Plus: Gov. Phil Murphy and NJSP Col. Pat Callahan offered comment on the George Floyd case and subsequent riots in Minnesota.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 29, 2020
Another 1,117 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 158,844 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.
Sadly, 131 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 11,531 lives lost during the pandemic.
Throughout New Jersey, 2,707 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.
Of those 2,797 patients, 720 are in intensive or critical care; 544 of ICU and critical-care patients (76 percent) are on ventilators.
In the past 24 hours, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 183 new COVID-19 patients and discharged 231 others, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
Across New Jersey, 537 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 32,097 infected patients and staff, or 20 percent of total cases.
That includes 21,650 residents and 10,447 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 5,009 lab-confirmed resident deaths (43 percent of the statewide total) and 105 facility-reported staff deaths.
Of 654 veterans residing in a state-run home, 384 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 144 have died from complications related to the virus. Eleven veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 203 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 211 of 1,227 patients and 485 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus; unchanged from yesterday’s report.
Twenty-one patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 467 people in total.
To date, 26 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with multisystem pediatric inflammatory syndrome, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. Of them, 18 have tested positive for COVID-19; all were hospitalized, and 12 have been discharged. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 6 percent May 25; in South Jersey, it’s a little higher, at 8 percent.
Child care, organized sports practices, youth day camps, houses of worship
One of the biggest announcements Friday was Murphy’s executive order that child care centers can open up to all New Jersey families June 15.
Since March 25, childcare facilities have been operating on a limited basis for the children of essential personnel only.
Under terms of the same order, organized youth sports can resume practicing June 22, and summer youth day camps can open July 6.
“As we prepare to take the first true steps of our restart and recovery, and as more and more workers prepare to get back out to their jobs, we must ensure a continuum of care for their children,” Murphy said.
Among the benefits of “day care and summer camps and sports” is that “we’re going to learn a fair amount fairly quickly about what’s working and not working as it relates to our war-gaming back-to-school,” the governor said.
Christine Norbut Beyer, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF), said specific guidance would be forthcoming from her office on the protocols involved in the moves.
Norbut Beyer described the measures as critical to “ensuring a safe, stable, and seamless childcare infrastructure for New Jersey’s workforce,” which the state has long held as a critical piece of its reopening plan.
Processes for screening, sanitation, and safe social distancing will be outlined in the guidance, and childcare facilities must file an attestation with DCF that they will follow the protocols the agency establishes. Inspectors will begin visiting facilities June 15 to ensure compliance.
The state Department of Health will develop similar standards for summer day camps, Norbut Beyer said, but will prohibit sleep-away and residential camps.
She added that face-coverings are recommended on a child-by-child basis, but that children younger than two are exempt, and none should be worn by any child while napping.
DCF will also leverage $20 million in CARES Act funds as grants to help those facilities and camps meet its health and safety guidelines for reopening. Individual centers can get as much as $5,000 and individual camps as much as $2,000.
New Jersey’s Emergency Child Care Assistance Program, which has funded childcare services for essential employees throughout the pandemic, will discontinue that funding by the end of June, and will no longer accept applications for support after June 1.
Murphy also said that limits on indoor gatherings, which are still restricted to 10 or fewer, could be raised “in a way that will allow for greater indoor religious services” starting Friday, June 12, “as long as our health metrics continue to trend in the right direction.”
$100 million for short-term rental assistance
In an effort to support those whose housing has been threatened by the pandemic, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver announced the dedication of $100 million in federal CARES Act funds into a short-term rental assistance program.
The COVID-19 Short-Term Rental Assistance Program will provide temporary rental assistance “to low- and moderate-income households that have had a substantial reduction income as a result of the pandemic, including the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless, Oliver said.
Those in greatest need can get up to a year’s worth of rental assistance from that fund, and the remainder will be eligible for six months of assistance. The second pool will be selected through an online lottery that will open up in July; the first group may apply to a website opening June 15.
Households earning less than 80 percent of area median income for their county will be prioritized in that lottery, and the program “will focus on those currently unemployed due to COVID-19,” Oliver said.
Other lottery conditions include proving the impact of COVID-19 beginning March 9, including having been laid off or having work hours reduced; having to take unpaid leave for child care due to daycare and school closures; or having to self-quarantine for two weeks due to COVID-19. Applicants must be New Jersey residents current on their rent as of March 1, 2020.
The lieutenant governor also encouraged those in need of help meeting their utility costs to apply for the LIHEAT program, which has been supported by $29 million in CARES Act funds.
“No family should fear losing their home as a result of hardship due to COVID-19,” Murphy said.
“Our strong eviction and foreclosure moratoriums remain in place and will remain in force for weeks after this emergency eventually comes to an end,” he said.
The governor added that he expects the first checks issued under this program to begin “flowing to landlords this summer.”
Comments on the George Floyd case
Finally, Murphy and New Jersey State Police Colonel Pat Callahan offered a few remarks during the briefing on the social unrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, spurred by the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while in police custody.
“It may seem a half a country away, but we’re all in this together,” Murphy said.
“Systemic racism is far from being erased from the fabric of this country.
“The overwhelming majority of our law enforcement officers believe strongly in the communities they’re sworn to protect,” he said.
“What we’re seeing in Minneapolis is almost too painful to watch,” the governor said. “George Floyd should be alive today, not just as a matter of principle or of justice, but as a matter of human dignity.”
Callahan said that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal had hosted a conference call with county prosecutors and the police chiefs of New Jersey’s major cities Friday to reinforce the importance of community dialogue “when we come up against an incident that draws on that reservoir of trust.
“We can lock arms,” Callahan said; “we can foster trust, maintain it, and rebuild it where it’s been completely diminished.”
“[Police] aren’t going to meet their clergy and their pastors around yellow crime scene tape in the state of New Jersey,” the colonel said.
“We’re doing it at barbecues, church basements, and town halls, knowing that something that happens halfway across the country impacts us right here in Trenton, New Jersey, and throughout our communities,” he said.
‘Get the diagnostic test’
Finally, Persichilli urged all New Jerseyans to “get the [COVID-19] diagnostic test, which detects whether you currently have the virus.
“This type of test provides insight into the disease burden currently circulating in our communities,” and can help speed the reopening process, Persichilli said.
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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