Gov. Phil Murphy today said at a press conference that he expects “many thousands” of COVID-19 cases in the state. He once again urged residents to follow social distancing rules to take the pressure off the healthcare system, adding, “We are not meeting with the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineering for fun. We are aggressively pursuing more capacity just in case the timing [of the mitigation] actions don’t sync up as nicely as we would like.”
The state today confirmed 318 new COVID-19 cases overnight, for a New Jersey total of 742 cases and nine fatalities. Person-to-person transmission (“community spread”) of the novel coronavirus will drive an increase in cases, several leaders said, along with more patient testing that will confirm more COVID-19 cases.
Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Bob Garrett said at the press conference that he urged residents to stay at home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, adding that New Jersey’s healthcare systems are already seeing staffing shortages due to a “significant number of doctors being quarantined due to potential exposure.”
He said that his 17-hospital system alone has approximately 150 healthcare professionals quarantined, as of today.
He added, “Significant supply shortages are expected as well, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.”
Garrett said he applauded President Trump for invoking the Defense Protection Act, which may be used to compel civilian companies to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, in addition to other supplies.
He added that non-emergency medical procedures have been postponed at many New Jersey healthcare systems, and that at his system, this created an additional 20% capacity. For example, operating room nurses are being diverted to either emergency rooms or intensive care units, he explained.
“This pandemic is by far the most disruptive force that I have ever seen in our healthcare system,” Garrett said. “We are literally engaged in a global war with the coronavirus.”
The state is preparing 500 additional beds for COVID-19 cases, and the state’s colleges and universities may house healthcare workers brought in from other states, he said.
Garrett and other leaders, again, warned people to “stay at home” to “flatten the curve” (the exponential rise in cases).
He explained he has been in touch with healthcare professionals in China and Italy, adding, “It is heartbreaking to hear the stories, particularly in Italy, when there was a huge surge of cases and patients were literally dying outside the doors of hospitals.
“We don’t want that to happen in New Jersey.”
COVID-19 Testing Centers
New Jersey state leaders also said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is assisting with opening a COVID-19 testing center at Bergen County Community College’s parking lots B and C, beginning tomorrow (Friday, March 20). Testing will be open to people who can prove state residency and have symptoms that meet certain criteria, leaders said. They added that the site should be able to handle 2,500 specimens each week.
Gov. Murphy said a similar site is being prepared at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, and that it might possibly be operational by Monday.
Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli meanwhile said that six New Jersey nursing homes have reported COVID-19 cases, and announced an array of steps all such institutions are taking to control the spread of COVID-19.
Businesses / Economy
Gov. Murphy additionally said that New Jersey and its surrounding states might need $100 billion dollars in block grants from the federal government to cope with COVID-19’s economic consequences.
He also said, in effect, that only businesses that are facing “life and death” business viability issues might want to avail themselves of Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Loans. He added that Superstorm Sandy taught the lesson that grants might be available, at a later date, for businesses that can wait.
The New Jersey Business Action Center has established a website (http://cv.business.nj.gov) for those who have business-related COVID-19 concerns.
Gov. Murphy also said he wants to ensure an election process that does not spread the coronavirus, and, to that end, today he signed Executive Order No. 105.
Following is the order, as supplied by the governor’s office:
The Order specifically requires the following, effective immediately:
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