New Jersey hit a somber milestone Friday afternoon, surpassing 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in seven weeks as the pandemic continues to claim more lives and strain hospitals across the state.
Officials announced the Garden State has now seen at least 102,196 positive COVID-19 tests and 5,617 corona-related deaths since the first case here was reported March 4.
That comes after the state reported another 3,047 positive tests and 253 related fatalities in the last 24 hours — though Gov. Phil Murphy continues to say data shows the rates of hospitalizations, critical care patients, ventilator use, and deaths are stabilizing after more than a month of tough lockdown restrictions.
“Even as we cross 100,00, we must keep in mind there are tens of thousands of New Jerseyans who have tested positive over the past seven weeks and who have beaten COVID-19,” Murphy said during his daily press briefing in Trenton.
The state’s total number of cases is cumulative. That means officials don’t subtract residents who have already recovered from the virus.
Still, state officials insisted the numbers have not improved to the point where they can start lifting stay-at-home orders and business closings.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Murphy said. “We’re not there yet.”
Murphy said the curve of coronavirus cases in the state is “flattening,” or leveling off.
But he noted several counties have “slid backward” when it comes to the rate of infection. Murphy pointed to a map showing there are seven counties that have cases double in 14 days or fewer — mostly in South Jersey. That’s a shorter period than in recent days.
The counties are Warren, Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Salem, and Atlantic. Murphy did not explain why this may have happened.
“We cannot let that happen,” the governor said. “The biggest weapon we have is our ability to social distance — to stay at home, to stay away from each other.”
Murphy also said the state must remember those who have died.
“Let’s include every single person we have lost in the annals of our state’s history,” he said. “They cannot and will not be forgotten. For them, we will move forward and we will come out of this unequivocally stronger than ever before.”
New Jersey, a densely populated state of 9 million people, continues to have the second-most COVID-19 cases and deaths among American states, second only to neighboring New York.
Like other states, New Jersey has also been rocked by record unemployment and business losses amid the pandemic, and Murphy has warned about mass public-worker layoffs looming if the state doesn’t get direct aid from the federal government.
The number of total COVID-19 cases in the Garden State could actually be higher than the statistics announced by public officials. It’s difficult to get a full picture of how much the virus has spread because New Jersey’s state-run sites are testing only symptomatic people, test results can lag for days, and the state is not yet reporting significant daily increases in testing.
Murphy said he will announce Monday a “broad blueprint” for how the state can begin to gradually lift lockdown restrictions, though he has stressed it won’t include specific dates and his orders likely have to stay for another few weeks.
“I cannot be more clear or more plain: Everyone has a role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “We cannot ease one bit of our social distancing. I am not in a position yet to begin fully putting our state on the road back We need to see more progress and more slowing before we can begin those considerations.”
Murphy says New Jersey needs to nearly double its daily testing and establish contact tracing and quarantine programs before officials can begin to loosen restrictions. On Thursday, he championed a new saliva test developed by Rutgers University could more than double the amount of daily testing in the state, with results in less than 48 hours.
Meanwhile, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Friday coronavirus case increases may not match up with numbers from the day before because officials are continually working to “remove duplicate reports, scrub the numbers and reconcile them.”
For example, the state reported 9,989 total cases Thursday and an increase of 3,047 on Friday. But officials said the new total number is 102,096 and not higher because of hundreds of duplicate reports.
Between Thursday and Friday, the state reported 1,180 fewer new cases and 54 fewer new deaths.
As of 10:30 p.m. Thursday, 6,847 patients either with COVID-19 or under investigation for it were hospitalized in New New Jersey, officials said Friday afternoon. Of those, 1,933 were in critical care and 1,497 were on ventilators. Plus, 98 patients were at the state’s field medical stations.
Between 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, there were 385 new coronavirus patients admitted and 778 patients discharged. Murphy said the three-day average trend line in hospitalization numbers is “generally moving in right direction — down.”
In all, the state saw a 17% decrease in total coronavirus hospitalizations, from a high of 8,2093 on April 14; a 6.6% decrease in critical care patients, from a high of 2,069 on April 13; and a 12.8% decrease in ventilator use, from a high of 1,705 on April 14, Persichilli said.
HELP FOR RENTERS
In addition, Murphy announced the state is taking more steps to help renters and homeowners in New Jersey who are struggling to make their monthly payments during the pandemic. In the biggest move, he signed an executive order allowing renters to use their security deposits to help pay their rents.
“Whether that be to make up for a shortfall or pay it in full, renters should have the ability to tap this deposit” during the pandemic, Murphy said.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN EACH COUNTY
Here are the latest county-by-county breakdowns of confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon, according to the state coronavirus tracking website. (Note: Although the state website says these numbers were updated Friday afternoon, it appears they have not been changed since Thursday. If new numbers are posted Friday, they will be adjusted below.)
- Bergen County: 14,049 cases, with 907 deaths
- Hudson County: 12,645 cases, with 606 deaths
- Essex County: 11,811 cases, with 932 deaths
- Union County: 10,935 cases, with 515 deaths
- Passaic County: 9,874 cases, with 350 deaths
- Middlesex County: 9,530 cases, with 396 deaths
- Ocean County: 5,444 cases, with 286 deaths
- Monmouth County: 5,238 cases, with 260 deaths
- Morris County: 4,680 cases, with 324 deaths
- Mercer County: 2,991 cases, with 163 deaths
- Somerset County: 2,798 cases, with 196 deaths
- Camden County: 2,683 cases, with 104 deaths
- Burlington County: 1,969 cases, with 76 deaths
- Gloucester County: 899 cases, with 30 deaths
- Sussex County: 784 cases, with 82 deaths
- Warren County: 719 cases, with 60 deaths
- Atlantic County: 544 cases, with 30 deaths
- Hunterdon County: 464 cases, with 22 deaths
- Cumberland County: 424 cases, with 5 deaths
- Cape May County: 236 cases, with 16 deaths
- Salem County: 164 cases, with 6 deaths
There are another 1,108 cases and two deaths that are still under investigation to determine where the people reside.
In all, 185,329 people have been tested for COVID-19 in New Jersey. Of those, 103,766 have tested negative. Persichilli said the positivity rate in the state has been holding steady at 44.1%.
Longterm care facilities — including nursing and veteran homes — continue to account for a large portion of cases and deaths.
Officials said 452 longterm care facilities have reported at least one case. In all, there have been at least 14,579 cases and 1,652 deaths at the facilities, in addition to 1,044 suspected deaths.
At the state’s three veterans homes specifically, there have been 244 cases and 91 deaths, officials said.
Here’s the latest racial breakdown on New Jersey’s fatal coronavirus cases:
- White: 53.5%
- Black: 20.1%
- Hispanic: 16.3%
- Asian: 5.3%
- Other: 4.9%
Another 140,139 workers in New Jersey filed for unemployment last week, bringing the state’s record total of unemployment claims to more than 858,000 in the five weeks since social-distancing restrictions began to get rolled out.
Murphy has also called for the federal government to provide direct aid to states because of suddenly cratering tax revenues during the pandemic. Or else, he wants, there could be “historic” layoffs of teachers, first responders, and other public workers.
The governor said he had a “productive” phone call with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Friday, though he did not provide details.
Murphy also said he discuss funding during a video conference with the White House on Friday.
“I have to bring up money in every conversation because we’re running out of it,” he said. “We have to be persistent and stay at this. Because the choices if we don’t get it are awful.”
As of Friday afternoon, more than 2.7 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 across the globe, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. Of those, more than 194,400 people have died — including 50,370 in the United States.
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