TRENTON, NJ -- New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli reported sobering numbers related to the spread of the coronavirus at Gov. Phil Murphy's daily press briefing in Trenton on Tuesday, March 24. She said that the number of cases of COVID-19 in our state continues to rise quickly and that New Jersey now has the second highest number of cases in the nation.

"With the ongoing spread of COVID-19 I am once again emphasizing that social distancing is vital to slow this process. We’ve seen in other countries such as China and South Korea that taking aggressive actions can flatten the curve and decrease the number of new cases," Persichilli said. "Strict enforcement of these initiatives have led to dramatic decreases in these countries. In South Korea, they viewed social distancing as the main effort of mass protection. Their residents stayed home because they recognized it was the right thing to do to protect their communities.

Due to the relatively high transmissibility of the virus, the impact of social distancing on the peak of the epidemic and the potential delay of the peak is likely to depend on the early measures that the Governor has put in place. According to the study by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s exactly what we must do.

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"This reinforces our stance that these types of aggressive social distancing initiatives can have similar effects in New Jersey. We don’t expect to prevent every single case, but we are trying to limit or to spread out the number of new cases. Similar to what has been seen across the US, we are seeing a significant amount of cases under the age of 65," Persichilli said. "About 35% of our cases are between the ages of 30 and 49, and approximately 24% of those individuals have been hospitalized. This is just a reminder to younger individuals that they are not immune from COVID-19. They also need to take steps to reduce their risk of exposure."

Persichilli said her office remains concerned about our most vulnerable populations (the elderly) and that they are working regularly with nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to try to minimize the impact that this virus can have on our older residents. 

Since the Health Commissioner's last report, NJ has had 17 new deaths for a total of 44 deaths in our state. There was one new death in  Union County. She also announced 846 new cases for a total of cases over 3,600. The county breakdown of the new cases is as follows: Bergen 61, Burlington 7, Camden 16, Cape May 1, Cumberland 1, Essex 63, Gloucester 6, Hudson 38, Hunterdon 7, Mercer 8, Middlesex 62, Monmouth 53, Morris 28, Ocean 36, Passaic 63, Somerset 31, Sussex 3, Union 43, Warren 3. 

"According to the data that we’ve collected this morning of seven laboratories that are sending us COVID-19 results, there were more than 12,000 tests preformed on residents of New Jersey, of which approximately 3,600 have tested positive," Persichilli said. "The overall positivity rate is 27%. That’s a really important rate. It tells us how many tests we’ve performed and how many have tested positive. That will help us in our predictive modeling of the type of care that these individuals require."

The data also means that the majority of the results have been negative.

"We remind people who test negative and have symptoms that it’s important for them to still stay at home while you are sick because it might mean that you’ve been infected with another respiratory virus," Persichilli added.

"We’re working around the clock and our Public Health and Emergency Preparedness Response Teams are coordinated throughout government as well as the healthcare sector and other public health partners to respond to the needs of the residents of New Jersey," she said. "We will get through this, but we have to work together."

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