Plus: Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli describes her “cautious now rather than sorry later” approach to reopening the state safely.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 1, 2020
Another 423 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 171,928 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 45 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,224 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state also recognizes another 1,854 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Throughout New Jersey, 1,080 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Among those patients, 217 are in intensive or critical care, and 178 of ICU and critical-care patients (82 percent) are on ventilators.
Overnight, 44 New Jersey hospitals admitted 54 new COVID-19 patients, and 87 others were discharged, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
Rate of transmission (Rt) down slightly since yesterday
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 2.29 percent June 27; in South Jersey, it’s slightly higher, at 2.71 percent.
Rt, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, was 0.82 percent on June 28, down slightly from day-ago readings of 0.88.
That figure indicates that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one other person, on average. However, it has continued to climb steadily from a low of 0.62 recorded on June 9.
“Only three counties have an Rt over 1, which means an increased rate of spread, where last week, there were eight,” Murphy said.
“Since last week, eight counties have cut their Rt by at least one-third, and four counties have cut their rate of transmission by at least half,” he said.
“When we get it below 1, we’ve got to keep it below 1.”
State epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan said public health officials have not seen any significant upticks in new cases at the state or county level since Memorial Day, which means officials are shifting their focus to suppressing the numbers of new infections.
“We don’t want to have any false sense of security that we’re doing so well,” Tan said. “We have the tools right now to be able to contain this caseload that we’re seeing right now; just remember to enforce it.”
Long-term care accounts for almost half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Across New Jersey, 557 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 36,423 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,179 residents and 12,244 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,443 lab-confirmed resident deaths (49 percent of the statewide total) and 117 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. Seven veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 239 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 211 of 1,237 patients and 498 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus.
To date, 48 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
All have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. Eight children are still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
‘Cautious now rather than sorry later’
As New Jersey presses on with its July 2 reopening of various indoor amusements and recreational activities, officials continued to field questions about their decision to roll back the reopening of indoor dining.
Persichilli said that a sedentary indoor dining environment is riskier than a space like a mall, the high ceilings of which “promote and assist air circulation and ventilation,” where social distancing and mask-wearing are easier to maintain, and in which patrons don’t linger as long as they would in close contact after a meal.
She instead encouraged New Jerseyans to patronize restaurants with pickup and takeout or socially distanced outdoor dining.
“I feel strongly that it’s better to be cautious now than sorry later,” the commissioner said.
Conversely, Murphy said that given the lower risk of outdoor activities, the state sees no reason to roll back its increased gathering limits.
“We’ve already raised the outdoor limits; we will continue to raise them meaningfully,” the governor said, urging people to “use your head” and stick to socializing among those friends and relations they normally encounter.
NJDOL extends unemployment for 20 more weeks to those who’ve exhausted benefits
New Jersey residents who have exhausted their state and federal unemployment benefits may be eligible for 20 more weeks of payments.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) said those who have used up 26 weeks of state unemployment plus 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) will be eligible for the extension.
That means claimants can be eligible for as many as 59 weeks of unemployment support. They are automatically enrolled into extended benefits once their federal extension ends, and don’t need to reapply to receive them.
New Jersey is among 48 other states to have begun offering the extended benefits, having hit a federal, 15.2-percent unemployment threshold in May. (Only South Dakota has not begun offering the extended benefits.)
New Jersey went from being at almost full employment last winter to double-digit unemployment almost overnight,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo in a statement.
“These triggers are put in place for just such eventualities – so that claimants have access to an income safety net for an extended period of time during times of high unemployment,” Asaro-Angelo said.
Independent contractors, self-employed workers, and others receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are eligible for a maximum of 46 weeks of benefits, which will take them into December 2020. The additional $600-per-week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program runs through July 25.
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