NJ virus death toll now at 355; state has 3,649 new cases overnight

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TRENTON — Another 3,649 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in New Jersey on Wednesday, bringing the state total to 22,255, according to updated figures released by Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials. 

Of the new positive-test cases reported Wednesday, 144 were in Monmouth County and 126 were in Ocean County.

Statewide, 91 new deaths were reported Wednesday, for a total of 355. Five of the newly reported deaths were in Monmouth County and three in Ocean County.

Some 47% of the deaths statewide were people ages 80 or over,  and 21% were residents of long-term-care facilities, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during the press briefing on Wednesday.

Gov. Murphy said New Jersey still needs more health care workers, ventilators, personal protective equipment and hospital beds. 

He noted that 350 ventilators from the federal stockpile are expected to arrive in the state Wednesday, in addition to 300 released on Tuesday and 200 last week. 

On its own, he said, New Jersey has been able to locate 100 million pieces of personal protective equipment [PPE] that have begun to flow into the state’s warehouses for distribution to health care systems across the state.

“This will come at a cost of tens of tens of millions of dollars. But no price is too high to pay to save a life and to protect health care workers. We have their backs,” he said. 

RECRUITING MORE DOCTORS AND NURSES

The governor also issued an executive order Wednesday to make rules more flexible for retired or foreign doctors and nurses who wish to join the battle against the virus in New Jersey.

The order temporarily reactivates the licenses of recently retired health care professionals and grant temporary licenses to doctors licensed in foreign countries. The executive order also temporarily permits certain health care professionals to perform acts outside of their ordinary scope of practice and grants broad civil immunity to health care professionals and facilities providing services in good faith in support of New Jersey’s COVID-19 response efforts. 

So far, 5,200 health care professionals have stepped forward and applied on the state’s COVID-19.nj.gov/volunteer website, the governor said.   

“We’re also unleashing doctors and nurses in their last year of school. Let  me put on my Uncle Sam hat and say: We need you. We’ll take folks for anywhere as long as they are properly licensed,” he said. “Your talents will be matched to where the needs are greatest.” 

RESPONSE TO TRUMP STATEMENT

During Wednesday’s briefing, a reporter asked for the governor’s reaction to President Donald Trump’s statement Tuesday at the White House that New York and New Jersey “got off to a very late start” in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The facts don’t support that. I don’t think any state in America started earlier than we did, except perhaps Washington, which had the first cases. We founded our task force in early January,” the governor said.

“It hasn’t crept into any exchange we have ever had with the president. It hasn’t come up because it isn’t true,” Gov. Murphy said.

Actually, the New Jersey governor “was far ahead of the federal government in responding swiftly and decisively to the spread of COVID-19. If anything, the federal government has been following his lead,” Murphy’s communications director, Mahen Gunaratna, said on Tuesday.

Gov. Murphy issued a stay-at-home order on March 21, one of the first in the nation to do so. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his order the day before.

NEW LONG-TERM-CARE RULES

More than 80 of the state’s 375 long-term-care facilities have at least one resident testing positive for coronavirus, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during the press briefing on Tuesday.

As a result, the state has issued two new guidance for those facilities, she said.

First, all residents who are symptomatic or having respiratory difficulty must wear masks, she said.

Second, separate wings or floors must be set up for residents displaying COVID-19 symptoms, and the facilities must limit staff members working between the wings, Ms. Persichilli said.

WARNING ON OUT-OF-STATE VISITORS

The governor also expressed concern about people entering New Jersey from other states that have been less aggressive in restricting social distancing.

“I don’t want anyone coming in from some other part of the country where they have lax policies. We [in New Jersey] are not going through hell and back to flatten that curve, only to have some lowest common denominator throw gasoline on the fire” of virus spread, he said. 

Gov. Murphy said for now, New Jersey won’t go as far as Florida, which has set up checkpoints and threatened jail time for travelers from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut who don’t comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order for them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Florida, which had 5,489 positive cases as of Tuesday, the sixth highest in the nation, has lagged behind other states in closing schools and nonessential businesses, in restricting social gatherings and in ordering residents to stay home.

Follow local coronavirus news at: https://starnewsgroup.com/coronavirus/