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COVID-19 deaths
PHOTO COURTESY EDWIN J. TORRES/STATE OF NEW JERSEY Governor Phil Murphy holds a coronavirus briefing in Newark on March 24, 2020.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

As of this afternoon, March 24, the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair is 21, climbing from the 13 reported yesterday. Two more residents did not survive the illness, bringing the total to four, according to Montclair Health officials.

New Jersey now has a total of 44 deaths from COVID-19, as the total number of positive cases in the state exceeds 3,500. The state announced 17 additional deaths on Tuesday, March 24, which is the largest one-day increase in fatalities.

The state has ordered residents to stay home unless they need to buy essential items, report to an essential job, or go outside for exercise. All non-essential businesses in New Jersey have been ordered to close.

“And if anyone is looking to me to justify the reasons for taking these steps we have taken,” Gov. Phil Murphy said, “I can give you 44 reasons.”

The state now has 3,675 positive cases, with 846 new positive cases being reported overnight.

The ages and genders of the deceased were not released. There were five deaths in Bergen County; three each in Essex and Monmouth counties; two in Hudson County; and one each in Monmouth, Camden, Passaic and Union counties.

Essex County saw 63 new cases, bringing the county-wide total to 342 cases. Essex has the second-highest number of cases of any county in New Jersey. Nine deaths have been reported in Essex since March 18, when the first two deaths in the county were announced.

Bergen County still has the highest number of cases, with 61 new cases bringing their total to 701.

Nine of the deaths that were announced Tuesday are associated with long-term care facilities, Health Commissioner Judy Persichelli said. There are now a total of 19 long-term care facilities and nursing homes that have experienced at least one death related to COVID-19.

The St. Joseph Senior Home in Woodbridge, which is operated by the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, is in the process of transferring its patients to another facility, since 12 of its staff have become ill. The home may end up having to close, Persichilli said.

In Montclair, the Family of Caring nursing home has been associated with three deaths, one of which was of the facility’s executive director, Bergenfield resident John Cofrancesco, on March 19.

Hospitals in New Jersey and around the United States have been experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs), including N95 face masks.

New Jersey is expected to receive a shipment of N95 masks, respirators and other PPEs from the federal stockpile, Murphy said. PSE&G is also donating 50,000 N95 masks from its own supply, and companies such as Apple, Glaxo, Walgreens and Prudential are also donating supplies.

Water utilities have been ordered not to shut off residents’ water over payment issues.

The state will be opening up field hospitals in four locations: the Meadowlands Sports and Exposition Authority; the Edison Convention Center; the Atlantic City Convention Center, and an urban search and rescue facility to be determined.

County-level testing facilities are opening up. Passaic County is expected to open a testing center at William Paterson University on Wednesday. That facility is open only to county residents who have documentation from their doctor. And residents are urged not to go to their doctor to ask for a test unless they are showing symptoms.

Employers are required to have employees work from home, unless it is not feasible to do so. Murphy said the state has received calls from employees reporting that their employers are violating this rule.

Reports about a company violating the work-from-home policy can be made at 609-963-6817.

All of the state’s public and private schools are closed; Montclair made the decision to close on March 13, ahead of the state’s order for all districts to close if they had not already done so.

Murphy said the state has not definitively decided whether schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year. He said that residents should expect schools to be closed for a “meaningful” period of time.

New Jersey has applied for a federal waiver to suspend the standardized testing requirement for the year. Murphy said that this will not affect graduation rates.

“We’re not going to prevent kids from graduating high school because of the decisions we’re making today about health or about standardized testing,” Murphy said.

Regarding state aid for schools, Murphy said the state treasurer’s office would have more information in the days ahead.

The state has not ordered daycare centers to close.

Essential employees like health care workers, law enforcement and first responders need to report to work in person. These employees are in need of child care. “We’re trying not to tilt the machine so much that it falls off the tracks,” Murphy said. However, he said, the discussion is ongoing, and once it has been ensured that healthcare workers and first responders have adequate access to child care, the subject of daycares staying open can be revisited.

Persichilli noted that nationwide, 40 percent of nurses are primary providers for their families or are single parents. She said the state will look into identifying child care centers that are close to hospitals, so first responders can have access to them. “We will figure this out.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to Van Dyk in relation to the Family of Caring nursing home. Van Dyk has not owned the nursing home since October 2018, and does not currently operate the home in any capacity.

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