BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The number of COVID-19 cases In New Jersey could reach over 3,000 by tonight, said state officials. As of Monday morning briefing with the governor, there were 935 more cases overnight, raising the state’s total to 2,844. Because the report was done earlier than usual, more numbers were expected by the end of Monday, March 23. An additional 249 cases were under investigation as of noon today.
Essex County reported 101 new cases today, rising to 273. Essex County is second to Bergen County’s 609 in the number of cases.
Seven new deaths statewide due to COVID-19-related illnesses were announced Monday, including one in Essex County. Five of the seven were men, two were female, with ages ranging from 57 to 91. Twenty-seven people have died in New Jersey in connection with the virus.
As of Sunday, March 22, Montclair was reporting 10 positive cases of COVID-19 in the township, resulting in two deaths so far. Three new cases were reported on Sunday and two on Saturday. The department of health did not respond to an email requesting the numbers as of today.
Officials reminded residents to stay home, and that social distancing and frequent hand washing are the best defense against the virus that is expected to surge three weeks from now and up into the many thousands.
New Jersey will also be the first state to begin to release some prisoners from county jails who are serving time for low-level crimes. The move would help lessen the spread of COVID-19 in some of the prisons across the state, State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.
On Sunday, March 22, an Essex County inmate residing in Delaney Hall in Newark tested positive for and exhibited symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to Essex County Correctional Facility officials.
According to an order signed yesterday, up to 1,000 prisoners would be released no later than noon Thursday, including inmates with violations of probation, low-level indictable crimes, disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses, the order said. Cases where the release is objected to by the county prosecutor will begin tomorrow, said Grewal. The state will also set up guidelines on the releases including that the inmate have a place to reside and will have access to services.
Today, the second testing center in the state opened at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel. After reaching capacity it closed within an hour of opening, officials said. Another in Secaucus opened today but is only taking Hudson County residents and is by appointment only. More testing centers are expected to open this week.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the state will begin enforcing and charging residents who don’t comply with the state-mandated social distancing measures. Police will begin issuing violations for residents who fail to stay in, breaking up gatherings even on private properties, and prosecuting business owners of non-essential businesses that stay open or businesses that stay open past the 8 p.m. curfew. Residents and business owners could face charges of disorderly conduct or second-, third- and fourth-degree indictable charges.
“[The] time for warnings is over,” Grewal said.
He also referred to an increase in bias crimes toward Asians.
“COVID-19 is not an excuse for hate. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate by race or religion,” he said.
While the unemployment rate continues to climb as businesses were ordered to shut down last week, (9,467 people had applied for unemployment benefits for the week of March 14, and 15,000 more had applied for benefits on March 16), Murphy said there are currently 8,000 open jobs in warehouses, manufacturing and supermarkets. Residents can apply for the jobs on the COVID-19 website.
The governor also issued an order suspending all elective surgeries and invasive procedures after 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27.
In addition, since the coronavirus can cause major complications with diabetes patients, the Diabetes Foundation Is offering a free two-week diabetes backup emergency supply kit and emergency insulin administration supply kit. Anyone needing an emergency backup kit can apply to receive one by visiting diabetesfoundationinc.org or calling 973-849-5234.