NEW JERSEY - State officials have begun to distribute four truckloads of personal protective medical equipment from the federal government.
The good news that healthcare workers would be getting 13,00 pairs of gloves, 4,500 masks, 2,200 face shields and about 1,500 gowns was tempered by officials’ fears that Garden State residents will quickly and, in many cases, unnecessarily exhaust the healthcare system’s supply of tests for coronavirus COVID-19.
Judy Persichilli, the commissioner of the state's Health Department, said during an afternoon teleconference with Gov. Phil Murphy and other senior administration members that the “well-worried” as she called them should not be tested.
“We know many individuals want to be tested,” she said, “but if you do not have symptoms, you do not need to be tested for COVID-19. If your symptoms are mild, and your healthcare provider tells you to stay home, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider.”
She said the health department is prioritizing who should be tested: Those who are hospitalized, healthcare works who become symptomatic or anyone who has been part of a cluster or outbreak.
Persichilli announced 19 new positive cases in New Jersey, bringing the total to 69. Among the new cases, there are seven each in Bergen and Middlesex counties, two from Essex, two from Hudson and one from Monmouth.
Murphy’s Administration continued to look for ways to “flatten the curve,” or slow the spread of the virus to give hospitals and doctors a chance to keep up with treatments.
Marcus Hicks, commissioner of the department of corrections, said the state is suspending visits for the next 30 days “to ensure the health of the inmate population.” He said there would be expanded inmate access to free phone calls.
Persichilli said that state residents would also be blocked from visiting long-term care facilities including nursing homes, pediatric residential facilities and dementia care homes. Visitors would be allowed for end-of-life situations.
More extreme measures are being taken in Bergen County, where the largest number of coronavirus COVID-19 cases have been found.
Persichilli said County Administrator James Tedesco is launching a widespread testing center at Bergen County Community College. He has also is closing movie theaters, performance centers, the county zoo and various other events, she said. Also, the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford will be closed starting Sunday.
Beginning Monday, Bergen County employees age 60 or over, those with medical conditions and those affected by school and daycare closings would be allowed to work from home. All 75 public school districts in the county are transitioning from onsite learning to computer- or paper-based remote instruction.
It will only be “a matter of days,” Murphy said, before all schools will be closed for an extended period. He said some districts are still formulating their COVID-19 instruction plans.
Even as Murphy continues to stress social distancing measures – 6 feet – to mitigate the spread of the virus, he’s looking for help 200 miles away.
Murphy continues to call upon Washington to provide more equipment in the battle against COVID-19.
He praised last night’s passing of the federal COVID-19 response bill by a bipartisan support in the house. If approved by the senate, it would provide provisions for meals for school students forced to work remotely, guaranteed paid leaves for COVID-19 patients and other benefits.
He also said he had a “short but good” conversation with Vice President Mike Pence and thanked him for the medical gloves and masks.
“But I pleaded with him that we needed more,” he said. “That was a piece of our ask, but we have a lot more that we need.”