Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced 3,748 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey with 198 additional deaths at today’s press conference. This brings the statewide total to 51,027 cases with 1,700 deaths.
“These aren’t numbers by the way, these are people: mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, neighbors, co-workers, friends. And even if they are complete strangers, they are our fellow New Jerseyans,” he said. “Let us never, ever, ever let this get abstract. These are real live human beings, members of our family.”
The state will also begin providing updated information on current hospitalizations throughout New Jersey, Murphy said. These numbers will be made available on the state’s COVID-19 website.
Of the numbers that have been made available to them, he said 7,363 individuals are hospitalized and 1,523 are in intensive care. In addition to this, 1,551 individuals are on ventilators and 471 individuals have been discharged in the last 24 hours.
Murphy also provided a map of New Jersey with each of the 21 counties color-coded, indicating the rate at which the number of COVID-19 cases is doubling. He said the rate has decreased for many counties in the state.
“We’ve got to not only continue to flatten the curve, we (also) have to get to a plateau and then begin to go down as fast as we can on the other side,” he said. “We can’t do that alone. This isn’t about you or me, it’s about all 9 million of us. As we’ve said before, this is not a time for selfishness. This is a time for selflessness.”
In regards to the two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sponsored testing sites, Murphy said only the Bergen Community College location will be open tomorrow and will issue up to 500 tests. On Saturday, this site will be open to the public for 500 tests and the site at the PNC Bank Arts Center will be open for healthcare workers and first responders only, he said. Both will be closed on Easter Sunday.
The Daily Targum previously reported that Murphy issued an executive order to close all state and county parks throughout New Jersey. During the press conference, he said he received a lot of feedback on the order, both positive and negative.
Reports from state park police and other observations showed many large gatherings were being held at both state and county parks throughout New Jersey as the weather has become nicer. In addition to this, he said many out-of-state residents have been coming to these parks.
Murphy said if he were to allow parks in certain areas to remain open, residents from other parts of the state and individuals from surrounding states may try to travel to these locations.
“We didn’t just wake up on a whim and decide to close state and county parks,” he said. “We didn’t take this lightly, we did it based on the facts as we saw them.”
A new executive order was issued during the press conference as well. Murphy said this order requires mandatory grace periods to be placed on insurance policies and premiums in New Jersey. A minimum 60-day grace period is required for health and dental insurance policies, and a minimum 90-day grace period is required for home and auto insurance, renters insurance, life insurance and for insurance premium-financing arrangements.
This order also states insurance policies must be paid out to those who are within these grace periods, as well as preventing insurers from demanding unpaid premiums to be repaid in a lump sum after the grace period ends, Murphy said. These repayments will need to be spread out over the remainder of the insurance term.
“Not only should no New Jerseyans lose their insurance during this emergency, but we cannot leave them in a weaker position once it ends,” he said. “We are all in this together, and that’s the only way we will also be able to come out of this together.”
Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) appeared alongside Murphy to further discuss how people throughout the state are being affected by COVID-19 and the need for further testing and aid. While FEMA is greatly appreciated for sponsoring two testing sites in the North, he said, there is a need for a federally backed site in the South and that a letter was submitted to FEMA on March 27 detailing this need.
“It is 14 days later and we have heard no response,” Kim said. “We are in a pandemic. We need quick decisions and we need a strategic response.”
He said it is important for New Jersey residents to have access to testing and the necessary medical equipment. Testing is not just important for counting the number of cases, but also for understanding how to get the state up and running again in a responsible manner.
New Jersey State Colonel Patrick Callahan provided updates on the distribution of ventilators in New Jersey. He said they are in the process of delivering 120 ventilators today and will distribute approximately 240 tomorrow.
Callahan also said he submitted a request to FEMA for support of the state’s non-congregant sheltering on Monday and they have received approval this morning. He said this includes the support of the state’s vulnerable populations, as well as healthcare workers and first responders who may need to be isolated from their families.
“This is a time for all of us to remember just our history and our faiths, but to remember what our responsibilities are right now,” he said. “Again, for the 9 million of us: Stay home, stay away from other people. Only go out if you absolutely have to.”