During Friday’s media briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced 21 new presumptive positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey. This brings the state’s total cases to 50, with still one confirmed death.
“I know that for many in this state, this is an anxious time and we completely understand that. I am proud, as I have said before, that New Jersey has been ahead of the curve in our preparations and we will continue to be so if we follow our North star: to be smart and measured, to take steps that are appropriate, to be guided by facts and to be guided by science,” he said. “This is how we will get through this crisis together, and let me say unequivocally, we will get through this crisis together.”
Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health Judith Persichilli said there are an additional 80 individuals under investigation at the state lab. She said they are currently unaware of the number of those under investigation at commercial labs.
Murphy also reiterated his recent recommendation to cancel public gatherings with 250 or more individuals, which was originally announced on Thursday, according to The Daily Targum. He said while it is a recommendation, it will become mandated if necessary.
“We must be aggressive in mitigating the potential for exposure and further spread,” he said. “Social distancing represents our best chance to flatten the curve, to slow the spread and allow our public health workers the ability to stay focused and ahead of the curve as well.”
In regards to New Jersey public schools, Murphy said they are actively working on plans in the event of an extended state-wide closure.
“For some districts, for many in fact, that time is now,” he said. “For others, we are working around the clock to ensure when their time comes — and it is a ‘when’ and not an ‘if’ — they will be prepared to provide all critical services for their communities.”
He said they are also applying for waivers from the federal government that would allow children from school districts that have already shut down to have access to lunch.
Murphy also discussed additional actions being taken to combat the spread of COVID-19 and the effects that come with it throughout the state.
He said the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) will give automatic two-month extensions to any residents who need to renew their driver's licenses, vehicle registration or vehicle inspection by May 31. This is meant to reduce the number of individuals visiting the MVC.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities confirmed all utility shut off orders will currently be suspended, Murphy said.
State officials have also applied to the Federal Department of Transportation to obtain a waiver that will allow New Jersey’s trucking industry to continue bringing necessary supplies and stock to public stores, said Murphy.
“We know that cleaning supplies, water, groceries and any other essentials, including baby formula, need immediate restocking here in New Jersey and throughout our region,” he said. “Many of these warehouses, in fact, are in New Jersey and we must do all that we can to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain.”
The New Jersey Department of Human Services has also applied for a waiver from the federal government to allow those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) to receive an additional one-and-a-half months worth of benefits, Murphy said.
Persichilli issued recommendations to New Jersey medical facilities. She said they should place restrictions on their visitation policies, with the exception of hospice care and other similar circumstances.
“These facilities will also be required to screen their staff and their medical professional visitors, such as physicians, nurses, physical therapists and hospice workers for symptoms and any contact with COVID-19 cases,” she said. “They’ll also be screened to determine if they traveled to any impacted countries or areas where community-based threat is occuring.”