Plus: New Jersey has paid out $9.1 billion across 1.3 million unemployment claims, EDA offers more small business supports, and three more kids contract pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 2, 2020
Another 539 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 172,356 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Thursday.
Sadly, 27 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,251 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state also recognized another two probable COVID-19-related deaths, bringing its total to 1,856.
Throughout New Jersey, 1,027 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Among those patients, 216 are in intensive or critical care, and 170 of ICU and critical-care patients (78 percent) are on ventilators.
Overnight, 44 New Jersey hospitals admitted 51 new COVID-19 patients, and 83 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 2.95 percent June 28; in South Jersey, it’s slightly higher, at 3.1 percent.
Rt, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, was 0.87 percent on June 30, up slightly from day-ago readings of 0.82.
That figure indicates that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one other person, on average. However, it has nearly continuously increased from a low of 0.62 recorded on June 9.
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 36,461 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,199 residents and 12,262 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,476 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, 51 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said, making four new cases this week.
All have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. Nine children are still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
Flags return to full-staff ahead of July 4, emergency declaration extended again
For the past 90 days, New Jersey flags have flown at half-staff out of respect for those lives lost to COVID-19, but Murphy said they will return to full staff in advance of the Independence Day weekend, “as a sign of rebirth for our state.
“Even as we do this, we must be mindful of the fact that more residents are going to be lost to this pandemic,” he said. “Regardless of our flags’ positions on our flagpoles, we are fighting this virus together… and we will dedicate our efforts to every life that has been lost and will be lost.”
The governor also extended New Jersey’s public health emergency for another 30 days, effectively a procedural item since its initial declaration in March.
Gathering limits up, officials urge caution in public places
Despite the step back from indoor dining announced this week, New Jersey has reopened some indoor recreational activities at reduced capacity, and gone ahead with a planned increase in outdoor limits.
Outdoor gathering limits have been raised to 500 people ahead of statewide outdoor graduation ceremonies, which are allowed to be held starting Monday, July 6.
There are no limits on the number of people who may convene for outdoor first-amendment religious or political activities. Indoor limits remain capped at the lesser of 100 people or 25 percent of building capacity.
Health officials spoke about the importance of constantly disinfecting and sanitizing high-touch, hard-contact surfaces, particularly as playgrounds and amusements reopen this week.
New Jersey Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz said COVID-19 “clearly survives a relatively long time on a surface,” with porous surfaces like cloth and paper tending to retain the virus less so than smooth surfaces, like the plastic of which playground equipment is made.
“You’d expect it to do worse in direct sunshine, which tends to cause degradation of viruses faster,” Lifshitz said. “The short answer is: it depends.”
The advice offered to parents: clean high-touch surfaces frequently with 60-plus-percent alcohol and sanitizer, and wash children’s hands as often as possible.
$9.1 billion in unemployment claims paid out, 1.3 million filed
Another 28,000 New Jersey residents filed initial unemployment claims last week, Murphy said, down 5,000 from the week prior.
Nonetheless, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) has received an “unprecedented” 1.3 million claims since mid-March 2020, the governor said.
Of those, 1.12 million, or 96 percent of eligible claimants have received at least one payment, and those remaining unresolved cases are likely traceable to specific issues, like out-of-state information or claims on appeal, he said.
To date, NJDOL reported that New Jersey has paid out $9.1 billion in unemployment aid:
- $5.4 billion in federal unemployment aid
- $2.8 billion in New Jersey state aid
- $612 million in federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for those self-employed and gig economy workers
- $172 million in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), an extension of federal benefits for those whose 26 weeks of state unemployment payments have been exhausted
More aid is expected in the coming weeks, as NJDOL announced another 20 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for those whose state and PEUC benefits have been exhausted.
Contact tracing corps
The New Jersey Community Contact Tracing Corps has fielded 2,664 applications to become a contact tracer, and 357 have been onboarded since June 20, Murphy said.
To date, the program has invited 859 local and county health department employees to be trained on the state CommCare software, and 500 have completed that training.
“We are continually building and training the statewide team of diverse public health workers we will need to help us prevent new cases from becoming flare-ups that can threaten our recovery,” the governor said.
Murphy described “the testing, tracing, and isolation trinity” as a part of building statewide resiliency to manage future anticipated outbreaks of COVID-19.
“Those are assets we did not have at our disposal… when this crisis started,” he said. “We now have them.”
NJ EDA small business update
Finally, in Thursday’s briefing, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) CEO Tim Sullivan reported that the agency has supported 6,700 businesses with $26.3 million in funding during the pandemic.
When the EDA launched its Phase Two Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance, 3,313 grants totaling some $11.85 million were awarded. In all, New Jersey has received $21 billion in federal SBA support.
SBA is also offering technical assistance and resources, “particularly around e-commerce,” to support the reopening of small businesses that have a technology gap to make up.
“We’re going to be launching a program to provide direct support to those businesses,” Sullivan said; their needs may include website building, electronic ordering and delivery fulfillment, and more.
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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