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Murphy requires NJ hospitals to report demographic, racial data of coronavirus patients

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said the number of patients in critical or intensive care due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has remained stable, but needs to begin decreasing before moving forward with the potential reopening of the state. – Photo by Flickr

During today’s press conference, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced 3,551 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey with 314 additional deaths. This brings the statewide total to 95,865 cases with 5,063 deaths.

“We continue to see that the curve of new COVID-19 cases remains significantly flat, and you can see that, but again, while we consider this a positive step in our fight, we’re not even close to even considering claiming victory,” he said. “We need this curve to meaningfully start to decline and to do so over a sustained period of time before we can begin considering the implementation of any sort of reopening strategy.”

In addition to this, Murphy also provided a map of New Jersey with each county color-coded to represent the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in the area. The number of COVID-19 cases are doubling every seven days in seven New Jersey counties, while the cases in the remaining counties are doubling every 14 days, according to the map.

Hospitalizations and ventilator use throughout the state was also discussed. As of 10 p.m. last night, 7,210 residents were hospitalized with 1,983 requiring intensive care, Murphy said. There were a total of 1,570 ventilators in use and between Monday and Tuesday, 745 residents were discharged.

“The overall number of patients in critical or intensive care remains stable, as does the number of ventilators in use,” he said. “As I noted yesterday, we need these numbers to begin to decrease before we can move to our next phase but not seeing any significant increases over the past week is a good starting point.”

In terms of testing, Murphy said that while more residents are being tested each day, the number of positive results is not a definitive representation of how many individuals may actually be infected. In contrast, he said hospitalization data provides them with a better understanding of what decisions need to be made.

The Daily Targum previously reported Murphy plans to announce a potential reopening strategy and the guidelines to follow for New Jersey in the upcoming days. During the press conference, he said they are working on finalizing a plan.

“One of the first things we need to be prepared for is the spike in new cases that will surely come when we do reopen,” he said. “We will continue to be data-driven as we prepare for what’s to come. Our number one mission remains unchanged: to save lives, period.”

Murphy said he has also been in contact with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) regarding the creation of a contact tracing program for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. He said the program is currently in an early stage and they are working to gather both the necessary human and technological components.

The Daily Targum previously reported the formation of a regional advisory board to coordinate mitigation efforts and guide the reopening of the region at the end of the public health emergency, as well as Murphy’s appointment of Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of the United States Homeland Security, to represent New Jersey on the board.

Murphy said the regional advisory board held its first meeting this morning and will continue to meet twice a week for an undetermined period of time. He said the Chiefs of Staff for each of the seven states involved will also begin meeting twice a week.

In regard to the number of ventilators available, The Office of Emergency Management has received a shipment of 500 ventilators purchased by the state and will soon be distributed through New Jersey’s healthcare system, Murphy said.

“We procured these to ensure, to the very best of our ability, that every New Jerseyan who needs a ventilator has one,” he said. “(But) this also puts us in (a) position to be better prepared for potential spikes as we look to reopen and spikes that many predict to continue through fall or into winter.”

Murphy also announced he is signing legislation requiring New Jersey hospitals to report demographic and racial data for all individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to the Department of Health. This also requires hospitals to report the number of individuals who attempted to get tested, but were unable to.

He said this data, once received, will be publicly reported by the Department of Health. The purpose of this data is to better understand how COVID-19 has impacted the state’s different communities.

Congress is also preparing to pass another COVID-19 relief package, which will consist of approximately 500 billion dollars, Murphy said. He said that while this relief package will benefit many small businesses and the healthcare system, it does not include direct assistance to any state. Without direct assistance, Murphy said important state programs will be at risk. 

“There is talk that this direct state assistance will be part of the next federal bill, but I will not let up in advocating forcefully, often (and) directly for this until we see that bill on the president’s desk and, in fact, signed by the president,” he said. "We cannot have this fight lead to an inevitable set of draconian cuts that will hurt our ability to help get our people back up off the mat. We need the federal government’s help to avoid this fate.”

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