NJ governor says COVID-19 curve beginning to flatten as state death toll tops 1,000

Governor Phil Murphy offered New Jersey residents a glimmer of hope on Monday as he said that the coronavirus curve is beginning to flatten in the state.

“What you’re doing is making a difference,” Murphy said of New Jersey residents staying at home and practicing social distancing. “It’s making a big difference. And we have enough data now to say that comfortably and with equal passion, that if we don’t keep doing what we’re doing, we are still going to be in a world of hurt where our healthcare system, no matter how good a job we do to prepare, will be overwhelmed like a tsunami.”

Murphy reported that the death toll in New Jersey as a result of COVID-19 complications surpassed 1,000 lives on Monday and that the state has received another 3,663 positive test results from labs, bringing the statewide total of positive cases to 41,090.

“While we are not anywhere close to being out of the woods as of yet, we are clearly on the right path to get there,” Murphy said, adding that residents of the state still must continue to follow the stay-at-home order and aggressively practice social distancing.

“We are seeing in real time over the past week a decline in the growth rate of new cases from 24% day over day on March 30 to roughly 12% today,” Murphy said. “Our efforts to flatten the curve are starting to pay off, even with the lag time in getting testing results back from the labs. There may be anomalous days with spikes and troughs, but the overall curve is beginning to flatten. Our job now is to keep flattening it to the point where our day-over-day increase is not just 12 percent but is zero.”

Murphy called on residents to stay the course in the war against COVID-19, adding that the temptation to not follow the executive order will grow and not lessen as the weather gets nicer. “I’m fearful that too many people will hear that this is working, and sit back and put their feet up. We can not let that happen under any circumstances,” Murphy said.

The healthcare system could still be swamped in spite of indications that the curve is beginning to flatten, Murphy said. “If we are not careful and we give up on social distancing even somewhat, we will be in a situation where no matter how good and prepared we are, we aren’t going to be able to handle it and too many lives will be lost,” he said.

Murphy said state officials expect the number of cases to continue to rise, but added that the state has seen a steady decline in the growth rate for new COVID-19 cases.

Another 86 New Jersey residents have died as a result of complications from COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,003 deaths. Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun, a popular leader in Hudson County, was one of the residents who died in recent days. Three more Mercer County residents have died, bringing the county death toll to 18.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said another 15 residents of long-term care facilities in the state have died. She reported that 60 percent of the total COVID-19 deaths in the state were males, and 40 percent were females. One percent overall were under 30, six percent were between the ages of 30 and 49, 16 percent were between the ages of 50 and 64, 32 percent were between the ages of 65 and 79, and 45 percent were over 80. Twelve percent of the residents who died had diabetes, 20 percent had cardiovascular disease, four percent had cancer, seven percent had chronic renal disease, eight percent had asthma, emphysema, or COPD, and 10 percent had other chronic conditions.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli
answers questions on Monday.

Persichilli said the state has received 84,768 COVID-19 test results, and 36,826 of those cases were positive, for a total positivity rate of 43,33 percent.

Mercer County has 71 more confirmed positive cases for a total of 740 positive test results. New cases for other counties in the region: Burlington 99, Hunterdon 21, Middlesex 299, Monmouth 178, and Somerset 51.

Persichilli said at least one resident in 159 long-term care facilities in the state has tested positive for COVID-19. At least one resident at three of the state’s five developmental centers has tested positive for COVID-19, and one resident of a developmental center in his 80s has died.

Experts for the state are using the online self-assessment tool at covid19.nj.gov to predict areas of the state where positive cases could grow. The self-assessment tool has been used almost 209,000 times. Officials said the tool gives the state an early snapshot of where COVID-19 symptoms are beginning to be exhibited and where they are happening with the greatest frequency. “These are the potential hotspots we are currently tracking so we can begin to asses sour future equipment and PPE distribution needs,” Murphy said as he displayed a map based on self-assessment tool data.

The state is still seeking donations of personal protective equipment, and officials said no donation is too small. Residents and businesses can make equipment donations online at covid19.nj.gov/donations. Healthcare professionals around the country have also volunteered to work in New Jersey hospitals and online. More than 17,200 medical professionals have volunteered over the past 10 days, officials said. More volunteers are still being sought and people can apply at covid19.nj.gov/volunteer.

Murphy announced that he would be signing an executive order to allow retired public employees to return to work in whatever capacity they can without affecting their pension status.”Right now we need all the experienced help we can get, whether it be retired law enforcement officers returning to duty or nurses who can return to a university hospital, or folks who can help staff the labor department’s unemployment insurance phone lines,” he said. “We need to remove any roadblocks that can keep them from service.”

Persichilli said over the next two weeks, hospitals in the state will see significant activity because of COVID-19. She said the state has identified more than 26,000 healthcare spaces in addition to hospitals and available beds on the USNS Comfort hospital ship. The figure does not include hotels that will be used for people who are recovering from COVID-19.

She also said the medical marijuana program in the state has been affected by the pandemic. Officials are working to ensure access is maintained for the more than 74,000 patients enrolled in the program, she said, adding that curbside pickup is being allowed.

Officials said the testing site at Bergen County Community College will be open Tuesday, April 7. The PNC Arts Center testing site will be open on Aptil 8. The two statewide testing centers are operating on a staggered schedule. The testing centers are open to residents of the state who have symptoms of COVID-19. There are 15 other testing sites across the state that are operated by counties and municipalities, and there are 47 testing sites total across the state.

Self-reported COVID-19 symptoms in the state by zipcode.