Coronavirus Update: 143,905 Cases, 10,138 Related Deaths; Elections, Elective Surgeries, $50M in Small Biz Grants


Even as public health trends continue in the right direction, the state crossed the 10,000-death threshold in the pandemic, second in the nation only to neighboring New York. 

By Matt Skoufalos | May 15, 2020

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 5-15-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Another 1,297 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 143,905 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.

Sadly, 201 more residents perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 10,138 lives lost during the pandemic; “a staggering number,” Murphy said.

COVID-19 cases are doubling at least every 30 days throughout most of New Jersey, including Camden County.

The statewide average of spot testing is at 23 percent positivity, and per capita regional hospitalizations are converging at comparable levels across North, Central, and South Jersey.

Throughout New Jersey, 3,823 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Of those 3,823 patients, 1,127 are in intensive or critical care, and 865 (77 percent) are on ventilators.

In the past 24 hours, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 285 new COVID-19 patients and discharged 357 others, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.

Across New Jersey, 527 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 27,374 infected people statewide (19 percent of total cases) and 5,259 deaths (52 percent).

Of 660 veterans residing in a state-run home, 368 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 140 have died from complications related to the virus. At state-run psychiatric facilities, 202 of 1,240 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and 13 people have died from complications related to the virus.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that universal COVID-19 testing has been achieved at all state veterans home, and is in process for LTC residents.

Forty-two patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 443 people in total.

Persichilli also offered an update on the 17 reported cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory (Kawasaki) syndrome she’d previously identified in nine New Jersey counties.

Seven of those met the definition of Kawasaki syndrome, and six of those were positive for COVID-19, she said.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – COVID-19 Briefing 5-15-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Elective surgeries may begin May 26

Beginning May 26, New Jersey healthcare practitioners may resume elective surgeries and other invasive procedures, as the state continues its restart and recovery plan.

The first among these to be scheduled will be “urgent surgical procedures,” Persichilli said.

Patients must be tested for COVID-19 72 hours prior to surgery and screened for symptoms the day of it.

They must also be quarantined three days before a surgery, and if they display positive COVID-19 tests or symptoms consistent with the virus, they will be disqualified for procedures that are not urgent, the commissioner said.

Facilities are expected to follow strict protocols for cleaning, disinfecting, and limiting the capacity of their waiting rooms, as well as establishing physical barriers and utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) in measures consistent with best practices.

In a statement, Cathy Bennett, president-CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said the state health system is ready and waiting for surgical patients.

“The reality is, New Jersey hospitals never stopped caring for their communities, even while rising to the challenges of COVID-19,” Bennett wrote. “Hospitals have rebounded with the space, staffing, and supplies needed to care for patients safely.

“They are ready to be part of New Jersey’s recovery,” she said.

Hospitals treated more than 350,000 non-COVID patients during March and April, and COVID cases represented 20 percent of inpatient cases in April.

Primary elections to be mostly mail-in

In advance of the July 7 primary election, New Jersey voters will be invited to participate by mail-in ballot, Murphy said. A limited number of in-person polling places will be staffed, with precautions.

All registered partisan voters automatically will receive a postage-paid, vote-by-mail ballot; unaffiliated voters will receive a vote-by-mail application, he said. County clerks will have seven full days after polls close to receive ballots instead of the usual 48 hours.

The efforts are intended to “maximize our democracy while minimizing the risk of illness,” Murphy said.

“We want everyone to participate in a safe and fully democratic process,” he said.

NJEDA will distribute $50M in CARES Act money to small businesses. Credit: NJ Pen.

$50M small business funds, prison parolees, $1.4B to NJ Transit

The governor also announced that $50 million in federal CARES Act funds will be dedicated to supporting small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The state Economic Development Authority will create grant programs for which applications will be announced in the coming weeks, he said.

“Many businesses have had real concerns about their ability to survive this pandemic,” Murphy said.

“To the extent that we can use this federal funding to help our small businesses not just make it through, but to see them thriving again as we continue our restart, we will take these steps.”

New Jersey small businesses account for about 60 percent of employment in the state, the governor said.

Murphy’s counsel Matt Platkin said that under the early temporary release policy designed to keep New Jersey inmates from contracting COVID-19, 641 prisoners have been paroled; 368 were furloughed, 273 were discharged from residential community programs overseen by the state parole board, and 188 have been granted parole but not released pending COVID-19 testing.

Finally, Murphy announced that NJ Transit will receive $1.4 billion in CARES Act funds to support its beleaguered operations, which have been hammered during the stay-at-home order.

Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.

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