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Murphy announces request to suspend water shut-off orders, emphasizes enforcement of social distancing orders

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said all water utility providers must confirm they will voluntarily suspend all water shut-off orders by Wednesday. He said if they do not take this action, they will be issued a mandatory order to do so. – Photo by Wikimedia

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced 846 new positive cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New Jersey with 17 new deaths at Tuesday’s press conference. This brings the statewide total to 3,675 cases and 44 deaths.

“This is a sobering report,” he said. “If anyone is looking to me for a reason to justify the steps that I and we have ordered, I can now give you 44 of those reasons.”

This means New Jersey now has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

Persichilli said approximately 35 percent of the total cases are between the ages of 30 and 49 years old, with 24 percent of those individuals being hospitalized for the virus.

“This is just a reminder to younger individuals that they are not immune from COVID-19,” she said. “They also need to take steps to reduce their risk of exposure.”

Persichilli said they continue to be concerned about the state's most vulnerable populations during this ongoing spread. She said they have had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in 19 of their long-term care facilities.

Murphy also spoke on the enforcement of social distancing policies and his recent stay-at-home executive order. He provided an example of a resident who did not cooperate with law enforcement after coughing on a Wegmans’ employee and claiming he had COVID-19. Murphy said he is being charged with terroristic threats, harrassment and obstruction.

“(This) demonstrates active law enforcement and the steps that we are taking,” he said. “We are up and down the state, and we will not take any noncompliant behavior, nevermind aggregious behavior like this.”

During the press conference, Murphy introduced several new steps being taken throughout the state to minimize effects of COVID-19. After discussions with the Department of Education and the Office of the Attorney General, Murphy said they have applied to the Federal Government for a waiver that would cancel all standardized testing in New Jersey. He said it is not feasible to effectively move forward with standardized testing while students are outside the classroom and this decision will not affect the graduation requirements for any students.

There is still no definitive answer as to when schools may reopen, Murphy said. As of now, he said they will still remain closed until further notice.

Murphy said he continues to be in contact with federal officials to discuss funding, the need for personal protective equipment and setting up four pop-up field hospitals throughout the state.

Utility shut-off orders for New Jersey residents was also discussed. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Community Affairs, as well as the Board of Public Utilities, sent a letter to all municipal water utility providers asking them to voluntarily suspend all water shut-off orders, Murphy said. Providers have until Wednesday to confirm with the DEP that they are taking this action.

“I want to be perfectly clear to these utilities: If you do not voluntarily suspend shut-offs, I will order you to suspend shut-offs,” he said. “No New Jerseyan should fear for losing their access to water throughout this emergency.”

In regards to employment, Murphy said they recently launched the new jobs portal within the state’s COVID-19 website. Residents who have lost their job due to COVID-19 may find postings from essential business employers.

“I am proud to say that we are the first state in the United States to do this,” he said. “The response has been nothing less than overwhelming.”

Data on the number of positive lab results compared to the total number of tests performed was also provided for the first time. Persichilli said with more than 12,000 tests performed, there have been approximately 3,600 positive test results. She said this makes the overall positivity rate in New Jersey 27 percent.

“That will help us in our predictive modeling of the type of care that these individuals require,” she said.

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