TRENTON, NJ - New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy today at his daily COVID-19 pandemic press briefing said hospital discharges continue to outpace new hospitalizations, an uplifting and important trend that serves as a solid metric for informing front-line decision makers on a developing strategy to re-open the state's stalled economy and allow residents to return to a semblance of more normal activities.

Murphy also said that as he and his leadership team develop that strategy it will be guided by data that must continue to demonstrate steady improvement to those sickened by the virus and to the overall health of New Jersey's nine million residents.  "Personal health creates economic health and it has to happen in that order," said the governor.

Speaking from the War Memorial in Trenton and joined by his now regular co-participants, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli and State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan, Murphy said that the three-day average for hospitalilzations from the COVID-19 virus is trending downward.  For the 24-hour reporting period ending at 10 p.m. Sunday, April 19, there were 482 new hospitalizations and 583 patients discharged.

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"Social distancing is working," Murphy said, reminding New Jerseyans that "we all have a role to play."  The governor said that decisions made with respect public health have been made with only one focus.  "Every step we have taken from closing non-essential businesses, to closing schools, to closing worksites, to requiring you all to wear a face covering at the supermarket has been made with a singular goal in mind and that is our mission to save lives."

Murphy said he is prepared "in the coming days" to lay out a blueprint of "principles and benchmarks" for an orderly re-opening of the state's economy.  He cautioned residents not to have overly unrealistic expectations of what re-emergence from the current lockdown will look like and that a recurrence of the virus must be vigorously guarded against once the state is opened back up.  "We will be careful and we will be strategic.  We will continue to ask you to play your part and you have all done an extraordinary job.  We will make decisions based on facts and medical science so we do not exacerbate a boomerang wave," the governor added.

Reopening the economy too soon will have two deleterious effects, especially on those small businesses that have been forced to shutter and to the public at-large.  "It will lead to a large a spike in new COVID-19 cases and no customers in our stores because people are still fearful for their health and that of their families," Murphy said. "We need to secure the public health situation so that you can have confidence and that confidence does not now exist."

Murphy also noted that he spoke privately with President Trump and members of his administration and called again for direct cash assistance to states struggling to plug budget holes created by faltering revenue sources.  He said the President hoped it could be included in a future round of stimulus.  Murphy said a bi-partisan bill with New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez as a co-sponsor is being drafted that would provide that direct cash assistance.

"Folks are overwhelmingly doing the right thing," Murphy said with respect the vast majority of residents who are abiding by his executive orders. "We're seeing some light here.  Please don't let your guard down."