Jersey shore to reopen May 22
The New Jersey shore will be open by Memorial Day — with restrictions.
"Our shore and our lake shores will be open," Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday. Social distancing will continue to be enforced, with local officials free to determine the best method for their unique area. The opening date is May 22.
The announcement was made as hospitalizations statewide fell below 4,000 to 3,958. The 24-hour period most recently also saw 177 new hospitalizations as 366 were released.
The decision to reopen is coordinated with Delaware, New York and Connecticut, Murphy said. There will be limits on how many people can be on each beach, with organized games and contact sports still prohibited. No beach concerts, festivals or fireworks will be allowed
"We want everyone to have fun but we do want every to be safe as well," he said. The state has 142,704 total confirmed cases, with 9,946 deaths. Of those, 27,153 cases are in long-term care facilities, where 5,168 residents have died. When it comes to visiting the state's beaches, Murphy said no one will be discriminated against, or have beaches allowed to become private to residents only. "All visitors must have the ability to enjoy our state's greatest natural resource," he said.
Social distancing will be enforced, except for family groups, household members, caretakers or couples.
Restroom facilities will be reopened, as long as there is frequent and proper cleaning. Restaurants will continue to be take-out only. Places that draw crowds like arcades and amusement rides will remain closed. New Jersey is still the most-impacted state in the nation.
Restart and Recovery Advisory Council was officially created Friday by executive order. The group will work with the Restart and Recovery Commission announced last week, Gov. Phil Murphy said. The commission is the strategy with the council the tactics, he explained. "This is a boots on the ground, real-world approach to how we move forward," he said. It will have nine subcommittees, starting virtual meetings next week. They will cover:
Facilities and Construction
Manufacturing and Supply Chain
Social Services and Faith
Tourism and Entertainment
Transportation and Infrastructure
The state now has 135.454 confirmed cases, including 8,952 deaths. Of those, 4,691 deaths in long-term care facilities, or about 52.4 percent of the statewide deaths. But there was positive news, the governor said. That includes hospitalizations down by 1,000 in the past week. In the latest 24-hour period, there were 334 people admitted to hospitals, with 464 released. The positivity rate of tests is now at 28 percent. The governor acknowledged Thursday a continued backlog for some in getting their unemployment benefits. "We have heard you loud and clear," he said of those still awaiting their checks.
The Department of Labor has received more than a million claims in the last month, sending out $1.9 billion in assistance, he said. A one-stop page has been set up to help those get all the answers they need about unemployment at covid.19.nj.gov/work On Wednesday Murphy extended the public health emergency in the state by 30 days . The move does not mean there has been a setback, he explained. Instead, it's a necessity to do so before the current one automatically expires. "We continue to work to carefully track data and to put in place what we need to put in place for... our road back plan," Murphy said. The attorney general asked for help Tuesday from those who have firsthand knowledge of any issues in long-term care facilities. "We are not alleging any misconduct at this time," Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. "We'll simply follow the facts and the law where ever they lead us." The investigation was started April 16, after information about issues at such facilities surfaced, including bodies stacked up in make-shift morgues. A reporting portal has been set up at covid19.nj.gov/LTC.
"We want to be as thorough as possible," Grewal said.
"We realize that for these facilities this was equivalent to a 500-year flood," he said. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't examine how they reacted once those floods started rising or what happened before the flood." On Tuesday, the governor announced schools would be closed the rest of the school year.
"We want you to be safe. We want you to be healthy," he told students. "We want you to continue your educational journey, wherever it takes you. To ensure all of these things, we have to take this step."
Plans have continuously been revised since schools closed in March, Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet.
A steering committee is being formed to see what summer instruction and the next school year will look like, he said. As the father of a graduating high school senior, he said the decision hit home for him. "To parents of graduating seniors, please know that I stand with you and am committed to finding ways to honor our graduates and celebrate the incredible resilience of the Class of 2020," he said.
On Friday, Murphy said the state Department of Labor is working to get unemployment payments to everyone who is eligible.
In the past two weeks, about 193,000 residents were added, for a total of about 622,000 unemployed workers. That amounts to about an additional half-billion dollars for a total of $1.4 billion and rising, he said. The claims that remain unresolved are mostly from a pool of about 200,000 who are self-employed, independent contractors or gig workers. They started being processed Friday, he said. "Even in normal times, it takes about three weeks to process (unemployment claims," the governor noted.
State parks will reopen Saturday, Murphy said Wednesday.
The governor said playgrounds, pavilions, visitor centers and restrooms would remain closed. He also said parks would be capped at 50 percent capacity, and the state is recommending wearing a face covering when social distancing is difficult to maintain. County parks may also reopen, at the discretion of county governments. "We're seeing the increases hitting South Jersey," he said, showing the increases in hospitalizations. "The good news is the scale is a lot smaller. But the curve is going up not down."
Some of that is attributed to increased testing that was not on par with that being done up north and in the central part of the state. On Tuesday, he promised the "economy is going to get a restart.”
“It is not a matter of it, it’s a matter of when,” he said. The groundwork is already being laid of what that recovery will look, even though it’s weeks away, he said.
The vow came a day after the governor set out a six-principle plan to reopen the state.
He also officially announced the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission, which includes two co-chairs and 13 members. Five members of his administration will also sit in, including Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “They bring passion and vision to the table,” Murphy said. “And if there’s anything we need right now, it’s both.”
The commission’s goals are to:
Advise on issues of public health, workforce development and transportation.
Seek ways to maximize future federal support.
Review potential long-term investments.
Ensure restart and recovery works for every family.
On Monday, the governor gave benchmarks rather than dates for the road to reopening the state after the COVID-19 shutdown. The stay-at-home order will remain in effect until further notice, he said. But the requirements he gave for that to happen indicate the state will not reopen before the end of May.
"I want to see the shore humming by the summer," Murphy said Monday. "We will move as quickly as we can but as safely as we must."
Sustained reduction in new cases, at least a doubled testing capacity, robust tracing of contact with those infected and a secure safe place for isolation must all be reached before the reopening of the state and restoration of the economy, he said.
"I want to see the shore humming by the summer," Murphy said. "We will move as quickly as we can but as safely as we must."
He will announce his Restart and Recovery Commission on Tuesday.
"A group as diverse as it is talented," he said. It will include economists, academics, business leaders, labor leaders and healthcare experts. "This is a plan for how we move forward, not if we move forward," Murphy said. The trend must show "appreciable and sustained drops in new cases" for 14 days to meet step one on the road map back, he said. That will go with step two, that would expand testing. That is being worked on, the governor said, with hopes to meet that by the end of May. Step three will recruit and deploy an army of personnel to track contacts of those who test positive to keep those who may unknowingly be infected and spreading the virus. Then there also must be safe and free places for those who need to isolate to recover. Only then can the road to economic recovery begin, Murphy said.
Last week, Murphy said he wasn't yet ready to put the state on the road back, noting some back slide in some counties. "We have to see more progress, more slowing before we can begin those considerations," he said. But, Murphy noted, there are tens of thousands of residents who have beaten COVID-19.
On Thursday, Murphy said that next week all residents and staff at each of the state's five developmental centers will be tested, for about 5,500 tests. "These are among our most vulnerable residents," he said. "And the men and women who care for them daily are among our most essential workers." Unemployment payouts have reached $1 billion. Since March 15, more than 858,000 residents have filed for unemployment, the governor said. Last year, the number was about 84,000.
Despite a flattening of the curve, the restrictions will stay in place for at least the next couple of weeks, the governor said Tuesday.
The state now has 92,387 confirmed positive cases as of Tuesday, including 4,753 deaths.
There were 7,594 hospitalized, including 1,501 on ventilators. There have been 630 residents discharged.
On Monday, Murphy showed graphs that indicated numbers were flattening if not going down. "These are our most positive indicators," he said. The discharge numbers also are keeping a trend first recorded last week of the number of discharged patients are greater than the number of those going into hospitals.
This does not mean limits will be lifted. "We will not be able to flip a switch are return to life as we knew it," Murphy said. Instead, he said he will be laying out a blueprint over the next couple of days on how the state will reopen. "We cannot get to that point if you stop doing the things you're doing," he said. "This is no time to let up. If anything, this is a time to bear down as we've never ever done before." On Friday, the state began tracking the cases in long-term care facilities by county. There are 10,163 cases at 413 long-term care facilities statewide, with 1,655 deaths.
New Jersey received 100 new ventilators from New York, Murphy said Thursday, citing the partnership the two states have had throughout the health issue. The governor also said he was "outraged" after 17 bodies were found at a Sussex County nursing home of residents who died of the coronavirus. Police say they found the bodies piled inside a small morgue at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II in Sussex County. An anonymous tip said the bodies had been moved there after being stored in a shed, the New York Times reported. Murphy said he has asked the attorney general to look into the matter and do a review of all long-term care facilities that have had a disproportionate number of deaths during the outbreak. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal confirmed his office is investigating. "Like the governor and so many other New Jerseyans, I am deeply troubled by the high number of deaths at certain nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the state, especially those with below-average track records for health inspections, staffing and quality of care," he said.
Murphy said he knows the problem is unique to New Jersey but that the state "can lead in how we respond to these issues.
For those who want to talk: New Jersey Mental Health Cares Hotline 866-202-HELP (866-202-4357) Specialists available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week
Since April 1, about 6,300 patients with coronavirus have been discharged, Persichilli said Wednesday. "So while the numbers we report every day are grim, the 6,300 serve as a reminder people are getting better," she said. Release numbers are the closest the state has gotten to releasing recovery rates, which health officials said have not been released statewide due to lack of enough data. Many who have not qualified for testing but instead self-quarantined at home are not in those numbers. There are at least 66 testing sites throughout the state, Murphy said Tuesday, "but we need to do more to have reliable, safe and quick access to testing for everyone." New Jersey is fourth in the number of tests, behind just California, New York and Florid, he said. "We are punching way above our weight," the governor said, noting New Jersey is 11th in population. Rutgers announced a news FDA-approved saliva test that can be self-administered, Persichilli said.
While the coronavirus has made it impossible for people to remain in physical contact, the governor said Monday that he signed an executive order that will make sure people stay connected. Internet and phone service providers are now prohibited from shutting off service until 30 days after the current public health emergency has ended, Murphy said. The companies will also cannot reduce service or apply late fees due to nonpayment unless they are imposed by a policy approved by the Board of Public Utilities. Also, any service that was cut off after March 16 due to nonpayment must be reconnected. carriers must halve their capacity and wear gloves and face coverings, according to the latest executive order from the governor. "People actually need to stay connected," Murphy said. "This is no time for anyone to have their connection to the world severed." The state has received another 200 ventillators, bringing the total to 1,550. There are another 950 still being sought from multiple avenues throughout the world, he said. There have been 100,000 medical masks sent from the government of Taiwan to New Jersey, with another 200,000 on the way. Previous executive orders include requiring the halving of occupancy for public transportation.
The order applies to all buses, trains, light-rail and paratransit, he said. Anyone using these services also must have face coverings, unless they have a medical condition that prevents them from doing so, Gov. Phil Murphy said Saturday. "We accept that this is inconvenient," he said. "You know what would be really inconvenient, it if you wound up in the hospital with COVID-19, if you unwittingly passed it on to a family member." He also announced the arrival of 78 ambulance from various states that came to the state Friday with 139 EMTs and 56 paramedics to aid New Jersey. The governor announced Friday the state now has 15 machines that will be able to test for the coronavirus and have results within minutes.
The ID NOW testing instruments will be dispersed to healthcare systems throughout the state, and can process specimens at the point-of-care within five to 13 minutes. “In order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and manage our health care resources and personal protective equipment supply, we need to implement more aggressive testing techniques," Gov. Phil Murphy said. “With Abbott’s innovative point-of-care molecular testing platform, we will be able to swiftly process lab specimens and provide individuals with the care and resources they need immediately. I am grateful for our partnership with the federal government and with Abbott Labs for their assistance in expanding testing capacity in New Jersey.” It was not clear exactly which areas would get the equipment. With the new equipment and other expanded testing, the numbers of confirmed positives expected to increase even more.
“Rapid testing will help provide more real-time data on the impact of COVID-19 in our state," Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
The week has been a busy one of the governor, whose executive orders included requiring those working and shopping at groceries stores to wear masks, closed federal and state parks, and increased the emergency another 30 days. "Take a walk or bike ride in your neighborhood," he said. Two of three field hospitals also have been set up, adding 750 beds. The third is scheduled to open at the Atlantic City Convention Center next week. The plan is to put 250 beds there. Last Friday, the governor announced that all flags across the state will be flown at half-staff to honor those lost to the coronavirus. "This is one of the greatest tragedies to ever hit our state, and our nation indeed," he said. "A constant visible memorial" is especially important considering that families cannot even have funerals, he said. He continued the call for healthcare volunteers, which would add to the 7,539 who already have offered their services.
Atlantic County had its first death from the coronavirus, officials announced Thursday. FULL STORY: Egg Harbor Township man is county's first coronavirus-related death (Thursday)
The numbers do not represent a 24-hour period, the governor said of deaths. Instead, the state is counting them as they are confirmed through testing. As testing grows, the number of confirmed cases continues to increase. 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.
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.
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.
PREVIOUS REPORTS ON COVID-19
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.
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.
"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.
"It is the older faithful who are most vulnerable that usually attend," Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in making the announcement.
"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."
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
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.