A somber Gov. Phil Murphy reported Tuesday that another 232 residents of the state have died due to complications from COVID-19. It is the state’s largest one-day jump in deaths and brings the coronavirus-related death toll in New Jersey to 1,232 residents.
Just under a thousand of the deaths were reported over the past week, Murphy said. State officials confirmed that another five residents of Mercer County have died, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in the county to 19.
“It’s almost unfathomable when you think about that,” Murphy said of the state death toll. “For those who have died and for their families, we need to continue to do all we can to keep slowing the spread of the coronavirus. We don’t need to, nor do we want to, in any way lose any more members of our family. The best way we can protect this New Jersey family is to practice social distancing.”
Murphy said officials are seeing the first potential signs this week that the curve may be flattening. “But we cannot be happy with only reaching a plateau,” he said. “We need to keep strong and keep determined to see that curve begin to fall, and ultimately get to zero. It’s going to require many more weeks, at the least, of our being smart and staying at least six feet apart at all times.”
“No one wants to see our state back up and running as much as I do, but we need everyone in this, and we can’t do it alone,” Murphy said. “It’s not just for us to do, it’s for all nine million of us to do. So keep practicing social distancing even when outside, and even when wearing a face covering. A face covering does not trump social distancing. Social distancing is the king. Stay indoors unless you absolutely need to do go out, or unless you are one of the essential workers we need out there to help us get through this. Keep washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. And if you feel like you are under the weather, don’t even think of going out or getting near anybody. There is going to be plenty of sunshine and summer to come. The sooner we can flatten that curve and come down the other side of that curve, the faster we can all enjoy it.”
Officials said the state received another 3,061 positive COVID-19 test results Tuesday, bringing the total number of positive tests in New Jersey to 44,416. The state received another 97 positive COVID-19 test results for Mercer County residents Tuesday. A total of 837 residents in Mercer County have tested positive for COVID-19.
Officials said 7,017 residents of the state are hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19 or symptoms of the virus, and 1,651 of those patients are in critical care. Ninety-four percent of those critical care patients, or 1,540, are on ventilators.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported that 188 of the long-term care facilities in the state have at least one COVID-19 case, and that the state has been contacting all 375 long-term care facilities. “What we are learning is more disturbing,” she said. “What we are learning is that they feel they do not have sufficient resources or staff to take care of their patients.”
Persichilli said her department is developing a statewide plan to assist nursing homes that are experiencing outbreaks and have a shortage of staff and equipment. In some cases, patients will have to be moved around, she said.
She said 46 staff members and 34 patients at the state’s four psychiatric hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19. One person at a state developmental center has died and 23 others have tested positive for the coronavirus. Five inmates, three people in residential communities, and 68 New Jersey Department of Corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19, Persichilli said.
In her daily review of COVID-19 death statistics, Persichilli said sixty percent of total deaths were male, and 40 percent were female. One percent were under 30 years old, five percent were between the ages of 30 to 49, 17 percent were between the ages of 50 to 64, 32 percent where between 65 and 79, and 45 percent were over 80. Sixty percent were white, 24 percent were black, five percent were Asian, and eleven percent identified as other. Forty-four percent of the residents in the state who have died had documented underlying conditions.
Persichilli said current health department guidance does not allow healthcare workers to return to work if they are symptomatic. She said symptomatic healthcare workers are allowed to return to work seven days after they test positive, seven days after symptoms first developed, and three days after the fever has resolved with signs of improvements in symptoms. Asymptomatic healthcare workers who test positive are supposed to remain in isolation for seven days after they first test positive for COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic. If a healthcare worker has no symptoms and tests positive, the worker can discontinue isolation when at least seven days have passed since the date of the first positive COVID-19 test.
New executive orders from the governor
Murphy announced that he was issuing four executive orders on Tuesday.
The first order extends the public health emergency order (Executive Order 103) that was issued on March 9 another 30 days.
The second order closes all state and county parks until further notice. “We have seen far too many instances where people are gathering in groups in our parks, erroneously thinking since they are outside, social distancing doesn’t matter,” Murphy said. “We understand staying at home is hard, but you must do this close to home.”
His third order moves all April school board elections to May 12, and his fourth order waives the student assessment requirement for graduation, including the portfolio appeal process.
Murphy said he spoke with other governors on Tuesday morning, including Andrew Cuomo, and said they all agreed on a regional approach to things like testing, tracking, and the reopening — slowly and responsibly — of businesses and schools. They also discussed taking a regional approach to mobilizing resources when the coronavirus comes back.
Murphy said the state has bought and distributed more than 1.1 million pieces of personal protective equipment. He thanked Bristol Myers Squibb for donating 345,000 pieces of protective equipment to the state. Some supplies are already at facilities in Princeton and will be delivered immediately, and additional supply from Bristol Myers Squibb will be delivered in the next few weeks, he said. The company is also providing free medicine to those who have lost their health insurance, he said.
On Wednesday, Murphy will tour the new field medical station at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.
The PNC Arts Center in Holmdel will be open for COVID-19 testing on Wednesday, and the testing center at Bergen County Community College in Paramus will be open on Thursday. Both centers open at 8 a.m. and close after 5oo people have been tested. You must have valid New Jersey identification and be symptomatic to get tested.