NJ governor calls on retired medical professionals to help in fight against COVID-19 as 3,347 new cases confirmed, state death toll rises to 198

The state has received positive COVID-19 test results for 3,347 residents overnight, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state to 16,636, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday afternoon.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli

Another 37 residents of the state died overnight as a result of complications from COVID-19, bringing the state total to 198 deaths, Murphy said. Four deaths are associated with long-term care facilities, State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. Seventy-three long-term care facilities in the state report at least one COVID-19 case. At least 34 deaths in long-term care facilities have been associated with COVID-19., she said.

Mercer County has 249 confirmed COVID-19 test results total as of Monday, an increase of 45 cases over Sunday.

As of Monday, 288 law enforcement officers have tested positive for COVID-19 across the state, officials said. The 700 number that was previously reported by several news organizations is incorrect. State officials clarified the numbers at the governor’s daily press briefing on Monday.

Persichilli said that the state has received test results for 40,806 residents so far, and 15,582 tests have been positive, for an overall positive rate of 38.19 percent.

At the press briefing, the governor repeated his daily statement that the only way the state can succeed in beating COVID-19 is through social distancing. “The absolute, number one weapon at our disposal is the one we’ve been pounding away at, day in and day out, and that is, stay at home and practice social distancing, period,” Murphy said.

He also called on retired nurses and doctors, medical students, EMTs, and former members of the Armed Services Medical Corps to sign up to help fight the battle against COVID-29 in the state.

Two statewide testing sites are operating on alternate weekdays. Murphy announced that the state testing site at Bergen County Community College in Paramus will be open Tuesday, and the PNC Arts Center site in Holmdel will be closed on Tuesday. A new county drive-up testing site will open at the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence on Tuesday, but you must visit a doctor and get permission from the doctor to get a test there.

“We completely understand the enormous demand of folks to want to get tested,” Murphy said. “This is a time of high anxiety. We get that. We also appreciated the fact that folks who are in the worried well are stepping aside overwhelmingly, allowing folks with symptoms to get tested. That’s the way it should be and has been our focus from day one.”

Gov. Phil Murphy at his Monday press briefing

Murphy said the state has been aggressive about testing symptomatic people but has not been able to test everyone because of limited resources. In a perfect world, he said everyone would be able to get a test and the state would have all the resources it needs.

“Would we like to be South Korea, would I like to have unlimited specimen collection material, would I like to have all the healthcare workers at my disposal, would I like to have tests that turnaround in 45 minutes, which I think we will have at some point sooner or later?” Murphy said. “You betcha, but in the absence of all of the above, in a limited supply reality, particularly from the federal government, you gotta pick your spots. And there is no doubt, for obvious reasons, that testing symptomatic people is the place to hang your hat, and that’s where we have chosen to hang our hat. Obviously, if somebody is sick, we want to make sure they know whether they’ve got this virus or not, for their own well being, for their own peace of mind and also for their own healthcare.”

Murphy said testing data from symptomatic people also helps health officials project where the virus is headed.

The governor clarified his executive order limiting business operations. Auto dealers are allowed to conduct online or remote sales. They can deliver vehicles directly to customers or arrange for curbside pickup. Realtors are allowed to show homes to individual buyers but open houses are forbidden. All golf courses are closed as recreational businesses.

Following federal guidelines issued over the weekend by the Department of Homeland Security, firearms retailers are allowed to operate by appointment only, during limited hours, to conduct business that must be done in person under the law.

“We are doing this in light of federal guidance published Saturday night which includes these retailers as part of critical infrastructure,” Murphy said. “It wouldn’t have been my definition but that is the definition at the federal level. I didn’t get a vote on that. We will continue to enforce all of our gun safety laws.”

Murphy said the CDC travel advisory issued over the weekend does not change anything in New Jersey. “We’re already living what the CDC is calling for, and their advisory does not impact what we already put in place to protect our state and our residents,” Murphy said. “My stay-at-home order remains firmly in effect. Unless you are absolutely needed to go out or your job is critical to our response, please, please, please stay home. We’ll get through this more quickly and stronger if everyone, all nine million of us, does their part.”