Coronavirus Update: 164,796 Infected, 12,303 Related Deaths; Stay-at-Home Order Lifted, Gathering Limits Raised, Pool Guidance

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Plus: the state Economic Development Authority sets aside $45 million for micro-business loans.

By Matt Skoufalos | June 9, 2020

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 6-9-20. Credit: NJ DOH.

Another 375 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 164,796 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Tuesday.

Sadly, 91 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 12,303 lives lost during the pandemic.

Throughout New Jersey, 1, 736 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms, a fifth straight day of fewer than 2,000 hospitalized patients.

Of those 1,740 patients, 510 are in intensive or critical care; 373 of ICU and critical-care patients (73 percent) are on ventilators.

Overnight, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 84 new COVID-19 patients and discharged 80 others, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 3 percent June 5; in South Jersey, it’s slightly higher, at 3.73 percent.

RT, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, continued to fall, down to 0.64 June 7 from 0.81 on May 18. Those figures indicate that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one other person, on average, which means the number of new cases continues to decline.

Across New Jersey, 550 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 34,635 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.

That includes 23,127 residents and 11,508 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 5,573 lab-confirmed resident deaths (45 percent of the statewide total) and 109 facility-reported staff deaths.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – COVID-19 Briefing 6-9-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Of 654 veterans residing in a state-run home, 385 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 145 have died from complications related to the virus.

Five veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 212 have recovered from the virus.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 211 of 1,236 patients and 490 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus; unchanged since last week.

Nine patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 474 people in total.

To date, 39 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, unchanged since Monday.

All have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. One is still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.

In all, the state has seen just 49 COVID-19-related deaths of people younger than 30, Persichilli said. Nearly 80 percent of fatalities are among those 65 and older.

Stay-at-home order lifted, gathering limits raised

The biggest announcements Murphy made Tuesday were officially lifting his stay-at-home order and raising the limits on outdoor gatherings from 25 people to 100, with an exception for “first-amendment-protected outdoor activities,” including political protests and religious services, the governor said.

“Given the growing body of evidence showing the reduced risk of transmission outdoors, we believe such a rule appropriately prioritizes individuals’ rights to speak and worship freely,” he said.

Indoor gatherings will be permitted at the lesser of 25 percent of a building’s capacity, or 50 persons. All attendees must wear face coverings, and must stay at least six feet apart.

Indoor gathering regulations expressly exclude dine-in service, Murphy said; al fresco restaurant seating will resume next week.

All outdoor recreational and entertainment businesses are allowed to reopen, except for amusement parks, water parks, and arcades, “which all involve large numbers of people coming into touch with high-contact surfaces,” he said.

“With both of these orders, social distancing will remain our watchwords,” the governor said. “While they will allow for greater movement and greater flexibility, our number-one concern must remain protecting public health.

“With more and more of our businesses reopening, we are no longer requiring you to stay at home, but we are asking you to be responsible and safe,” he said, asking residents to “continue to wear face coverings and keep a social distance from others wherever possible.”

Murphy also said he anticipates raising the outdoor gathering limits to 250 people on June 22 and 500 people July 3, allowing for broader graduation services by July 6. However, he cautioned that any spike in cases or “backslide” may result in the restrictions being reinforced.

The indoor gathering limits shouldn’t necessarily affect remote office work, the governor said, adding, “just because we may be lifting the stay-at-home order does not mean we’re making you go back in the office.

“We do expect that, if you’re in an office, that you’ve got the protocols in place that most importantly keep you away from each other and a strong emphasis on face coverings,” he said.

Roberts Pool, Collingswood. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Guidance for public pools

On Tuesday, the state Department of Health issued its formal COVID-19 guidance for reopening youth summer camps on July 6.

Persichilli followed that up with a run-down of expectations for the reopening of public pools June 22.

Among the regulations: pools must reduce capacity to 50 percent of their maximum occupancy, whether through reduced hours, reserved slots, or hours specific for pass holders.

Staff and patrons must distance themselves from one another in the water and on the pool deck, must wear face coverings when not in the pool and when social distancing can’t be maintained, and may not use pool toys, goggles, or other equipment.

No face coverings should be worn by lifeguards, young children, or those with prohibitive health conditions.

Facilities must designate and stagger access to exit and entry points to avoid congregation, and should erect signage reminding patrons to be aware of signs of illness, and to stay home if they feel sick.

Occupancy in restrooms, showers, and locker rooms should be limited, and hand sanitizer stations should be created throughout the facility.

NJ EDA Chair Tim Sullivan – COVID-19 briefing 6-9-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

NJ EDA sets aside $45 million in CARES Act funds, $10 million for microbusiness loans

As the state begins to enter the second stage of its restart and recovery program, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) is preparing to accept applications for an expanded microbusiness loan program offering as much as $50,000 for the smallest businesses affected by the pandemic.

The agency had already opened up $75 million in grant aid for small businesses back in March.

Launched in November 2019, the microbusiness program will offer 10-year loans for inventory, equipment, and working capital uses.

No interest will be charged in the first three years of the loan, and no payments will be required; thereafter, interest rates climb to 2 percent for the duration of the loan. Businesses that are still operating a year after their loan closes will have 10 percent of the total loan amount forgiven as well.

Qualifying businesses include for-profit, home-based, and non-profits with two years of operations; start-ups that are at least six months to a year old are also eligible if they can provide a business plan and five-year projections.

Businesses must have no more than $1.5 million in revenues during the current fiscal year and fewer than 10 full-time employees, with “no employee minimum, and a demonstrated ability to service the proposed debt,” EDA said in a statement.

The agency has set aside $15 million for businesses located in “opportunity zones,” said EDA Chair Tim Sullivan, including “high poverty, high unemployment, low-income” areas of the state.

As of midday Tuesday, the department had already received 19,500 applications for the $50 million CARES Act program, Sullivan said, adding that he believes the agency can support about 16,000 grants.

“We’re right around being fully subscribed,” he said. “If you have not yet submitted your application, please do so.”

To apply for an EDA loan, see here for more information.

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

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