Governor Phil Murphy orders 60- and 90-day payment extensions for a number of insurance coverages, while the state Department of Health allocates $5M for county health departments.
By Matt Skoufalos | April 9, 2020
Another 3,748 New Jerseyans were confirmed to have contracted novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total number of cases across the 50,000 mark, to 51,027, Governor Phil Murphy announced Thursday.
Sadly, another 198 New Jersey residents lost their battles to the virus, bringing the statewide total to 1,700 lives lost, “well north of two times” the number who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Murphy said.
Locally, Camden County announced six more COVID-19-related deaths and another 132 new cases of the virus. The county government plans to debut a new mass testing site in Blackwood next week.
“Let us never, ever, ever let this get abstract,” the governor said. “These aren’t numbers; these are people. Even if they are complete strangers, they are our fellow New Jerseyans.”
Murphy also noted that 7,363 residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, or are awaiting test results confirming their infection status. Of those who’ve been hospitalized, 1,523 are receiving intensive care, and 1,551 are on ventilators.
For the first time, the governor also reported that 471 New Jerseyans have been discharged from the hospital after battling COVID-19.
Long-term care sites still at risk, aid coming
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli described the continuing strain posed by COVID-19 on long-term care facilities in the state.
At least one case of the virus has been confirmed in 262 long-term care facilities, Persichilli said.
Of the 198 new deaths announced Thursday, 20 were residents of long-term care facilities, she said.
“We’re concerned about several of them that have increasing cases and outbreaks,” Persichilli said.
To that end, the state Department of Health will make available $5 million for New Jersey’s 96 local health departments to support “critical local public health efforts,” the commissioner said. These can include COVID-19 contact tracing, guidance for long-term care facilities, and “individuals who need a safe place to quarantine,” she said.
Grace periods for insurance premium payments, calls for South Jersey test site
The governor signed an executive order Thursday mandating grace periods for residents who can’t pay their insurance premiums due to loss of income.
Under terms of the order, policy-holders will have an extra 60 days to meet their health and dental premiums, and 90 days for home, auto, renters, life, and premium-financing arrangements.
All claims must be paid out to those who are insured within those grace periods, Murphy said, and insurers can’t demand lump sum repayments, but rather must spread out back payments over the remainder of the insurance term.
U.S. Representative Andy Kim (D, NJ-03) joined the governor’s briefing to call for “a third FEMA site, a federally backed site,” for COVID-19 testing in South Jersey. After requesting support 14 days ago, “we have heard no response,” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Kim said.
“Due to the limits of testing capabilities, we are left to wonder, is this just the tip of the iceberg?” Kim said. “If we don’t have a coordinated and sustained testing regime we’re not going to be able to keep tabs on the virus as we start to restart the economy.”
Kim said that additional testing won’t only provide information about the path of the virus, but will also provide information about antibodies in those who have shown resistance or recovery from COVID-19.
“To be able to understand who might have immunity to this will be [an] important aspect of this going forward, in terms of how we open our economy safely and responsibly,” he said.
In addition to relaying accounts of residents attending funerals by Zoom, and those fearful to leave their homes for groceries, Kim said his constituents’ finances have been sorely tested in the pandemic.
“Even before this crisis, we live in a time when 40 percent of Americans couldn’t handle a $400 emergency,” Kim said. “Now we see that fragile reality put to a test; the greatest test that we have faced with regards to everyone in this country facing it together.”
Economic impact, calls for aid
Murphy also alluded to another record-breaking tally of unemployment applications, as nearly 214,000 more New Jerseyans made claims last week, acknowledging that long wait times and online lags are impediments for many filers.
He urged residents to remain patient, and assured them that their benefits will not be exhausted as they wait.
The governor promoted the statewide essential jobs portal as an alternative, citing its 50,000-plus job listings from 630 employers.
“If you’ve lost your job during this emergency, there many be another one waiting for you,” Murphy said.
He also acknowledged that the crisis has made an impact on the state budget, which the governor said “has been crushed with expenses that are skyrocketing” in the fight against COVID-19.
Finally, Murphy repeated his call for direct, federal aid to help address the impact of the disease in New Jersey, and underscored that FEMA has committed to maintaining its existing rapid test sites in New Jersey through the end of May 2020.
Rapid testing is instrumental to reopening the state economy, the governor said, but without adequate supplies of reagents—chemicals used in the analysis of test samples—the entire process is on hold.
New Jersey State Police Col. Pat Callahan, who’s been tasked with procuring medical equipment for the state during the pandemic, alluded to “some finger-pointing” among the various entities responsible for producing and distributing the reagents, including overseers of the U.S. federal stockpile of COVID-19 resources and Abbot Laboratories, the manufacturers of the ID NOW platform for COVID-19 analysis.
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