Governor Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that the state has recorded another 365 deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in New Jersey to 2,805.
The new deaths occurred over a period of a few days. The figure was the highest number of recorded COVID-19 deaths announced in New Jersey on a single day.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that the state is looking at three models now to estimate when the COVID-19 peak will be in New Jersey. She said the estimated date of the peak has now been stretched out to April 25. According to data reviewed on Tuesday, she said it looks like 15,922 people could be hospitalized in the state at the peak, with, 3,821 people in intensive care and 3,503 people on ventilators.
“Our model today looks better than yesterday, even though our admissions to hospitals increased by four percent,” Persichilli said. “I think our hospitals are very prepared to take care of individuals. Our alternative care sites will be very busy.”
Officials said the numbers are constantly changing for the estimated peak based on new data. “We are trying as best we can to figure out where this is headed,” Murphy said. “We plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
He said the state needs to coordinate efforts with both the federal government and neighboring states. “We would be abrogating our responsibilities if we do not harmonize with our neighbors. It is an absolute necessity,” he said.
Murphy said he expects to make an announcement by Friday about what the plan will be for schools across the state for the remainder of the school year. “We are looking at a number of different alternatives,” he said.
State officials reported that they received another 4,059 positive COVID-19 test results from labs on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed positive cases in New Jersey to 68,824.
As of 10 p.m. on Monday, 8,185 patients in New Jersey hospitals either tested positive for COVID-19 or had symptoms. A total of 2,051 of those patients were in intensive care, while 1,626 patients were on ventilators. Hospitals in the state discharged 514 COVID-19 patients over a 24-hour period.
The state has received a total of 128,604 test results from labs as of Tuesday, and 57,654 were positive, for a positivity rate of 44.83 percent. For total COVID-19 related deaths in the state so far, the ethnic breakdown is as follows: 51.5 percent white, 22.2 percent black, 15.6 percent Hispanic, 5.5 percent Asian, 5.3 percent other. The breakdown of preexisting conditions for those who died (some people had two or more conditions): Cardiovascular disease, 61.8 percent; diabetes, 37.4 percent; other chronic diseases, 30.3 percent; lung disease, 20.8 percent; chronic renal disease, 15.5 percent; a neurological disease, 15 percent; cancer, 11.6 percent; other, 12.6 percent.
Persichilli said outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities in the state continue to be a top concern. She said 150 certified nursing assistants and 90 registered nurses who have volunteered are being deployed to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
A total of 123 long-term care facilities in the state are forbidden from admitting new patients because they are unable to segregate COVID-19 residents from the general population on separate floors or wings, Persichilli said. The state has identified 300 beds in long-term care facilities across the state where patients leaving hospitals can be sent for admission. Patients are not being moved from one long-term care facility to another now because so many facilities now have COVID-19 patients, Persichilli said.
Another three residents of the veterans home in Paramus died over the past 24 hours, Persichilli said. Twenty-five nurses are being sent to the veterans home in Menlo Park, and the state has requested additional assistance from the federal government for all three veterans homes in New Jersey. An additional 90 nurses will be sent to the nursing homes by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Officials said the state has distributed equipment to long-term care facilities, including 108,000 N95 masks, 692,500 surgical masks, 7,008 face shields, 4,728 surgical gowns, and 727,000 gloves.
Four hundred retired healthcare professionals have reactivated their licenses and another 10,600 out-of-state healthcare professionals have volunteered to work in New Jersey to fight COVID-19. Murphy said the crisis calls for “all-hands-on-deck” and thanked everyone who has stepped forward to help.
He also acknowledged that the state does not have the COVID-19 testing capacity he would like.
“Let me say this unequivocally. There is no question — testing anywhere in our country is not nearly where it needs to be, and New Jersey is no exception,” Murphy said. “We’ve made real progress…We need quick, accurate testing for everyone, everywhere, particularly as we begin war-gaming and thinking through that process of how and when and what we need in place to responsibly reopen our state.”
He said the state has run the fourth-highest number of tests of any state in the country, even though the other three states that have administered more tests have much larger populations. “No state has the resources they need to test at the scale they need to test,” he said. “We need more support for testing. We played a very tough hand as well as it can be played. But boy, I’d like that hand to be a lot bigger, a lot more inclusive, with a lot more resources for testing. We can’t begin to think about reopening unless federal resources are a lot more robust. We need help. We are not alone. Every state needs help on testing.”
Murphy encouraged residents who have COVID-19 symptoms and want to get tested at a statewide drive-up site to go to the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel. He said the site is not hitting its maximum of 500 tests a day on a consistent basis. The Holmdel site will be open on Wednesday at 8 a.m. The statewide testing site at Bergen County Community College in Paramus will be open on Thursday at 8 a.m. Residents must be symptomatic to be tested at both statewide sites, and must present proper identification.
The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association is opening up a drive-up testing site for first responders and healthcare workers at the American Dream Mall at the Meadowlands, Murphy said. First responders and healthcare workers can sign up online at njpba.adlabscovidtest.com.
Hunterdon and Somerset counties are also opening up testing sites in Deptford and Somerset, run by Accurate Diagnostic Labs, and residents of those counties who are symptomatic can sign up at somerset-hunterdon.adlabscovidtest.com. Murphy said about 66 testing sites are now operating across the state. Residents can reach out to their primary care doctors to be directed to private testing sites. He acknowledged that testing should be more readily available for anyone who wants to be tested for COVID-19.
The state is working to process a record number of unemployment claims. Murphy said an additional 500 state employees have been given laptops to work from home and help manage the backlog of claims. The state has received 576,904 applications for unemployment insurance in just the past three weeks, Murphy said. Residents who applied for and have been approved for unemployment benefits will start seeing an extra $600 a week in their accounts starting this week, he said. He reminded residents that they can’t choose to collect unemployment if jobs are available at their current workplaces. He also noted that more than 50,000 jobs are posited on the covid19.nj.gov website.
Murphy said he would be signing several bills on Tuesday, including a bill that allows employees who are forced to care for family members to receive up to 12 weeks of family leave over a 24-month period without losing their jobs. He will also sign a bill that officially extends the state tax filing deadlines and estimated payments for state taxes from April 15 to July 15. The fiscal year for the state will also be extended to Sept. 30. The changes were announced a few weeks ago but the legislation formalizes the new dates. Murphy said the new end to the fiscal year gives the state time to fully account for the economic impacts of the pandemic. Murphy said he will present a revised budget message to the legislature by Aug. 25.