Confirmed COVID-19 cases surpass 50,000 in NJ

Gov. Phil Murphy at his daily
briefing Thursday. Press pool photo by
Michael Mancuso of nj.com.

Governor Phil Murphy announced at his daily press briefing on Thursday that the state has received another 3,748 positive COVID-19 test results, bringing the New jersey total number of confirmed cases to 52,027.

The state has received another 161 positive COVID-19 test results for Mercer County, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county to 1,161 cases as of Thursday afternoon.

Murphy said data shows that social distancing is beginning to work and is slowing the rate at which the virus is spreading. “There is light,” he said.

Another 198 residents of the state have died as a result of complications from COVID-19, bringing the state total to 1,700 deaths. In Mercer County, another eight people have died as a result of complications from COVID-19, bringing the county total to 36 deaths. Deaths included 24-year-old Pompton Lakes resident Kevin Leiva, who was an EMT in North Bergen and Saint Clare’s Hospital, and Steve Ravitz, who operated five ShopRite grocery stores across the region.

“This is well north now of two times the fatalities in New Jersey on 9/11,” Murphy said of the COVID-19 death toll in the state.

“We know this number is the worst of all to report to you. These aren’t numbers. These are people — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Even if they are complete strangers, they are our fellow New Jersians. Let us never ever let this get abstract. These are real human beings, members of our family, blessed souls we have lost,” Murphy said. “We must continue to practice social distancing. It is our best weapon to prevent the spread of coronavirus…This is no time to panic, but it is equally no time for business as usual. This is a fight for our lives. This is a fight to protect our families, our friends, and our neighbors. It is a fight literally for the heart and soul and future of our state. We need you to stay home period. We need you to wear a face covering.”

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli
Thursday. Press pool photo
by Michael Mancuso of nj.com.

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the three homes for veterans in the state have had COVID-19 cases. The three homes have a total of 58 COVID-19 cases, and 14 total deaths were directly related to COVID-19. Persichilli said the homes have had staffing issues, and that the National Guard is sending 40 combat medics to the Paramus home and 35 to the Menlo park facility. The state is sending nine nurses to the facilities as well.

A total of 262 of the state’s 375 long-term care facilities have at least one resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. Overall 3,388 residents of long-term care facilities have tested positive. “We are concerned about several of the facilities,” Persichilli said, adding that some facilities can expect visits from state inspection teams.

Twenty of the 199 new COVID-19 related deaths in the state were at long-term care facilities. For COVID-19 New Jersey deaths overall, 61 percent of the residents were white, 22 percent were black, six percent were Asian, and another 1 percent were Pacific Islander or other, while 11 percent of the deaths are still being investigated. Forty-seven percent of the residents who died in the state as a result of complications from COVID-19 had underlying conditions. Fifty-eight percent of the residents were men and 42 percent were women. New Jersey residents who have died ranged in age from 20 to 103. One percent were under 30, four percent were between the ages of 30 and 49, 17 percent were between the ages of 50 and 64, 33 percent were between the ages of 65 and 79, and 44 percent were over the age of 80.

The state has received 100,478 COVID-19 test results from labs, and 43,313 of those results are positive, for a positivity rate of 44.11 percent.

Officials said 7,363 residents in the state currently are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or have symptoms and are awating test results. A total of 1,523 residents are in intensive care units in the state, and 1,551 residents are on ventilators. A total of 471 residents have been discharged.

Murphy explained why he had to decide to close state and county parks, and said he has received both positive and negative feedback from residents about the decision. He said that on the first weekend of good weather, park rangers and state police up and down the state reported that people were gathering in large numbers at state and county parks, and they were in close contact and were not practicing social distancing. “There were also an uncomfortably high number of out of state license plates,” Murphy said. He also said having park rangers, police, and other first responders break up groups was putting them in harms way. “I’m hoping we get through this as fast as possible,” Murphy said, noting that the closures are not forever.

Nearly 214,000 more New Jersey residents filed for unemployment benefits last week, Murphy said. “Many are having difficulty accessing benefits. We are working as hard as possible to make it easier,” he said. He also noted that almost 50,000 jobs have been posted on the state’s COVID-19 website at jobs.covid19.nj.gov.

He announced that he was signing an executive order that would extend the grace period to 60 days for residents who are unable to pay health and dental insurance premiums. He also extended the grace period to 90 days for home, auto, renters, and life insurance premium payments.

Persichilli announced that the state is allocating $5 million in federal funds to local health departments statewide to support their work. The funds can be used for contact tracing, giving guidance to long-term care facilities, assisting community testing sites, and supporting individuals who need a safe place to quarantine. The funding will be distributed based on the size of the population each health department serves.

FEMA has committed to operating COVID-19 testing centers and field hospitals until at least May 31, officials said.

Officials said the statewide COVID-19 testing site at Bergen County Community College in Paramus will be open Friday beginning at 8 a.m. and will close after 500 tests have been administered. On Saturday, the Bergen site will be open to the public again at 8 a.m. The PNC Arts Center site in Holmdel will be open for healthcare workers and first responders only on Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. Each site will close after 500 tests have been administered. Residents must have symptoms and show New Jersey identification to get tested.