Plus: Murphy asks New Jerseyans to take his ‘One Jersey Pledge’ to maintain social distancing, sanitation, and mask-wearing, as the state heads into Stage Two of its restart.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 11, 2020
Another 539 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 165,816 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Thursday.
Sadly, 70 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 12,443 lives lost during the pandemic.
Throughout New Jersey, 1,512 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.
Of those 1,512 patients, 445 are in intensive or critical care; 319 of ICU and critical-care patients (72 percent) are on ventilators.
Overnight, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 27 new COVID-19 patients, “but we know there’s an issue with the data,” Murphy said. With “great confidence,” however, he reported that hospitals discharged 169 other patients, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes. Six patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 474 people in total.
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 3.8 percent June 7; in South Jersey, it’s slightly higher, at 4.3 percent.
RT, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, continued to fall, down to 0.62 June 9 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, 551 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 34,866 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 23,253 residents and 11,613 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 5,734 lab-confirmed resident deaths (46 percent of the statewide total) and 113 facility-reported staff deaths.
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.
Six veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 216 have recovered from the virus.
At 490 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.
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.
On Wednesday, the state crossed the 1-million-test mark—99 days after the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in New Jersey, Persichilli said. She urged all residents to get tested at one of the state’s 255 public and private testing sites, noting, “many who tested positive for COVID-19 have not exhibited any symptoms at all.”
More than $6 billion in unemployment payments has been distributed to New Jerseyans throughout the pandemic, Murphy said.
Ninety-four percent of those who filed for unemployment benefits in New Jersey were deemed eligible for payment, and 70,000 who had exhausted their previous eligibility were also cleared for expanded federal benefits.
New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Rob Asaro-Angelo said the state has fielded 1.2 million unemployment claims averaging more than $6,000 apiece.
Although the New Jersey unemployment trust fund was well-positioned entering the pandemic, the state will likely borrow from the federal department of labor to replenish it, he added.
Among those sectors in which employees have lost jobs or had hours reduced, those hardest hit include: casinos, retailers, airlines, and food service, with 25 percent of claims from food service occupations alone.
Yet roughly 240,000 NJ workers will not qualify for state unemployment benefits; for them, Asaro-Angelo acknowledged that these figures are of little comfort.
“The unemployment process is cumbersome, with confusing rules and federal guidance that have delayed the process for many, and left some waiting for weeks, if not months, to become eligible,” he said.
The commissioner said a new call center will come online early next week, allowing more claimants to talk to staffers in person, as well as supporting two, full make-up days for workers to certify for their weekly benefits.
“This is incredibly important, because it will help free up our most experienced agents to focus on complex claims,” Asaro-Angelo said.
As more job sectors do come online, the state is prioritizing the health and safety of its workers, including those collecting unemployment, Asaro-Angelo said. Workplaces that aren’t compliant with reopening guidance do not have the authority to compel staff to return to work, and those collecting unemployment will be allowed to do so in such circumstances, the commissioner said.
“No one should be forced to choose between their livelihood and the threat of contracting COVID-19,” Asaro-Angelo said.
“So no, a worker cannot just choose to stay on unemployment, but if an employer, for example, is violating an executive order based on public health and safety, and opening too early, that action in itself is putting its employees at risk, and they can certainly exert their right to refuse to return to work,” he said.
The department will also issue guidance for those who can’t get back to work right away because of underlying health conditions, or because their children’s schools or daycares haven’t reopened, the commissioner said.
No indoor dining yet
Murphy also singled out for criticism the local government of Asbury Park, which announced that it would allow indoor dining to resume at reduced capacity June 15, even though the state has excluded indoor dining from its reopening schedule thus far.
“You’ve been crushed; we get it, we understand it,” the governor said, calling its plan to reopen indoor dining “inconsistent with my governing order.
“We cannot have communities mirroring the cavalier actions taken in other states, which have not put a premium on making the health of their residents priority number one,” Murphy said.
“We have lived this already, folks,” he said. “We don’t want to go living it again. We’ve gone through hell; please let’s not go back through it.”
The governor also asked small businesses and communities throughout the state to take the “One Jersey Pledge,” an individual affirmation “that we all share a responsibility to see our restart and recovery through.
“The One Jersey pledge is the glue that will ensure the guidance Judy [Persichilli] and her team release across Jersey actually sticks,” Murphy said.
“It’s the sign that says, ‘We’re all in this together’; that getting past COVID-19 is our top priority,” he said.
Murphy also didn’t offer any new guidance or timeline for reopening libraries or fitness centers, about both of which he was asked during Thursday’s briefing.
Please support NJ Pen with a subscription. Get e-mails, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or try our Direct Dispatch text alerts.