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Murphy announces formation of regional advisory board for coordination on coronavirus issues

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) issued another executive order during the press conference which prohibits all internet and phone services from being shut off until 30 days after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health emergency ends and requires the reconnection of any service that was disconnected due to nonpayment after March 16th. – Photo by Michael Mancuso

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) reported 3,219 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and 94 additional deaths in New Jersey during a press conference today. This brings the statewide total to 64,584 cases with 2,443 deaths.

“To put that in perspective: That is more than the number of New Jerseyans who gave their lives in the combination of the Korean and Vietnam wars, to give you some sense of the toll this has had on the loss of life,” he said. “Every day, no matter what, this number hits us right square in the gut.”

As of 10 p.m. last night, 7,781 New Jersey residents were hospitalized and 1,886 required critical care, Murphy said. There were also a total of 1,611 ventilators in use.

Murphy presented an image of New Jersey, with each of the 21 counties color-coded to indicate the rate at which COVID-19 cases are spreading in the area. While he said the rate of new cases are beginning to slow down throughout the state and the curve is beginning to flatten, there are still new cases being reported and residents must continue to practice social distancing in order to flatten the curve even more.

The Daily Targum previously reported Murphy had been in contact with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), Gov. Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) and Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) regarding the need for a regional approach to COVID-19 related issues. During the press conference, Murphy announced the formation of a regional advisory board that will coordinate mitigation efforts and help guide the reopening of the region at the end of the public health emergency alongside Cuomo, Wolf and Lamont, as well as Gov. John Carney (D-Del.) and Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.).

He said each state involved in the regional advisory board will put forward a public health professional, an economic professional and the Chiefs of Staff for the state’s governor.

In addition to this, Murphy issued an executive order which prohibits all internet and phone services from being shut off until 30 days after the COVID-19 health emergency has ended and requires the reconnection of any Internet or phone service that was disconnected due to nonpayment after March 16th. The order also prohibits service downgrades, reductions or late fees due to nonpayment unless they are done in accordance with a policy approved by the Board of Public Utilities.

“Our kids need internet access for remote learning. Individuals need the ability to telework and seek medical attention electronically. Families need to be able to keep each other informed,” he said. “This is no time for anyone to have their connection to the world severed.”

Ventilators and personal protective equipment were also discussed during the press conference. Murphy said New Jersey has received an additional 200 ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile, with the state now having received a total of 1,550 ventilators. He also said 100,000 medical masks were delivered to one of the state’s warehouses from Taiwan this past weekend and will soon receive an additional 200,000 from them in the upcoming weeks.

While more than two million pieces of personal protective equipment have been distributed to the healthcare networks and acute care hospitals throughout the state, Murphy said they still need more. He said donations of personal protective equipment can be made through New Jersey’s COVID-19 website.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said seven hospitals went on divert status last night for reaching capacity and that many hospitals in the Northern part of the state have reported they will soon reach capacity on their intensive care beds. She said they have been working with these hospitals to determine which patients are able to be safely transferred to alternative care sites.

In addition to this, Persichilli said they have identified 100 nursing home beds each in the Northern and Central regions for residents who are currently in acute care hospitals awaiting home placement. She said these locations have an adequate amount of personal protective equipment and enough staff members to adequately care for these individuals.

Guidance for New Jersey hospitals and the allocation of critical care supplies during a public health emergency was also discussed. Persichilli said the Department of Health released a document to hospitals on Saturday with guidance for the triage of critically ill patients in the event that the demand for critical care resources in a public health emergency is greater than what is available.

She said triage recommendations will be put in place by a hospital only if they are operating under a crisis standard of care, if critical care capacity is beginning to be overwhelmed and if a regional or state authority declares a public health emergency.

Persichilli said the guidance details the creation of triage teams to make sure decisions are being made in a consistent manner, as well as including criteria for initial allocation of critical care resources and reassessment criteria to determine whether the ongoing number of critical care resources is justified for individual patients.

“The framework ensures that all patients receive individualized assessments by clinicians based on the best available objective medical evidence,” she said. “It ensures that no one is denied care based on stereotypes, assessment of quality of life or judgment about a person’s worth based on the presence or absence of disabilities or other factors.”

It also ensures discrimination based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation and nationality, among many other factors, will be explicitly avoided, Persichilli said.

“The number one thing all of us can do — and you’re doing New Jersey an extraordinary job, we just got to make sure you keep doing it — is stay home,” Murphy said. “With that, we will crack the back of this thing, and once we’ve cracked the back of it, we can begin slowly but surely to get back on our feet.”

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