Gov. Phil Murphy today toured the Meadowlands Exposition Center pop-up field medical center in Secaucus, which will house 250 beds and be used to treat non-COVID-19 patients who need hospital care in an effort to free up space at surrounding existing hospitals.
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that the Secaucus field hospital is expected to be available early next week for a “soft opening,” with New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan adding that the center should be ready to take patients on Monday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey State Police built the hospital in just seven days.
The Meadowlands Exposition Center is one of three field hospitals that will be set up throughout the state. All told, the field hospitals will house 1,000 beds including 250 beds in the Atlantic City Convention Center and 500 beds at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.
The Edison site is expected to be ready on April 8, and the Atlantic City site is expected to be ready on April 14, according to Callahan.
According to Persichilli, while the hospital will be set up to treat non-COVID-19 patients, staff working at the site will be prepared to care for individuals who may develop COVID-19 at the field station. Staffing for the hospital was obtained primarily through the state’s volunteer portal, temporary agencies and the National Guard.
“Services that will be available will be everything you would see at an acute care hospital including radiology, pharmacy and lab services,” she added.
All Hands on Deck
With more field hospitals coming, and the need to properly staff them paramount, Murphy also signed an executive order yesterday which authorizes the Division of Consumer Affairs to temporarily reactivate the licenses of recently retired healthcare professionals and grant temporary licenses to doctors licensed in foreign countries.
The order also temporarily permits certain healthcare professionals to perform acts outside of their ordinary scope of practice and grants broad civil immunity to healthcare professionals and facilities providing services in support of the state’s COVID-19 response efforts who are acting in good faith.
“We need trained, experienced medical personnel to ensure proper staffing as we build out this new capacity, which is why we have put out the call to retired healthcare professionals to join our fight and support our existing workforce,” Murphy explained.
New Jersey companies are also stepping up to help take on the virus, as Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield will donate more than $2.3 million worth of supplies, including 500,000 N95 masks and 81,000 face shields, for example.
Horizon also announced $160,000 in contributions to local social service agencies that are helping people facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic.
Additionally, another executive order was passed by the governor that gives authority to the state to collect reported medical supplies from non-operating healthcare facilities across the state.
Unemployment Claims Further Skyrocket
The New Jersey Department of Labor reported that over the past week, more than 206,000 new claims for unemployment were filed. This means that over the past two weeks alone, 362,000 New Jersey residents have filed for unemployment.
Murphy again urged those needing work to visit the state’s job portal at jobs.covid19.nj.gov.
NJ’s Death Toll Continues to Rise
New Jersey now has a total of 25,590 positive cases of COVID-19, after 3,489 new cases were reported overnight. Additionally, the total number of fatalities from the virus now stands at 537, after 182 new deaths were reported.
“We have a tough road ahead of us and it’s already proven to be a tough road. The numbers are going to continue to go up,” Murphy said. “We are not at the beginning of the end, and I’m afraid to say we aren’t even at the end of the beginning.”
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