• Lynda Cohen*

Governor gives latest updates

Atlantic County had its first death from the coronavirus, according to the state's health commissioner. The case was one of 182 new deaths confirmed to have been related to COVID-19.

The numbers do not represent a 24-hour period, the governor said. Instead, the state is counting them as they are confirmed through testing. As testing grows, the number of confirmed cases continues to increase. There are 3,489 more confirmed positives statewide, for a total of 25,590. The governor signed an executive order Wednesday that would temporarily reactivate the licenses of recently retired healthcare professionals. He made the announcement as he continued to ask for volunteers to help fight the growing COVID-19 pandemic. New Jersey has another 350 ventilators from the national stockpile heading to help with COVID-19. That brings total 500 already sent to the state, Murphy said. "Still we need more," he said. There are at least 32 testing sites throughout the state, Murphy said. The nearest testing site can be found by going online at covid19.nj.gov.

The site also includes a self-assessment test, as only those with symptoms are eligible for testing.

Previously reported

As Atlantic County announced five patients had recovered, the governor was asked about recovery numbers statewide. But Dr. Edward Lipschitz said they do not yet have enough data for him to feel comfortable releasing that information at this time. Giving a face to the deaths so far, Murphy mentioned two men "in the prime of their lives." Passaic Firefighter Israel Tolentino Jr., who was just 33 years old with two young children. Cliffside Park schoolteacher and varsity baseball coach Ben Luderer was just 30. "The disease has taken servicemembers, first-responders, coaches, loved ones, many friends and too many New Jerseyans," he said. "And sadly, we know this number will grow."

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli addressed the call for voluntary layoff Shore Medical Center put out to its workers Monday. She said the goal is to redeploy any staffer to the northern part of the state, where they are needed. "We need every healthcare worker we have in the state, and then some," she said. The state continues to look for help with equipment, including ventilators and personal protective equipment, such as face masks. Persichilli also said that 81 of the state's 375 long-term healthcare facilities have at least one positive case. While many have asked which facilities, Persichilli said she is wary of releasing such information,which amounts to giving someone's home address. "We don’t want to scare anyone," she said. "We want to have discussions with these long-term care facilities."

There are 300 ventilators from the national stockpile on their way, Murphy announced Monday. The decision was made after multiple discussions with the White House, he said. "Ventilators are our number one need right now," Murphy said. "I won’t stop fighting for the equipment we need to save every life we can." During his daily briefing, Murphy said he will continue to repeat "We need more ventilators" in all his conversations with the president and vice president.

A chart shows the impact of social distancing in "flattening the curve" of COVID-19 cases, governor says.

The governor announced last week, that mortgage companies have agreed to a 90-day grace period for state homeowners, the governor announced Saturday, during his daily COVID-19 update. This comes in addition to news that lenders also have agreed to delay initiating any foreclosure proceedings for at least 60 days, he said. This means "many New Jersey families can breathe easier, keep their heads above water and have a place they can continue to call home," he said. He suggested homeowners reach out to their mortgage companies to take advantage of these offers.


Murphy also reminded worried renters that "under my order, your landlord cannot kick you out of your home during this emergency, period." The governor also warned those who continue to ignore the ban on social gatherings, that there will be consequences. "We are not going to be shy about naming and shaming people," Murphy said, pointing out a party in Ewing Township, Mercer County, that had 47 people — including a DJ — in a 550-square-foot-apartment. The state also received the go-ahead to deploy the National Guard, as necessary.

Of new 32 new deaths, 20 are male and 12 female, the health commissioner said. Of those, 12 have confirmed underlying conditions. The rest are still under investigation. None of the new deaths are associated with long-term care facility. Just less than 35 percent of those tested for the virus have come back positive.


Movement is being made on setting up field hospitals in three areas, including the Atlantic City Convention Center. This would add 1,000 beds to those available. About 250 beds would be in Atlantic City. The governor also put out a call for volunteers with medical experience who want to help. The can go to the state website to volunteer. Closures have taken a toll on the state's unemployment numbers with 155,000 workers filing for benefits, about 16 times the number who filed the week before, Murphy said. He reminded people that a job portal is on the covid19.nj.gov website. There are more than 35,000 job openings among 300 employers so far, the governor said. The state's two testing sites this Saturday will accept only symptomatic healthcare and first responders, Murphy said. Every Saturday going forward, the PNC site will test only these people. Murphy said Wednesday that New Jersey has been one of the most aggressive in testing.

The positives have been about 29 percent of those tested, according to Dr. Christina Tan, state epidemiologist.

Meanwhile, the state is working to increase the number of hospital beds available to potential patients.

Three field hospitals are being set up that would allow an addition 1,000 beds to be available within days or weeks.

That includes about 250 beds at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Mayor Marty Small previously said the center would be used for non-coronavirus cases.

But no one from the state made that distinction.

More than 14,000 people have been tested statewide so far, with 4,402 testing positive.

Murphy said this illustrates the need to test only those with symptoms of the virus. Tan also noted that this is still the middle of respiratory illness season, so that negative test results do not mean the patient isn't ill or doesn't need treatment for something not related to coronavirus.

Out of about 4,800 hospital staff members statewide, 13 were tested.

Four — or nearly a third — tested positive. Three are home with moderate symptoms with the fourth hospitalized. No information was given about where they are from.

Virtua previously announced that two of its healthcare workers tested positive, with both having ties to the medical center in Vineland.

Cumberland County had its first death from the virus, but did not release the age or gender.

The Bridgeton resident died before the tests results came back. Four of the latest deaths were from Ocean County.

There have now been 66 deaths statewide, with 76 percent older than 60.

Atlantic County now has nine confirmed cases. Cape May County also added one case to its total.

Numbers by county:

  • Bergen County: 2,482

  • Essex County: 1,564

  • Hudson County: 1,314

  • Union County: 1,213

  • Middlesex County: 1,123

  • Passaic County: 1,091

  • Monmouth County: 1,030

  • Ocean County: 874

  • Morris County: 720

  • Somerset County: 349

  • Mercer County: 249

  • Camden County: 200

  • Burlington County: 179

  • Sussex County: 113

  • Gloucester County: 89

  • Hunterdon County: 79

  • Warren County: 68

  • Atlantic County: 30

  • Cape May County: 15

  • Cumberland County: 12

  • Salem County: 3

New Jersey has the second-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nation, the governor said Tuesday. "These numbers are vital date we need to make the best decisions to flatten the curve," he said. In what has been the largest single-day report, the state announced 846 new cases, and 17 more deaths. Showing that older people are not the only ones who need to be concerned, Department of Health Commission Judith Persichilli said that a "significant amount" of cases are patients younger than 65, and that 35 percent are ages 30 to 49. The Atlantic City convention Center will be one of four field hospitals throughout the state, N.J.State Police Col. Pat Callahan said. More information is expected to be released Wednesday. Those out of work are also encouraged to go to the state's COVID-19 site, where there are now more than 12,000 jobs available for companies deemed essential. New Jersey is the first state to do this, Murphy said. There were 88,000 job seekers in the first hour it went online Tuesday, he said. Murphy encouraged those out of work to be "part of our frontline workforce." With social distancing a priority in stopping the virus' spread, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a "stay at home" order the closed most non-essential businesses beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday. Grocery stores, medical centers, pharmacies, laundromats and liquor stores ere among the exceptions. Murphy said his executive order basically tells most residents "simply to stay at home." There will be no weddings, funerals or any parties. "I know this will be disappointing to many residents but my singular goal — our singular goal — my job is to get us through this," he said. Murphy warns not to feed into the disinformation and only get information from reputable media and government. "We're at war with a virus," the governor when asked about an order that "takes the teeth" out of the Open Public Records Act. "We're at war if that is not apparent already," he said. "There is no need to panic but this is definitely not business as usual." There will be consequences for businesses or social gatherings that go against the executive order, he said. Each of the 21 county prosecutors' offices have designated an on-call assistant prosecutor and all police departments have been made aware of the violations, which would basically be disorderly persons. The exceptions to the closings are: • Grocery stores, farmer's markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store;

• Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries;

• Medical supply stores;

• Gas stations;

• Convenience stores;

• Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities;

• Hardware and home improvement stores;

• Banks and other financial institutions;

• Laundromats and dry-cleaning services;

• Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years;

• Pet stores;

• Liquor stores;

• Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics;

• Printing and office supply shops;

• Mail and delivery stores.

Also, nothing in the order limits 1) the provision of health care or medical services; 2) access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; 3) the operations of the media; 4) law enforcement agencies, or 5) the operations of the federal government.

Additionally, the order mandates that all businesses or non-profits, wherever practicable, must accommodate their workforce for telework or work-from-home arrangements.

Examples of employees who need to be present at their work site in order to perform their job duties include, but are not limited to, law enforcement officers, firefighters, other first-responders, cashiers or store clerks, construction workers, utility workers, repair workers, warehouse workers, lab researchers, IT maintenance workers, janitorial and custodial staff, and certain administrative staff.

Go to covid19.nj.gov for full information. FEMA also has set up a site to counteract rumors: Click HERE

"We will be tightening the screws on social distancing," Murphy warned Friday, as he announced more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. The numbers are expected to get into the thousands as more testing is done. AtlantiCare announced its first confirmed case Friday, a patient at the Mainland Campus in Galloway Township.

People cannot be removed from their homes by eviction or foreclosure while limits are in place for the coronavirus, the governor announced Thursday. "No renter or homeowner can be evicted until further notice," he said. "Keeping people in their homes protects all of us against increase risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19." Three of the state's nine deaths are associated with a long-term care facility. Age ranges are now from 3 to 95.

COVID-19 has been positively identified at six nursing home/assisted living facilities.

The virus has also now moved the Atlantic City special election to change the form of government. It was originally set for March 31. CLICK HERE for more information on the eleciton now set for May 12 via mail-in ballot only. Residents who want to receive text updates can text njcovid to 898211. More than half the counties have been affected but the entire state has had life interrupted.

Atlantic and Cape May counties had their first positive tests Wednesday.

Just hours after Atlantic County announced its first case, the state Health Department commissioner listed three cases in the county during her daily announcement on the latest numbers.

The limitations have even hit the Catholic Church, just as one of its biggest holidays approaches. All Masses at churches within the Camden Diocese have been suspended. "It is the older faithful who are most vulnerable that usually attend," Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in making the announcement.

The diocese has compiled a list of churches that livestream their Masses, which is how Catholics can celebrate.

"It is the older faithful who are most vulnerable that usually attend," Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in making the announcement.

The diocese has compiled a list of churches that livestream their Masses, which is how Catholics can celebrate.

"I have asked our pastors to find ways of communicating with parishioners on a regular basis during this time of crisis and separation from our communal spiritual lives," he said. "Providing prayer lines; social media gatherings; regular information and such can help people, many of whom may feel isolated."

CLICK HERE for a full breakdown of current plans concerning baptism, penance, confirmation, marriage and anointing of the sick.

Atlantic County schools will begin long-term remote lessons with closures beginning Monday or Tuesday, depending upon the district.

The news came ahead of Gov. Phil Murphy calling for schools to close. Murphy — along with the governors of New York and Connecticut — announced casinos would close indefinitely beginning at 8 p.m. Monday. With that came closing of on-property service at restaurants and bars. Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small planned a press conference at 4 p.m. Monday to address "the coronavirus pandemic." Atlantic City Council President George Tibbitt announced that this week's City Council meeting will be closed to the public, but livestreamed. There will also be a call-in number for questions. That comes after Small made mention of the meeting being closed during a Facebook Live event this weekend, where he took questions after declaring a state of emergency in the city. All state Motor Vehicle Commission agency and road-testing facilities will be closed with a scheduled reopening date of March 30. All driver licenses, non-driver IDs, vehicle registrations, and inspection stickers expiring before May 31 have been extended by two months.

Most renewals, replacements, changes of address, and other transactions can be processed online at NJMVC.gov

Superior and municipal courts also have put out their plans, including suspending some of their dockets.

New Jersey has now had two deaths. A woman in her 50s died at CentraState Medical Center in Monmouth County. A 69-year-old man in Bergen County was the first death. But officials noted he also had pre-existing health issues, including emphysema and diabetes.

New Jersey COVID-19 Hotline Call 800-222-1222. Outside the state, call 800-962-1253

The governor has also dedicated a website to information about COVID-19, the new slow-moving strain of coronavirus. That can be accessed HERE.

Note: This story will update as more information comes in, linking to recent stories.

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