Coronavirus Update: 167,703 Infected, 12,769 Related Deaths; NJ Releases Guidance for Colleges, Universities Ahead of July 1 Limited Reopening


Plus: another child is diagnosed with pediatric multisymptom inflammatory disorder, bringing the statewide total to 43.

By Matt Skoufalos | June 17, 2020

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 6-17-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Another 330 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 167,703 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.

Sadly, 47 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 12,769 lives lost during the pandemic.

In all, the state has seen just 50 COVID-19-related deaths of people younger than 30, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. Nearly 80 percent of fatalities are among those 65 and older.

Throughout New Jersey, 1,352 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.

Of those 1,352 patients, 358 are in intensive or critical care; 254 of ICU and critical-care patients (71 percent) are on ventilators.

Overnight, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 33 new COVID-19 patients, and 53 others were discharged, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 3.5 percent June 13; in South Jersey, it’s higher, at 5.3 percent.

Rt, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, was 0.70 on June 15. 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, 555 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 35,403 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – COVID-19 Briefing 6-17-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

That includes 23,576 residents and 11,861 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,079 lab-confirmed resident deaths (48 percent of the statewide total) and 116 facility-reported staff deaths.

Of 654 veterans residing in a state-run home, 386 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 146 have died from complications related to the virus.

Three veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 226 have recovered from the virus.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 211 of 1,232 patients and 493 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.

Four patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 476 people in total.

To date, 43 New Jersey children, aged 1 to 18, have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Persichilli said; three more since June 12.

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

In-person higher education and career training resumes July 1. Credit: NJ Pen.

Guidelines for reopening college campuses

Today, state officials released guidance for reopening colleges and universities, of which certain segments—in-person, clinical, laboratory, and hands-on programming activities, as well as independent career and training schools—may resume July 1.

That information is centered on the aspects of 10 key areas of on-campus life, Murphy said: instruction, housing, computer labs, libraries, research and labs, student services, transportation, dining, study abroad, and athletics.

“General safeguarding mandates” and “key precautionary measures” will be issued for each, he said.

Colleges and universities must submit their restart plans to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at least 14 days before any staff or students return to campus, and these plans will be reviewed with the state department of health, Murphy said.

“An equitable restart of operations has to be done carefully through an interactive, staged process that moves forward while balancing concerns for public health,” said Zakiya Smith Ellis, Secretary of the New Jersey Office of Higher Education.

When classes resume, in-person instruction will be limited to labs or clinical instruction, initially. Outdoor classes must adhere to state-established occupancy restrictions and while maintaining social distancing, Smith Ellis said.

“If you’re in a normal classroom that can normally only hold 20 people, you’re literally going to need to go in there with a tape measure, and measure six feet across, and figure out how many people can be in that classroom space,” she said.

NJ Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis – COVID-19 briefing 6-17-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

“Most institutions are going to be continuing with some hybrid version of in-person and online,” Smith Ellis said.

“We’re not mandating that, but the practical realities of this is that it’s not going to be full capacity in any space because it’s not realistic,” she said.

A limited number of students can return to dorms, which must set aside space for quarantine and isolation, and while keeping all common areas closed.

Whatever limited housing is available should be prioritized for those students “for whom residential housing is necessary for them to gain the most equitable education,” the commissioner said.

There will also be restrictions on campus dining, including socially-distanced seating and no buffet service, and all transportation and athletic activities must be conducted according to state and NCAA guidelines. In-person graduation ceremonies may be held after July 6.

Murphy spoke about the importance of reopening higher-education institutions in getting the state economy back online.

“They are where our future workforce is being created, and where many of the advances in the life sciences, and engineering, and in other areas that will have a tremendous impact on our larger economy, are taking shape,” the governor said.

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

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