Confirmed COVID-19 cases in NJ soar to 8,825, deaths surpass 100

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy provides an update about state efforts to battle the coronavirus on Friday.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Friday announced that the state has received positive COVID-19 test results for another 1,982 residents, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 8,825. Another 27 New Jersey residents have died since Thursday. A total of 108 people in the state have died due to COVID-18 related complications.

Mercer County has a total of 131 COVID-19 cases, with the state receiving 18 positive test results the county Friday. Princeton has 16 confirmed cases. Mercer County is not releasing a breakdown of the positive test results by municipality.

“My thoughts are with the women and men in our hospitals working valiantly to save lives, and I can only imagine the emotional toll on them as well when they lose a patient,” Murphy said. “In fact, it isn’t easy on any of us. These aren’t abstract numbers. These are our neighbors, our family, our friends, all of us. We are in this together and we mourn together.”

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said 24,843 coronavirus tests have been conducted overall in the state, and the positivity rate is 33.4 percent. As of Thursday, 1,080 patients in hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19, while 1,873 patients are waiting for results.

“The backlog is as high as seven days,” Persichilli said. “We are getting test results from a week ago.” She said the lag in receiving test results makes it difficult for experts to make projections about when the surge will happen. “Any projection at this point in time is suffering from that lack of information,” she said, adding that officials anticipate that there will be an increased demand for critical care beds in the state by mid-April.

Murphy urged residents who do not have symptoms to stay home and not try to get tested. He said it is important that the right people are being tested so that medical resources can be deployed properly. “The fact that we have among, if not the highest, positivity rates is a good thing, and it shows us we are using our limited resources to their highest and best use,” Murphy said, meaning that the high percentage means people who are actually sick are being tested.

The governor urged residents to continue to stay home and practice social distancing everywhere. “Even if you are doing healthy activities, you can still spread the coronavirus. Keeping that six-foot distance is crucial. Be mindful of that. This is not the time for a pick-up game of basketball,” he said.

“This is a war,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t take panic to win a war, but it isn’t business as usual. We are in a war footing. It takes being smart, aggressive, proactive, it takes lots of courage, an incredible work ethic, and an understanding that World War II wasn’t a sprint, and neither is this war,” he said. “We are going to be at this for a while. Please God, not the length of time we were at World War II, but we’re going to be at this for a while. We have to stick together. We rise and fall as one.”

Murphy urged people to reach out by phone or email and connect with other residents who are alone. He also said state officials have issued new social distancing guidelines for essential retail businesses.

Guidelines for Grocery Stores and Specialty Food Stores

Executive Order No. 107 designated grocery stores and other stores that sell food as essential. Officials said the supply chain for these stores has not been disrupted and stores are permitted to operate during their normal operating hours. Stores should continue to follow social distancing and hygiene best practices. Retailers should:

• Consider reserving certain hours for senior citizens and other high-risk populations.

• Not permit staff who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as fever or a cough to come to work.

• Train employees on ideal hygiene practices, including proper handwashing.

• Increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention environmental cleaning and disinfection guidance of all hard surfaces, including tables and counter tops that are being utilized by employees and patrons, as well
as restrooms.

• Consider installing sanitizing stations for customers and staff throughout the store.

• Assist customers in keeping at least 6 feet of space between individuals or family groups while shopping and waiting in line.

• Eliminate foods put on display and sample foods and reduce self-service food stations.

• Consider posting signage to encourage customers to remain 6 feet apart and to promote proper hygiene.

The majority of the guidelines apply to other essential retail businesses. Businesses are reminded to encourage social distancing practices for staff and customers, to frequently sanitize high-touch areas, and to encourage staff and customers to follow hygiene best practices.

Patrons entering essential retail businesses should abide by the following guidelines:

• If an individual must leave home to access essential goods, they are encouraged to go at non-peak times, to keep a distance from other customers in the store, keep visits as brief as possible, and go alone if possible.

• When shopping and standing in line, customers should keep six feet between themselves and other patrons/staff.

• Residents should not enter a retail facility if they have symptoms consistent with COVID19 such as fever or a cough, if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or if they are undergoing a quarantine for potential exposure to COVID-19.

For more information about the coronavirus, the state has created a central clearinghouse at covid19.nj.gov.