In Friday’s briefing, New Jersey Medical Director Edward Lifshitz also spoke about the dangers of expecting antibody testing to confirm immunity to the virus.
By Matt Skoufalos | April 24, 2020
Another 3,047 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 102,196, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.
Sadly, 253 more New Jerseyans have succumbed to complications related to COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 5,617 fatalities during the pandemic.
One of those was a Cherry Hill woman, who was the 98th Camden County resident to pass from COVID-19-related causes during the pandemic.
Murphy reported that 6,847 people are presently hospitalized throughout New Jersey with COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed case of the virus.
That number is down 17 percent from a high of 8,293 on April 14, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
Of those hospitalized, 1,933 are in critical or intensive care (down 6.6 percent from 2,069 on April 13), and 1,487 are on ventilators (down 12.8 percent from a high of 1,705 on April 14), Persichilli said.
In the past 24 hours, New Jersey hospitals accepted 385 new patients with COVID-19 symptoms, and discharged 778 others, either to lower-acuity settings or their homes. Presently, 98 patients are being treated at field medical stations throughout the state.
“There are tens of thousands that have beaten COVID-19 in the past seven weeks,” the governor reminded residents.
However, the virus continues to proliferate steadily throughout the state; in Camden County, cases of COVID-19 are doubling every 11-and-a-half days.
Renter, homeowner relief
“We recognize the anxiety that so many feel with looming mortgage and rent payments, especially with May 1st a week away,” the governor said, namechecking “Little” Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band as one of those New Jerseyans who’d had a word with him on the issue.
Among the new mechanisms available to renters is the option to take their security deposits out of escrow, whether to make up a shortfall in back rent, or to pay current rent owed in full. If landlords accept the security deposit, it prohibits them from asking for another security deposit until six months after the pandemic has resolved, or until the lease is up.
“During this emergency, renters should have the ability to tap this deposit to assure their place in their home,” Murphy said.
The state also stood up a new site for renters and landlords to allow them to better understand their rights and obligations during the pandemic, including the previously ordered moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
The governor also urged those in a position to pay their mortgage or rent to do so, “as this allows us to best help those who cannot.”
For mortgage-holders, Murphy again restated that any forbearance they request be tacked onto the end of the loan, not the end of the 90-day period. He also said there’s a push to change federal rules in order to keep landlords from “asking for skipped payments up front.
“Landlords who have requested mortgage forbearance from their lenders should extend that relief to their tenants,” the governor said.
Antibody tests not a guarantee of immunity
As New Jersey continues to reconcile its COVID-positive cases against death certificates, State Medical Director Edward Lifshitz explained why it’s so difficult for testing to determine immunity to the virus.
The swab or saliva tests currently used to detect COVID-19 seek to confirm the presence of the virus itself “or pieces of it,” Lifshitz said.
But that test can only confirm whether a patient has the virus at the time of testing, he said.
Antibody testing would confirm the presence of an immune response to COVID-19, but that isn’t a guarantee of immunity either, Lifshitz said.
“When they come can vary,” he said. “When they’re made, one of the things you hope is that they become protective.
Antibody tests also vary in specificity and sensitivity, Lifshitz said, and may not yet be able to determine conclusively whether a patient is infected with COVID-19 or a more commonly circulating coronavirus.
“We do not know for sure that just because an antibody test comes out positive, and you even really had COVID, that you are in fact immune,” he said.
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