Governor Phil Murphy says guidance will be forthcoming later this week on beaches, elections, and elective surgery. Plus: more children are being diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome and COVID-19.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 13, 2020
Another 1,028 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 141,560 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 197 more residents perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 9,702 lives lost during the pandemic.
COVID-19 cases are doubling at least every 30 days throughout most of New Jersey, including Camden County.
Statewide, 4,226 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Of those 4,226 patients, 1,226 are in intensive or critical care, and 928 (76 percent) are on ventilators.
In the past 24 hours, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 364 new COVID-19 patients and discharged 382 others, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
Across New Jersey, 522 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 26,763 infected people statewide (19 percent of total cases) and 5,016 deaths (51 percent).
Of 662 veterans residing in a state-run home, 364 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 137 have died from complications related to the virus. At state-run psychiatric facilities, 194 of 1,240 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 people have died from complications related to the virus.
Thirty-one patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 436 people in total.
Non-essential retail, construction, drive-in events to restart Monday
The biggest announcement to come from the governor’s briefing Wednesday was the first roll-back of shutdown restrictions for non-essential retail businesses, construction, and drive-in/drive-through gatherings.
All three will be allowed to restart beginning at 6 a.m. Monday, May 18, with retailers allowed to support curbside pickup from online ordering only. According to Executive Order 142:
- In-store operations should be limited to those employees who are responsible for the operations required for curbside pickup;
- Customer transactions should be handled in advance by phone, email, facsimile or other means that avoid person-to-person contact;
- Customers shall notify the retailer by text message, email, or phone once they arrive, or make best efforts to schedule their arrival time in advance. The customer should be asked to remain in their vehicle, if arriving by car, until store staff delivers the purchase;
- Designated employees should bring goods outside of the retail establishment and place goods directly in a customer’s vehicle when possible, avoiding person-to-person contact; and
- Such businesses must follow social distancing and mitigation practices outlined in previous orders, including requiring workers to wear cloth face coverings when in contact with other workers or customers and gloves when in contact with goods or customers.
Construction sites are expected to post safety regulations on job sites, stagger workers and their breaks, wear face coverings at all times, and maintain sanitation and social distance protocols.
Drive-through and drive-in events, like the previously authorized vehicles-only farmers market models, are permitted for things like movie screenings and religious gatherings. Vehicles must remain six feet apart, with all occupants remaining in their cars unless their safety is in danger. A ban on physical gatherings still applies, and residents are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. From the order:
- Attendees must remain in their same car throughout the gathering, unless 1) an occupant needs to get out of the vehicle for their health or safety or 2) an occupant needs to use the restroom;
- The vehicle must remain closed at all times unless 1) there is six feet of distance between other vehicles or individuals or 2) an officer, public official or guard requires the vehicle to open. There is a further exception allowing the opening of the vehicle if necessary for health or safety;
- Individuals organizing the gathering who are not in vehicles must follow social distancing and wear cloth face coverings; and
- To the degree that a gathering requires pre-payment, or seeks donations of any kind, contactless options for pre-payment or donation, such as online or by telephone, must be offered wherever feasible.
“The data show us that we are ready for this step,” Murphy said. “All the important metrics that we needed to fall into place have been doing so.”
The governor said that additional reopening guidance on everything from elective surgeries to the beaches could be issued by week’s end, as well as for upcoming primary elections.
Social distancing “is essential as we move forward,” he added, noting that New Jersey is still a national leader in COVID-19 patients, new cases, and deaths per 100,000 people.
“We’re moving slowly and deliberately because any misstep risks further outbreaks,” Murphy said. “We want to be quick, but we have to be right.”
Uptick in child illnesses reported
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that nine counties throughout the state are reporting 18 cases of “systemic inflammatory response syndrome,” a pediatric ailment that has so far sickened children aged three to 18.
“They are all under investigation,” Persichilli said.
Four of the patients also tested positive for COVID-19.
The commissioner said the children likely are suffering from Kawasaki syndrome.
First documented in 1967, it is a pediatric condition treatable with immunoglobulin and aspirin, but remains “a leading cause of acquired heart disease in the United States,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Persichilli promised “more on that” as the CDC issues its case definitions.
Murphy continued to stump for federal aid to make up operational shortfalls in the state’s $43 billion budget as April revenue collections, which “generally reflect a lot of economic activity from March,” were down “an unprecedented” $3.5 billion, or 60 percent year over year.
“As we also pushed the filing of personal income and corporate business taxes from April to July, what would be a bellwether report of how we will finish the fiscal year has also been delayed,” the governor said.
“The COVID-19 impact is not limited to the health of our people, but also to the health of our state’s finances,” he said, adding that he expected May reports to bear “similar or worse news”
Finally, after Murphy rolled out his plan for increased COVID-19 testing and contact tracing yesterday, the state saw 21,111 expressions of interest in the program through its web portal.
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