Coronavirus Update: 1,500 Deaths; Murphy Moves Primaries to July 7, Mandates Masks While Shopping, Halts Construction


Hospitals are feeling the crunch of staffing demands as cases approach 50,000 statewide.

By Matt Skoufalos | April 8, 2020

NJ COVID-19 Dashboard – 4-8-20. Credit: NJ DOH.

Another 3,088 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total number of cases to 47,437, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.

Sadly, another 275 residents have succumbed to complications from the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 1,504.

Throughout New Jersey, 7,026 residents are hospitalized, either with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or awaiting results of a COVID-19 test, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Of those, 1,617 patients are being treated in critical-care environments; 97 percent of them (1,576) are on ventilators. Persichilli said.

Forty-eight of those newly reported deceased were from long-term care facilities; 231 long-term care facilities statewide have reported at least one COVID-19-related fatality, she said. Of the 94,525 COVID-19 tests processd statewide, 44 percent (41,550) were positive for the virus.

Although bed capacity is up 60 percent at health systems and acute care hospitals in New Jersey, Persichilli said that hospitals are continuing to divert patients “primarily because of workforce issues.”

New Jersey is hopeful to backfill those needs from the 15,000 or so healthcare workers who have volunteered to help, Persichilli said. She said they will be needed not only in field hospitals but in permanent facilities as well.

Persichilli, whose career in healthcare has included time spent as both a nurse and a hospital CEO, said she has “a lot of empathy” for those in the field who are “trying to bring control into what now seems like a chaotic situation.

“I’ve sat where they sit,” she said. “I’ve done what they do. I’ve been through HIV/AIDS. I’ve been through Ebola. I’ve been through H1N1. I have never seen a situation that we’re in right now.”

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – COVID-19 Briefing 4-8-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

NJ primaries moving to July 7, masks for all shoppers, non-essential construction stopped

Murphy also made a number of major announcements related to the pandemic by way of three executive orders.

The first will delay the New Jersey primary elections five weeks, from June 2 to July 7, “to preserve the possibility that improvements in the public health situation will allow for in-person voting,” the governor said.

Were New Jersey to move to an historic all-mail-in-ballot election, the additional time would allow for boards of elections to make necessary adjustments to accommodate that circumstance.

“Our democracy cannot be a casualty of COVID-19,” Murphy said. “We want to make sure that every voter can vote without endangering their health or their safety.”

Murphy’s second executive order halts all non-essential construction indefinitely starting at 8 p.m. Friday, April 10. Exceptions include: projects involving hospitals, schools, transportation, and utilities entities; affordable housing projects; sites that can effectively socially distance their work crews; and emergency repairs.

That same order also requires shops and markets to limit their customers to 50 percent of their approved capacity. All customers and employees must wear face coverings, in keeping with CDC guidelines.

Businesses may admit customers without facemasks, but should limit their time or proximity to other customers. They also must provide face coverings and gloves for employees; those who are not medically able to wear a mask and those younger than two aren’t required to follow this policy.

Murphy’s order also requires stores to provide separate shopping hours for high-risk individuals, to put physical barriers between shoppers and cashiers, and to regularly sanitize their environments, among other practices.

NJ Gov Phil Murphy Moves 2020 Primaries to July. Credit: NJ Pen.

The governor reminded residents that New Jersey is “not running out of food or other items.”

“Our supply chain is feeling the stress, but it is holding strong,” Murphy said.

“We are taking this step to protect both customers and essential workers.

“Ensuring social distancing may require you to change the times you go to the store but it’s a small price to pay to ensure the health of your community.”

The governor’s third executive order supports the state logistical system, increasing the trucking weight limit along interstate highways and toll roads from 40 to 46 tons for vehicles carrying COVID-19 relief supplies.

Finally, when asked about the possibility of re-opening public schools, the governor said he’d adhere to his deadline of April 17 for further guidance.

“The good news is we don’t have to make a decision yet,” he said.

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

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