COVID-19 Briefing

‘Major Disaster Declaration’ for NJ, Amid 2,492 New COVID-19 Cases

Against the backdrop of President Trump issuing a Major Disaster Declaration for New Jersey, the state announced 2,492 new COVID-19 cases overnight and 19 new fatalities, for a statewide cumulative total of 6,876 cases and 81 fatalities, thus far.

Regarding the disaster declaration (separate from the widely-publicized $2 trillion federal economic stimulus plan), Gov. Murphy thanked President Trump, FEMA and others during today’s state press conference and explained that, in part, the disaster declaration will allow the state to have access to more federal support and also further remove bureaucratic barriers to the COVID-19 response effort.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli meanwhile said that “the need for critical care [hospital] beds is being felt now, and prior to what we would call the actual surge of all cases requiring hospitalization, since significantly symptomatic individuals are entering our hospitals at a faster rate.

“This requires all hospitals to increase their critical care bed complement, now.”

Gov. Murphy said that the state must wait at least two weeks to see effects of the various social distancing measures that have been enacted, since the novel coronavirus can incubate in people for up to 14 days or perhaps even longer.

Gov. Murphy added that he made a request for some 4.5 million N95 protective masks and 2,500 ventilators to be sent from the national stockpile, but Commissioner Persichilli said that, for now, healthcare facilities continue to struggle with supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators.

The Economy

New data reveals that the COVID-19 public health crisis has resulted in 3.3 million American workers filing for unemployment last week, with some 155,000 New Jerseyans filing for unemployment in that timeframe – up 16 times from the previous week.

Gov. Murphy yesterday signed bill S2304 into law to expand the State’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) programs. The definition of a “serious health condition” is now expanded under the law, so that people can have TDI and FLI benefits “during a public health emergency if they must take time off of work because they are diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease or to take care of a family member diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease.”

The state said that “The bill also expands New Jersey’s earned sick leave law to permit the use of earned sick time for isolation or quarantine recommended or ordered by a provider or public health official as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or to care for a family member under recommended or ordered isolation or quarantine.”

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has also announced a $75 million program aimed at aiding an array of businesses (please see related story in today’s NJBT and at www.njbmagazine.com).

Gov. Murphy said that the program is expected to provide direct financial assistance and support for perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 businesses.

He added, “And it bears repeating: The majority of New Jerseyans work for small businesses, so this isn’t just about supporting our small- and mid-sized businesses, which it is; it is also about supporting the men and women who work for them.

“Our recovery begins with our small businesses.”

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

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