Officials will continue to press for answers as to the high numbers of COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey’s long-term care sites. They urge survivors of the virus to donate plasma for those still battling it.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 9, 2020
Another 1,759 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 137,085 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Saturday.
Sadly, 166 more residents perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 9,116 lives lost during the pandemic.
In a majority of counties, COVID-19 cases are doubling at least every 30 days; in Camden County, cases are doubling every 21 days.
Throughout New Jersey, 4,628 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Of those 4,628 patients, 1,416 are in intensive or critical care, and 1,054 (74 percent) are on ventilators.
In the past 24 hours, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 364 new COVID-19 patients and discharged 422 others, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
“We’re making a lot of progress, [yet] 364 people went into the hospital in the last 24 hours with COVID-19,” Murphy said. “We are not out of the woods yet, folks.”
Of 673 veterans residing in a state-run home, 362 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 129 have died from complications related to the virus. At state-run psychiatric facilities, 177 of 1,250 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 people have died from complications related to the virus.
Across New Jersey, 515 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 26,031 infected people statewide and 4,825 deaths (53 percent). Murphy described the work done by LTC operators during the pandemic as “uneven, disappointing, lacking in communication, [and] lacking in some basic blocking and tackling.”
New Jersey has “thrown an enormous amount at this,” the governor said, including the attorney general’s recently announced investigation, the deployment of National guardsmen to LTC sites throughout the state, and the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for facilities lacking it.
“When we do our own postmortem in New Jersey, part of the focus will be on long-term care,” Murphy said; “what this industry has to look like to achieve a more satisfactory, more consistent performance.”
Field medical stations kept North Jersey from rationing care
Thirty-five patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 422 people in total.
This weekend, the Secaucus Field Medical Station, erected by the New Jersey National Guard at the Meadowlands Expo Center, shut down after a month of operations.
Shareef Elnahal, CEO of University Hospital in Newark, which coordinated patient registration, admission, and discharge services for Secaucus FMS, said the station relieved North Jersey hospitals during the peak of the surge.
Operating around the clock and answering about 80 phone calls a day, the 268 patients it served in a month saved surrounding hospitals 1,100 inpatient days, Elnahal said.
“That means much-needed bed space for seriously ill patients at the hospitals we served,” he said, which is why North Jersey did not have to ration hospital care “at any time in this pandemic, even during the peak.”
“That is not an accident,” Elnahal sald. “That is what got us through this.”
Remdesivir, convalescent plasma, school aid
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that New Jersey has received 110 cases and 4400 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir as part of a donation from its manufacturer, Gilead Sciences.
The pharmaceutical is believed to shorten COVID-19 recovery times by as much as four days, Persichilli said.
Its limited supply means remdesivir will be distributed under NJDOH guidance to ensure it is “equitable and consistent to where the greatest need is,” Persichilli said.
Officials also made a public appeal for anyone who’s since recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating their blood for use in convalescent plasma studies. The antibodies in the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients can be donated through the American Red Cross, which has more information on the process here.
On Monday, eligible New Jersey school districts can apply for their share of $280 million of federal dollars dedicated to COVID-19-related impacts, Murphy said. The state had applied for $310 million in federal funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which is part of the CARES Act.
Uses of those funds include: cleaning and sanitizing buildings, student support services, and offering remote instruction.
Murphy also encouraged every resident to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census, the response deadline for which has been extended to October. Its counts affect allocation of federal resources for the next decade.
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