69 more NJ residents die as COVID-19 confirmed cases in the state soar to 18,696 (updated 7:30 p.m.)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy discusses the importance of social distancing at his daily press briefing Tuesday.

New Jersey has recorded its highest one-day death toll from the coronavirus. Sixty-nine people in the state have died over the last 24 hours as a result of complications from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths to 267 as of Tuesday.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the state received positive COVID-19 test results Tuesday for 2,196 residents, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 18,696.

Deaths included a 33-year-old firefighter from Passaic County who was married with two children ages nine and seven, and a baseball coach from Cliffside Park who was 30 years old.

“This is a reality for all of us. This is not abstract, no matter how good our health is, no matter how young we might be,” Murphy said. “Even if it doesn’t impact you, nevermind kill you, you may unwittingly carry this virus and pass it on to someone else who you hold dear…I cannot be any clearer in my call. Stay at home, before this hits home. Please do your part to flatten this curve.”

The state has confirmed a total of 268 positive COVID-19 cases in Mercer County. Princeton has 28 confirmed cases, and Montgomery has 17 cases. Franklin Township has 87 cases total, and South Brunswick has 38 confirmed cases. At Princeton University, three students total on campus have tested positive, while 33 students off campus have tested positive. Fifteen university employees have tested positive.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reviews statistics with reporters on Tuesday.

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli provided a breakdown of the demographics for all of the deaths in the state to date. She said 55 percent of the people who died were male and 45 percent were female. Three people, or one percent, were younger than 30. Twelve percent were between the ages of 40 and 49. Seventeen percent were between the ages of 50 and 64. Thirty percent were between the ages of 65 and 79. Forty-seven percent were over the age of 80.

Persichilli said 81 of the state’s 375 long-term care facilities have at least one resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. Universal masking of all staff members and anyone entering a long-term care facility in the state is now required, and all symptomatic residents of long-term care facilities should be masked while staff members are providing direct care, Persichilli said. Facilities must create separate wings to accept asymptomatic residents returning from hospitals, and limit the staff working between the wings, she said. They also must create a separate wing for residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The state has received 44,330 COVID-19 test results from labs, and 17,253 of those test results were positive, for an overall positivity rate of 38.92 percent, Persichilli said. The statewide testing sites in Paramus and Holmdel have tested 2,593 people, with 1,052 people testings positive, for a positivity rate of 41.05 percent, Persichilli said.

Officials said 383 law enforcement officers have tested positive across the state, and 3,081 officers are in quarantine.

Persichilli said that the state’s Ann Klein Forensic Center psychiatric hospital has one resident who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The governor thanked everyone in the state who is working on the front lines during the crisis, including unsung heroes such as home health aides, sanitation workers, cashiers, truck drivers, and transit workers.

Murphy said that Abbot Laboratories is developing a rapid turnaround COVID-19 test and that New Jersey has been picked as one of the early states where the test equipment will be deployed, first in Bergen County. “It’s a modest step, but it’s an important first step,” Murphy said.

The state received its fourth shipment of personal protective equipment from FEMA on Monday night. The shipment consisted of more than 260,000 pieces, including masks and gloves, but Murphy said the shipment does not alleviate the state’s needs for more PPE. Officials are keeping a tally of all of the PPE equipment across the state in order to make sure it is distributed where it is needed. The state is continuing to try to secure ventilators, Murphy said.

All water companies serving the state have agreed not to shut off anyone’s water during the crisis, Murphy announced.

Officials said all state parks are open for walking, jogging, hiking, and fishing. All state park facilities including restrooms and playgrounds are closed. County and local governments can’t contradict the governor’s orders, except when it comes to municipal and county parks, boardwalks, and beaches, officials said. Local officials have no jurisdiction over state park activity within their borders.

Police continue to issue citations for violating the governor’s executive order. Law enforcement officers are cracking down on parties and other social gatherings that violate the governor’s stay-at-home order. Police officers in some municipalities are starting to charge both party organizers and attendees.

Murphy said 4,764 people have volunteered to help expand the state’s medical service corps.