TRENTON, N.J. -- At a Covid briefing that was live streamed this afternoon on his YouTube Channel from the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the death toll from the potentially deadly virus has risen 314 since yesterday in the Garden State, bringing the total number of statewide deaths to 5,063.
To date, there are 3,551 new presumptive-positive cases bringing the total number of Covid infections in New Jersey to 95,865, Murphy reported. Within the last 48 hours, there have been 745 hospital discharges. The number of discharges surpassed the amount of new admissions -- data the governor said was an “important measure of progress.”
“We continue to see the curve of new Covid cases remain significantly flat,” said Murphy. “While we consider this a positive step… we’re not even close to victory. We must keep our strong social distancing policies in place. This will continue to be the case in the next few weeks at least.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the governor toured both the East Orange General Hospital in East Orange and the Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus. During his Paramus visit, Murphy waved to health care workers through the windows, as many of them, he noted, needed “relief from the bullpen.” The ward at the East Ridgewood Avenue hospital expanded to create an alterative care facilit coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with 130 new beds, bringing its total to 380 to accommodate the influx of patients battling the coronavirus. Bergen County is currently the hardest hit county in New Jersey with more than 13,600 presumptive-positive cases.
The beds -- which were made possible by converting the facility's gym and creating a 100-bed medical tent -- were funded with federal resources from the CARES Act rescue and relief package which has been providing the region with hundreds of millions of dollars in direct relief.
Bergen New Bridge Medical Center opened as North Jersey’s second drive-thru testing site for Covid-19 on the heels of the Federal Emergency Management Agency-backed site at Bergen Community College, also in Paramus. New Jersey has 86 testing sites for the virus, and is the fourth most tested state in the country after California, New York and Florida, Murphy said.
During Wednesday afternoon’s conference, which included Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan, and State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick Callahan, Murphy spotlighted the legacies of three Garden State natives who died from Covid-19-related complications: 74-year-old John Carreccia, a New York/New Jersey Port Authority employee and the Chief of the Woodbridge Ambulance Rescue Squad; Newark’s Kevin Kurdyla, who was a Rutgers alum and an undrafted signee with the New York Giants in 1981; and 70-year-old John Ferrarella, of Wayne, a retired Paterson fire captain and Vietnam War veteran.
“Let us never allow this to become abstract,” said Murphy of the virus’ impact on human lives. “Each and every one of these individuals was an extraordinary, precious life lost in our New Jersey family. Each and every one of these individuals, God bless them all.”
Looking to the future, Murphy said the likelihood of Covid-19’s re-emergence – an event he called an “unprecedented public health crisis” -- after this past winter and spring’s surge of infections is inevitable this fall and winter, and an eventuality the state needs to be prepared for from the availability of beds, to ventilators and health care workers. The Office of Emergency Management, he said, received a shipment of 500 additional ventilators ready for distribution for use by state hospitals – the procurement of which will “ensure to the very best of our ability that every hospital is better prepared for spikes in the fall and winter.”
Additionally, Murphy said he would be signing legislation today requiring hospitals to report daily data to the Department of Health including the age, gender, race and ethnicity of individuals who have tested for Covid-19; the number of those admitted to the hospital; those who have perished from the disease; and those who have attempted to get tested but were unsuccessful, among other vital information.
“It’s critical to understand the impact Covid-19 has had on diverse communities,” said Murphy, implying the larger impact the disease has had on people of color.
Murphy also made note of the House of Representatives' preparation to pass a $500 billion coronavirus bill to provide additional relief and assistance for small businesses and hospitals.
He said he spoke with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with whom he is in the midst of developing a tri-state partnership with Connecticut to create a contact tracing program. The program, in its early stages and supported by $10.5 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, will be developed in conjunction with researchers at Maryland-based Johns Hopkins University. The program will work by tracing and isolating any positive cases to prevent a future surge of viral infections, which will precede its reopening calibration.
“Robust contact tracing is vital to any serious reopening efforts,” noted Murphy, adding that the program will combat any spike in cases that will “surely come” when the state reopens.
Murphy said to keep the virus in check is “largely up to us.”
“Our number one mission is to save lives,” he said.
For updates and information on Covid-19, go to covid19.nj.gov.