Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced 736 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey with 18 additional deaths during a press conference today. This brings the statewide total to 4,402 cases with 62 deaths.
“Everyone is indispensable. We will fight to save every single life,” he said. “We will leave nothing on the battlefield in that effort. There is no cost that is too high to save any one precious life.”
Testing sites and increased hospital space throughout the state was also discussed. Murphy said Essex County is opening a drive-through testing facility available to its residents starting from Thursday. Residents are required to make an appointment in order to get tested.
In terms of hospital space, Murphy said they know hospital capacities need to be increased as COVID-19 continues to spread. He said New Jersey currently has 18,433 acute care beds, but their goal is to increase this number by 2,360.
With the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, Murphy said they have identified three locations: Secaucus, Edison and Atlantic City, for temporary, stand-up field hospitals to be placed. This will provide approximately 1,000 additional beds.
Murphy also issued a new executive order that will direct all childcare facilities to verify by March 27 that they will only serve the children of essential workers. Those who cannot prove they will exclusively care for these children will be required to close by April 1.
If this order were to result in any gaps in childcare, Murphy said the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) will direct county OEM offices to identify schools that can serve as emergency childcare facilities for children of essential workers.
“We need all of our frontline workers on the job, helping us to get through this emergency,” he said. “A lack of childcare cannot be a barrier for them or our response. While these workers commit themselves to our New Jersey family, we will commit to protecting their families.”
As for potential aid, Murphy said they have been closely monitoring federal legislation to determine what aid amounts will come to New Jersey. He said he does know many New Jersey residents will receive assistance to combat the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Residents may receive up to $1,200 as well as $500 per child, Murphy said. Unemployment benefits will also be extended to approximately 13 weeks, allowing those who are self-employed, part-time and gig economy workers to become eligible for these benefits.
Murphy also detailed multiple other amounts of potential aid, including $100 billion for hospital and healthcare workers and $45 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief fund.
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services has granted $1.9 million dollars to help 24 health centers throughout New Jersey, Murphy said. This provides support for screening and testing services, as well as for medical equipment. In addition to this, he said the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund was launched Tuesday to provide additional support for those who may need it.
He said he has also been in contact with Vice President Mike Pence for a disaster declaration and the need for more personal protective equipment. Murphy said he also reminded him of their request to mobilize the national guard in New Jersey.
Responses to individuals or businesses who may not be following mandatory executive orders was also discussed during the press conference. Murphy said they recently announced a phone number where employees can report non-essential workplaces that are remaining open in violation of his orders. He said the system crashed because it received so many phone calls.
“Putting aside concerns with our system, the very fact that there were so many complaints in and of itself is a concern and problem,” he said. “We are not making polite suggestions to your firm. Everyone needs to follow this order.”
He said anyone who knows of a business, or works at a business, that is open in violation of his executive orders to make a report at New Jersey’s COVID-19 website.
Murphy also provided additional examples of how they are enforcing their social distancing measures. He said two summons were issued yesterday in Lakewood, New Jersey: one for a large gathering and another for a wedding at a private residence.
In another example, he said an individual was charged in Union County with disorderly person, obstruction and harassment after coughing on police and medical personnel, claiming he had COVID-19.
“We recognize there’s impatience and I would just remind everybody that we’re all in this together,” Murphy said. “This is much more likely to be a marathon than a sprint of a few days or a couple of weeks. We all must persevere in order for us to come out stronger on the other side of this emergency.”