Data collection from testing sites throughout the state reveal a 27-percent positive rate, as the virus hits the young, the old, and especially the vulnerable.
By Matt Skoufalos | March 24, 2020
Another 846 new cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been reported in New Jersey, bringing the statewide total to 3,675, Governor Phil Murphy announced during his press briefing Tuesday.
Eighteen of those new cases were recorded in Camden County, bringing the local count to 59, with one fatality. They are:
- a Bellmawr woman in her 80s
- a Camden City woman in her 60s
- two Cherry Hill men in their 40s and 60s
- two Collingswood women in their 20s and 50s
- a Gloucester City woman in her 30s
- two Gloucester Township women in their 40s and 50s
- a Haddonfield man in his 20s
- a Lindenwold woman in her 60s
- a Magnolia woman in her 30s
- a Pine Hill man in his 30s
- a Somerdale man in his 40s
- a Voorhees man in his 20s
- two Winslow men in their 50s and 60s, and a woman in her 50s
The state also recorded its largest single-day fatality count, with 17 more deaths bringing the total to 44, Murphy said.
The governor said the uptick in new cases was anticipated, and that although “sobering,” the test results also provide vital data for the deployment of resources throughout the state.
The governor also announced the reservation of some $900 billion in state discretionary budget spending for the current fiscal year, the cancellation of statewide standardized testing for school-aged students, and a deadline for all municipal and private water utilities to suspend shut-off orders during the outbreak.
Flattening the curve as data come in
In the briefing, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli offered some early analysis of the test data from some 12,000 samples collected statewide.
Of those, 3,600 were positive, bringing the overall positivity rate to 27 percent.
“That will help us in our predictive modeling of the type of care that these individuals will require,” Persichilli said.
“We remind people who test negative and who have symptoms that it’s important to still stay at home while you’re sick because it might mean that you’ve been infected with another respiratory virus,” she said.
“We don’t expect to prevent every single case, but we are trying to limit and spread out the new cases.”
Persichilli also noted that the disease isn’t just affecting seniors: 35 percent of COVID-19 cases are of people aged 30 to 49, and 24 percent of them have been hospitalized.
However, the most vulnerable populations in the state continue to concern officials, as at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 has been observed in each of 19 long-term facilities statewide. As hospitals become overwhelmed, Persichilli said that hotels and college dormitories are being held in reserve for overflow housing.
Those who access them could include symptomatic individuals who have tested positive for the virus, but who can’t isolate because of their living situations; those living in homeless shelters; and those who might “need to isolate in a safer environment” after a hospital stay, she said.
Hospitals in North Jersey are “pretty packed,” Persichilli said, and four field hospitals are being prepared with the support of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Meadowlands, Edison, Atlantic City, and another location yet to be determined.
Support for healthcare workers, first responders, and essential personnel
When asked why the state hasn’t shuttered its daycare centers, Murphy pointed out that their services are relied upon by many parents who are still working throughout the pandemic, including those in healthcare.
Persichilli mentioned that 40 percent of nurses nationwide are either the primary caregivers for their kids or are single parents, and that “good child care is imperative” for them to continue at the front lines of the COVID-19 battle..
In support of their efforts, more procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) is happening throughout the state. Murphy said some 295,000 masks and 84,000 respirators are due in from the national stockpile, and that donations of N95 masks have come in from companies including PSEG, Apple, GlaxoSmithKline, Walgreens, and Prudential.
Those with supplies can make arrangements to donate them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I am extremely grateful,” the governor said. “We are still in need of more equipment for our hospitals and first responders.”
Keeping first responders safe allows them to deal with other concerns, including a case that Murphy mentioned of an employee at a Manalapan Wegmans grocery store who was coughed on by a customer who told her he had COVID-19. The alleged aggressor reportedly did this after a dispute with the worker, and then refused to provide his identification to police for nearly an hour after the fact, Murphy said.
The man is being charged with a variety of summonses, including terroristic threats, harassment, and obstruction.
“We are up and down the state, and we will not take any non-compliant behavior, let alone egregious behavior like this,” Murphy said.
The governor also urged people whose employers are not letting them work remotely, or who’ve deemed all staff essential for operations, to call 609-963-6817 and report them to the state.
“No one who can do their job from home should be going to work in an office,” Murphy said. “We must have 100 percent compliance.”
Cancelled: standardized testing, water shutoffs
With students learning remotely and school indefinitely suspended, “it is simply not feasible for us to be able to move forward with testing in any meaningful way,” Murphy said.
“Many parents have moved into a dual role of classroom educator, and it would not be fair for them to also now pick up the title of test proctor as well,” he said.
The governor said the decision won’t adversely affect graduation requirements.
“The number-one priority must be for our students to work on the lessons before them and to use the time as best as possible to keep up with their current studies,” he said.
Finally, Murphy also warned private and public water utilities that if they don’t suspend shutoffs for customers who’ve fallen behind on their bills, he will order them suspended.
“No New Jerseyan should fear for losing their access to water throughout this emergency,” Murphy said. “Water utilities have until tomorrow to confirm with the DEP that they are taking this step.”
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