TRENTON, NJ - A 69-year-old Bergen County man with underlying health issues, and who traveled to New York City frequently  died Tuesday, a victim of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), according to Gov. Phil Murphy.

He is the first New Jersey resident to die from COVID-19, and the 27th in the United States, according to Murphy, who held a press briefing shortly before noon on Tuesday. His is the first death in the northeastern United States. There have been 22 deaths in Washington, two in California and two in Florida, Murphy said.

There are confirmed cases in 7 of New Jersey's 21 counties, according to the state Department of Health. None are in Somerset County.

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“Although there are currently no reports of coronavirus in Somerset County, we know that many residents are anxious about the possibility,” said Somerset County Freeholder Director Shanel Y. Robinson. “I assure you that the county Department of Health is on high alert to promptly identify possible cases of the new coronavirus in Somerset County.

As of Tuesday, March 10, the New Jersey Department of Health is reporting fourteen “presumptive positive” cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) from the New Jersey State Laboratory and 1 positive test from a commercial laboratory in New Jersey, according to Robinson. Presumptive cases are persons that tested positive at a state or local laboratory for the COVID-19 virus and are waiting for confirmatory testing by the CDC.

“To make sure we are communicating accurate and timely information, on March 9th, I began a daily conference call with our Mayors. Our Emergency Management Council met with local health officers and other emergency response personnel to coordinate a comprehensive plan that will maintain the safety of both residents and first responders,” Robinson said.

“Our Health Department continues to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Jersey Department of Health and local hospitals and healthcare partners to identify cases and prevent possible transmission of the virus, and to provide residents with regular updates and guidance,” said Freeholder Brian G. Gallagher, public health & safety liaison. 

Anyone from the public needing information can contact the Somerset County Department of Health at coronavirus@co.somerset.nj.us. 

On Monday, Murphy declared a health State of Emergency for New Jersey yesterday, becoming the ninth state in the country to position itself for federal funding to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus,(COVID-19), with 11 confirmed cases in multiple counties and 24 possible cases scattered throughout the state.

The declaration will enable the state to qualify for federal assistance and to implement emergency measures and allow state agencies and departments to utilize state resources to assist affected communities..The declaration triggers other executive powers and safeguards, such as prohibiting excessive price increases pursuant to New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and the ability to waive certain procurement procedures to expedite the delivery of goods and services necessary for coronavirus preparedness and response efforts, according to the governor's office.

Governor Murphy’s emergency declaration also empowers all State agencies, specifically the Departments of Banking and Insurance, Health, Human Services, and the Civil Service Commission to take all appropriate steps to address the public health hazard of COVID-19.

The State of New Jersey is committed to deploying every available resource, across all levels of government, to help respond to the spread of COVID-19 and keep our residents informed," Murphy said.

 

“Today’s decision by Governor Murphy will allow our state to better contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that state and local agencies have the resources and authority they need to respond effectively,” said central New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7th) yesterday. “I’ll keep doing all I can to ensure that the federal government gives us the support we need and the accurate information the public demands.” Malinowski's district covers more than 60 municipalities in six counties, including Somerset County.

There have been no cases reported in Somerset County.

On Monday, Somerville Supt. of Schools Dr. Tim Teehan met with other Somerset County school superintendents to further map out contingency plans if the school district is ordered to close; the school administrators have been meeting and formulating plans for several weeks.

Rutgers is canceling classes Thursday and Friday and will move all course instruction online when students return from spring break on March 23, the university announced today.

The 16,000 students living in residence halls in New Brunswick and Piscataway, as well as the students on the Newark and Camden campuses, are instructed to leave as soon as possible and are encouraged to remain off campus until at least Friday, April 3.

The university's instructors are expected to be in contact with their students regarding their plans for remote instruction prior to March 23.

In a statement released by President Robert Barchi's office, the university is canceling events and in-person meetings involving groups larger than 15 people until at least April 1st.

Rider University in Lawrenceville announced Tuesday afternoon that classes would continue as scheduled this week, but that Spring Break would be extended a second week through March 27. The campus will remain open for staff and administrators during the two-week Spring Break.

New Jersey’s 7th district had its first COVID-19 case confirmed in Berkeley Heights yesterday. The patient has been hospitalized at Overlook Medical Center.

More than two dozen New Jersey public school systems and state and private universities, including Rutgers University, have announced closures as well as contingency plans to close their buildings and shift to online instructional regimens for the remainder of the school year.

Last week the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. According to Malinowski, the package includes:

More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics;

$2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, $950 million of which is to support state & local health agencies;

Nearly $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support healthcare preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity;

$300 million to enable the government to purchase vaccines at a fair and reasonable price;

$61 million to facilitate the development and review of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines, and to help mitigate potential supply chain interruptions;

$1.25 billion to address the coronavirus abroad to help keep Americans safe here at home; and

Allows for an estimated $7 billion in low-interest loans to affected small businesses, to help cushion the economic blow of this public health emergency.

Meanwhile, Delta Airlines American Airlines and JetBlue on Tuesday morning became the latest air carriers to announce a reduction in domestic and international flights because of the steep drop in passengers choosing not to travel in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. United Airlines cut its number of flights last week.

On Monday, Italy announced a lockdown through April 3rd, drastically reducing travel and public gatherings. There are 9,172 confirmed cases in Italy and 463 deaths, the second highest number next to China, where over 80,000 cases have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

There are 738 confirmed cases in the United States, with 27 deaths reported; worldwide, the number of cases continue to climb beyond 115,000, with 4,030 deaths. A total of 64,020 people have recovered after treatment and/or quarantine.

In Ireland, where there are 24 confirmed cases, all St. Patrick's Day parades and related activities have been canceled. The Dublin parade usually attracts a crowd in excess of 500,000. 

The New Jersey Department of Health website offers a comprehensive overview of the COVID-19 crisis online at https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml or call 1-800-222-1222 or 1-800-962-1253