calling system is up and running. Residents can text 898211 to receive information by phone. Text your zip code. The United Way is partnering with the state for the 211 system.

Murphy again urged people to practice social distancing, especially young people who may feel healthy but could pass the virus on to older people or people with compromised immune systems.

“This is not a time for anyone to be bringing people together, whether it’s for a wedding, a funeral, a religious right of passage, a large birthday, an anniversary, or other party,” Murphy said. “Anywhere where people gather, there is a risk for spreading the coronavirus.”

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said as cases increase across the state, concerns about the healthcare system’s capacity also grow.

“We’re looking to ensure that hospitals have the manpower, the supplies, and the space to care for residents,” Persichilli said. “There are predictions that many parts of the United States will have far too few hospital beds if the new coronavirus continues to spread. That’s why we’re looking with our hospitals to develop surge and capacity planning.”

Persichilli said her department has identified additional capacity that can be rapidly brought online. She said 260 additional beds can be brought online and will be prepared today — 199 are in the north, 11 are in the central region, and 50 are in the south. Additionally, she expects 227 more beds to come online within the next three to four weeks. Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury will re-open and can accommodate an additional 300 beds. All hospitals in the state are able to and expected to care for COVID-19 patients, she said. The state is working with the New Jersey State Nurses Association to recruit nurses to handle the surge. Persichilli signed an executive directive on Tuesday that authorizes hospitals to use New Jersey-certified mobile intensive care paramedics in hospital settings to supplement medical staff.

The Army Corps of Engineers also will be helping with the state with plans to expand hospital capacities, Murphy said.

The state is working to expand specimen collection sites, officials said. Residents will be able to provide nasal swab specimens at the sites with their doctor’s approval. The specimens are then brought to a lab for testing. The first of two FEMA sites in the state, in Bergen County, will be up and running by Monday, officials said. Initially, only the specimens of symptomatic people will be tested. Specimen collection for healthcare workers and first responders will be prioritized, officials said. A second FEMA site for the southern half of the state will open at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel in Monmouth County next week, officials said.

“As we find more positive cases, the work for our local health departments increases,” Persichilli said. “To support their efforts, we are working with the Rutgers School of Health to connect students with local health departments. Those people will be deployed next week.”

Total confirmed coronavirus tests in New Jersey

cases updated to out of state from 3/17

Bergen County:     

 114 Positive Test Result(s)

Essex County:     

 45 Positive Test Result(s)

Middlesex County:     

 40 Positive Test Result(s)

Hudson County:     

 34 Positive Test Result(s)

Monmouth County:     

 32 Positive Test Result(s)

Union County:     

 26 Positive Test Result(s)

Morris County:     

 19 Positive Test Result(s)

Passaic County:     

 18 Positive Test Result(s)

Somerset County:     

 16 Positive Test Result(s)

Mercer County:     

 15 Positive Test Result(s)

Burlington County:     

 10 Positive Test Result(s)

Camden County:     

 8 Positive Test Result(s)

Ocean County:     

 8 Positive Test Result(s)

Hunterdon County:     

 6 Positive Test Result(s)

Atlantic County:     

 3 Positive Test Result(s)

Gloucester County:     

 2 Positive Test Result(s)