Coronavirus Update: Murphy Mobilizes Nat’l Guard, ‘Strongly Discourages’ Non-Essential Travel, CamCo Tracks 3rd COVID-19 Case


The statewide novel coronavirus case count is up to 178 people from ages 5 to 93. A Haddon Township woman in her 50s has been identified as the third presumptive positive case in Camden County.

By Matt Skoufalos | March 16, 2020

Coronavirus. Credit: CDC on Unsplash.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ramped up the state response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as the number of cases in New Jersey jumped up by another 80 to a total of 178.

“These numbers prove the necessity of our efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus and to aggressively move to a policy of social distancing,” the governor said in a press conference Monday.

Murphy announced a hard, two-week closure of all private and public schools, colleges, and universities, effective March 18, and lasting “until it’s safe for health officials to reopen them.” Students, staff, and their families “need to prepare for the likelihood that it will in fact be much longer, and CDC guidance points us to that likelihood,” he said.

“We will not tie ourselves to an arbitrary date knowing full well that this emergency may not be abated,” the governor said. “We will not put students, educators and staff, and their families at risk.

The governor stopped just short of calling a formal curfew, but noted that all non-essential and non-emergency travel statewide “is strongly discouraged” from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily, until further notice.

“If you don’t need to be on the roads, you should not be on the roads,” Murphy said. “For those who do not need to be out, please, please, please, just stay home.”

Violations of those orders can be treated as disorderly persons offenses, he said.

“Unless you need to be out, we want you to be at home,” Murphy said.


Brigadier General Jemal J Beale. Credit: NJPEN.

The governor also formally closed all casinos, racetracks, performing arts centers, gyms, and fitness centers entirely “until such time as it is deemed safe for their opening.”

Murphy also ordered all other non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses to close at 8 p.m. daily.

Such businesses may remain open until 8 p.m. daily if they limit their occupancy to no more than 50 persons and practice social distancing efforts.

Restaurants are allowed to provide takeout and delivery services, but not dine-in.

“If you’re a non-essential business open past 8:00, we’ll probably give you a warning shot,” Murphy said. “But we won’t give you two.”

Those facilities deemed essential, including supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices, and gas stations, may remain open past 8 p.m., Murphy said.

The governor also mobilized the Air National Guard to allow the military to support any needs of the statewide healthcare system in containing the impact of the pandemic.

Adjutant General Jemal J. Beale said its 8,100 citizen-airmen and soldiers will be working closely with county Offices of Emergency Management (OEM) on issues of logistics, transportation, security, and engineering.

“Wish us luck, and please wash your hands on a regular basis, and also practice social distancing,” Beale said.

“We do not take any of these steps lightly,” Murphy said. “We know that each comes with its own set of impacts on residents, families, communities, and local businesses. At this moment, our paramount concern must be to flatten the curve of new cases so we do not overload our healthcare system.”

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said New Jersey cases of COVID-19 have ranged in ages from 5 to 93. She urged that residents do what they can to stop the spread of the virus by limiting their social interactions.

“We know you’re worried about being exposed, about the loss of income that comes from staying at home, and we know you might feel isolated,” Persichilli said. “Reach out, talk to your family and friends, especially the elderly or those with disabilities. Maintain as best you can a real sense of community. Check in with each other.”

Third CamCo COVID-19 Case in Haddon Township

Camden County Health Officials updating on presumed positive cases of coronavirus. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Meanwhile, a Haddon Township woman in her 50s has been identified as the third presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Camden County.

According to the Camden County government, the woman is self-isolating in her home, and is maintaining frequent contact with the county health department.

“Preliminary information suggests that there is only one direct exposure, a friend, in addition to her family,” the statement read.

In the same announcement, Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said the county is working “to identify individuals who may have been in contact with anyone confirmed of having contracted the illness, and taking active measures to minimize the threat posed to our residents.”

Murphy likened his ramp-up of responses to those of Chief Brody in Jaws, quipping, “What you’re hearing from us today is a bigger boat.

“We have seen the enemy, and we do not want to be dragged by the enemy,” Murphy said. “It is consequential, it is formidable, and we want to do everything we can to get ahead of it.

“We can’t allow the business-as-usual culture to continue,” he said. “This is real. Stop believing folks who say it isn’t real.”

Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.

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