The governor also breaks down the proposed, $2-trillion federal stimulus package, updates testing rates, and makes provisions for newly determined essential businesses to reopen.
By Matt Skoufalos | March 25, 2020
New Jersey logged another 736 new cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as the statewide total climbs to 4,402, Governor Phil Murphy announced in his Wednesday press briefing.
For being the eleventh-largest state in the nation, New Jersey has now presented with the second-most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in America.
“That’s a big statement about the virus but also about the aggressiveness with which we have attacked the testing regime,” the governor said.
Murphy also announced 18 new deaths related to COVID-19, for a total of 62 statewide. He urged New Jerseyans to disregard remarks like those of Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who gained infamy almost overnight for suggesting that seniors would sacrifice their lives to the virus if if meant keeping the national economy going for their grandchildren.
“Everyone is indispensable,” Murphy said. “We will fight to save every single life. We will leave nothing on the battlefield in that effort. There is no cost that is too high to save any one, precious life.
“Let’s all remember that we’re America,” the governor said. “We always go back, including putting lives at risk, to get that fallen soldier. That is America, that is our value system; that is what we stand for, that is New Jersey.”
Ten more cases were announced in Camden County during Murphy’s briefing, bringing the local tally to 70, including one fatality. Later today, the Camden County government offered the following details on them:
- six new cases from Cherry Hill: a juvenile girl, three women in their 20s, 50s, and 70s, and two men in their 50s and 70s;
- a Gloucester City woman in her 30s
- a Pennsauken women in her 50s
- two Voorhees men in their 20s and 50s
- a Winslow Township man in his 60s
“At this point in time, about 20 percent of patients inflicted by COVID-19 are being treated by one of three county health care systems,” the county said in its statement.
The county government will stream a live meeting updating residents Thursday, March 26, at 3 p.m. via its Facebook page or over the phone at (855-962-1051). Residents can use this form to submit questions.
Childcare centers to close unless caring for essential personnel; bike, phone shops deemed essential
To further limit the spread of COVID-19, Murphy announced Wednesday that all childcare centers who cannot certify that they are only caring for “the children of essential workers” must close by Wednesday, April 1.
That list includes the children of:
- Healthcare workers
- law enforcement personnel
- first responders
- childcare center employees
- staff who provide essential services
- essential government employees
- retail workers
That list could be expanded by order of the Division of Children and Families (DCF) as needed.
Those that remain open must follow new safety guidelines forthcoming from DCF. If necessary, the governor added that county Offices of Emergency Management will identify school buildings that could serve as childcare centers for children of essential workers through Grade 8.
“We need all of our frontline workers on the job, helping us to get through this emergency,” Murphy said. “A lack of childcare cannot be a barrier for them or for our response. While workers commit themselves to our New Jersey family, we will commit to protecting their families.”
In a new order, the governor also added the following businesses to the list of essential service providers who are allowed to remain open. They include:
- Mobile phone retail and repair shops;
- Bicycle shops, but only to provide service and repair;
- Livestock feed stores;
- Nurseries and garden centers;
- Farming equipment stores
Businesses that remain open must conform to social distancing practices.
New cases in psych facilities, DOC
Although New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the state is still gathering details on 359 new cases of COVID-19, New Jersey anticipates another 2,360 hospital beds will be needed to weather the impact of the virus.
Persichilli said that of the 1,400 patients at four psychiatric facilities throughout the state, 16 were tested after presenting with respiratory symptoms, and one patient was hospitalized with COVID-19.
Of the 4,800 staffers caring for psychiatric patients, 13 were tested after presenting with symptoms, and four were ruled positive for COVID-19. Three are recuperating at home, while one has been hospitalized, Persichilli said.
She also announced a single possible case from an administrative staff member at the New Jersey Department of Corrections; however, that individual has had no contact with any members of the prison population.
State epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan reported that of more than 14,000 tests performed in New Jersey, 4,000 have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, for about a 30-percent overall rate.
Persichilli also noted that there’s “a good possibility” that cases of the virus could peak in the next 21 to 60 days.
Breakdown of the proposed $2T federal stimulus
As the federal government works towards a landmark, $2-trillion national stimulus package, Murphy broke down the potential contents of the bill, which he said will offer “direct relief” to many New Jerseyans “from the economic impact of COVID-19.”
In the governor’s words, the stimulus could offer:
- as much as $1,200 in cash payments to everyday New Jerseyans, plus $500 per child
- an extension of unemployment benefits to 13 weeks, including benefits for self-employed, part-time, and gig economy workers
- $150 billion relief fund to “states, localities, and tribal governments on the front lines of this pandemic”
- $100 billion for hospitals and healthcare workers
- $15.5 billion for SNAP and food stamps
- $45 billion to FEMA disaster relief funds
- $3.5 billion for childcare development block grants to help first responders, healthcare, and other workers
- $25 billion to public transit operators
Increased enforcement, no timeline on reopening the state
Murphy also pointed to Gloucester and Camden County law enforcement officials adding disorderly persons charges to criminal cases they respond to during the outbreak, as an added weapon to enforce his stay-at-home order.
“We mean business,” he said.
“We take no joy in saying there are no gatherings, but this is the only way we are going to break the back of this virus.”
Asked how long New Jersey could remain closed in dealing with the impact of COVID-19, Murphy told reporters, “We’re calling this as straight as we can.
“We just don’t see that in the near term,” he said. “We’re making our decisions at every step on the basis of facts, data, science, medical, and health inputs.
“I think the order of business is pretty clear to us: that we break the back of the coronavirus first, and then we begin to open up the economy and society,” the governor said. “That if we somehow transpose those steps and begin to prematurely open things up, I believe we only throw gasoline on the fire of the virus and that we pay a far bigger price down the road.”
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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