During today’s press conference, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced 3,361 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey with 232 additional deaths. This brings the statewide total to 44,416 cases and 1,232 deaths.
“We don’t need to, nor do we want to in any way, lose any more members of our family,” he said. “The best way we can protect this New Jersey family is by social distancing.”
Murphy said he’s 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 general regional approach to COVID-19 related issues, such as testing, tracking and the slow and responsible reopening of businesses and schools. He said their discussion also included the mobilization of resources if COVID-19 was to return, which he said many predict it will.
On the same note, Murphy reiterated that New Jersey is not yet at the point where nonessential businesses may reopen, but that this was a general conversation in which they all agreed a future plan would need to be discussed.
“No one wants to see our state get back up and running as much as I do or anyone up here wants to,” he said. “It’s the singular goal that we are all working toward, but we need everyone in this with us. We can’t do it alone.”
As for the three stand-up field hospitals in New Jersey, Murphy said he will tour the site at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison tomorrow morning. He said this will be the largest of the three sites with 500 hospital beds.
Four new executive orders were issued during the press conference as well. In the first order, Murphy said the declaration of a public health emergency for New Jersey will be extended by 30 days.
In another order, Murphy called for the closure of all state and county parks. He said the decision to close municipal parks will be made by local municipalities.
“By the way, if you hear your town’s parks are closed and the next town’s are open, please don’t travel to someone else’s parks,” he said. “We need 100 percent compliance to flatten the curve and unfortunately, that now requires us to take this step.”
The remaining two orders focused specifically on the state’s education system. Murphy issued an order to extend certain deadlines for boards of education that operate on an April election timeframe. Their elections had been moved to May 12, and this order will extend specific deadlines to align with this change.
Murphy said the final order will waive all student assessment requirements for graduation this year and students will no longer need to submit a portfolio appeal if they have not met these requirements. In addition to this, he said the order waives the use of student testing data for educator evaluations.
The operation of COVID-19 testing sites in New Jersey was also discussed. The drive-through testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center will remain open tomorrow until they issue 500 tests. The site at Bergen Community College will be closed tomorrow but will reopen on Thursday. Additionally, he said both of these sites will open Saturday until they issue 500 tests each, and will both be closed on Easter Sunday.
A testing site will open Wednesday at the Rowan College of South Jersey in Gloucester County for residents only, Murphy said. In order to get tested, he said residents must be prescreened, make an appointment and show signs of respiratory illness. Murphy said New Jersey residents can visit the state’s COVID-19 website to find information on additional testing sites throughout the state.
In regard to personal protective equipment, donations can also be made at the state’s website. Murphy said New Jersey has received and distributed more than 1.1 million pieces, though more is still needed for the state’s healthcare system.
In addition to this, New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan said they are requesting 4.5 million N95 masks and 5.7 million surgical masks, among other pieces of equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Fund. He said they also received information from California last night that the Department of Defense will fly 100 ventilators to New Jersey and New York.
He said with the understanding of New Jersey and New York getting closer to their peaks, he hopes they will be able to return the favor once California reaches theirs.
Callahan also provided updates about compliance issues regarding Murphy’s stay-at-home order. He said last week, a pub in Blairstown, New Jersey, was cited twice. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control are now seeking to revoke the business’s liquor license.
He said during a domestic violence incident in Elizabeth, New Jersey, an individual being taken into custody coughed and spit on officers and claimed he had COVID-19.
In Newark, 38 executive order violation summonses were issued. The Trenton Police Department reported the issue of two summonses and the closure of one non-essential business.
Additionally, an individual was charged in Monmouth Beach for entering a closed pavilion to smoke a controlled dangerous substance. There was also another gathering of more than 20 individuals in Camden.
“We reserve the right to take further action but, in most respects, it’s going to be (whether) all 9 million of us are adhering to the actions we’ve already taken,” Murphy said. “Enforcement is going to be the name of the game.”