Hospitalizations and critical-care cases continue to decline, as Governor Phil Murphy says, ‘We’ve made enormous progress.’ Plus: SNAP users can shop online for groceries next week, and a warning on contact tracing scams.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 20, 2020
Another 1,670 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 150,399 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 168 more residents perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 10,747 lives lost during the pandemic.
COVID-19 cases are doubling at least every 30 days throughout all of New Jersey, save Cumberland County, which stands at a 22-day rate, and Hunterdon County, where cases are doubling every 25 days.
The statewide average of spot positivity testing hit 18 percent on May 16, up from prior readings of 12 percent on May 14. Per capita regional hospitalizations continue to trend along comparable levels across North, Central, and South Jersey.
Throughout New Jersey, 3,405 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Of those 3,405 patients, 969 are in intensive or critical care; 750 of ICU and critical-care patients (77 percent) are on ventilators.
“The total number of hospitalizations is now well less than half of what it was four weeks ago,” Murphy said. “Hospitalizations, ICU, and ventilator counts are the most significant known metrics which influence our thinking on where we are on the road back.
“We’ve made enormous progress,” he said.
In the past 24 hours, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 282 new COVID-19 patients and discharged 261 others, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
Across New Jersey, 529 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 28,603 infected people statewide—patients and staff—or 19 percent of total cases.
That includes 19,646 residents and 8,957 staffers sickened by the virus, and 4,349 lab-confirmed deaths (40 percent of the statewide total).
Of 658 veterans residing in a state-run home, 381 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 142 have died from complications related to the virus. Seven veterans home residents are hospitalized with COVID-19 and 84 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 209 of 1,230 patients and 471 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus.
Forty-seven patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 458 people in total.
Three more New Jersey children have been diagnosed with multisystem pediatric inflammatory syndrome, also described as Kawasaki Syndrome, for a total of 15. Aged 2 to 18, 11 of the 15 have tested positive for COVID-19 and were hospitalized; four remain hospitalized, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
As New Jersey continues to push for broader reopening, Persichilli outlined the scope of broader testing to monitor the spread of COVID-19 among the general populace.
The health commissioner described three groups of people among whom baseline testing will be conducted: the vulnerable, those working in priority and essential roles, and the general population.
Vulnerable populations include:
- those living in long-term care centers (LTCs), psychiatric hospitals, facilities for people with developmental/intellectual disabilities, and group homes
- seasonal farm workers
- those living and working in correctional facilities
- the homeless in densely populated cities
Persichilli said that 100 LTCs throughout the state are implementing universal baseline testing protocols for their approximately 14,000 residents and 42,000 staff members.
Of 678 LTC facilities statewide, the Department of Health has received 586 attestations of their plans to do so, and is following up with administrators of facilities who have not yet responded, Persichilli said. New Jersey is distributing 90,000 test kits to county Offices of Emergency Management for LTCs.
State-run psychiatric facilities will complete universal testing of patients today, and will test all newly admitted, discharged, and symptomatic patients and staff going forward, Persichilli said.
New Jersey’s state-run veterans homes also have completed universal testing of all residents and staff, she said. In the Department of Corrections, 27 percent of 7,300 tests completed have returned positive, the commissioner said.
Persichilli said that 595 migrant workers at 16 farms have been tested, revealing 69 COVID-19-positive people. The Health Department has released specific guidance for farms on how to manage the pandemic for their workers today, she said.
In the centers of New Jersey’s most densely populated cities, the Health Department has led testing of 19,000 people already, including 700 homeless people, Persichilli said, with plans underway to bring mobile testing to residents who need it. There are more than 140 testing locations across the state, and the commissioner urged residents to “get tested if you have symptoms or feel you have been exposed.”
On Tuesday, Persichilli had outlined the scope of tracking the spread of COVID-19 among New Jersey homes for those with developmental and behavioral issues. No plan has yet been produced to do so, but throughout the state, there are 1,925 group homes for the developmentally disabled, and 481 group homes for those with mental health challenges, she said.
As New Jersey works to improve its contact tracing program, the health commissioner also cautioned residents to be wary of a flurry of scams in which people posing as contact tracers may ask for a victim’s social security number, or bank, credit card, or insurance information. A contact tracer will ask for none of those things, she said.
SNAP beneficiaries can use online grocery shopping
Finally, the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Wednesday that some 700,000 residents in the state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may apply those benefits to online grocery ordering.
Starting Wednesday, May 27, SNAP participants can shop Amazon online with their Families First Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, and then at participating Walmart, ShopRite, and Fresh Grocer locations on Thursday, May 28.
Federal rules prevent SNAP benefits from being used to pay for delivery fees, so shoppers will still be on the hook for those.
“For those New Jersey families who may have difficulty getting to the grocery store… using SNAP benefits online can make the basics of feeding yourself or your family a little less complicated,” said DHS Assistant Commissioner Natasha Johnson in a statement.
Anyone seeking information on SNAP or other benefits can visit njhelps.org to learn more and apply.
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