surge cases
IMAGE COURTESY DARKO STOJANOVIC/PIXABAY New Jersey may see a surge in COVID-19 cases in early April, particularly in the state’s northern counties.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Regions of New Jersey could see a surge in COVID-19 cases over the next week, with northern New Jersey expected to see a surge during the first week of April, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

New Jersey saw 3,649 new positive cases today, April 1, bringing the statewide total to 22,255.

The state is reporting 91 new deaths, with the total number of deaths now standing at 355. “We have lost 355 people of valor up and down our state,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

As of today, the Montclair Department of Health and Human Services reports the total number of cases testing positive at 102 up from 96 reported yesterday. The number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 13 but the number who passed away that were in long-term care facilities is corrected to 11 (yesterday reported as 9).

Of the overall total deaths statewide, 55 percent were male and 45 percent were female, Persichilli said yesterday. Forty-seven percent of the deaths were in people 80 years of age and older, and of that number, 39 percent had pre-existing conditions.

Bergen and Essex counties had the highest numbers of new deaths, with Bergen reporting 33 new deaths and Essex reporting 22. As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Essex County had reported a total of 57 deaths. The county is reporting a fatality rate of 2.6 percent, above the state fatality rate of 1.4 percent.

Yesterday, State officials reported 2,196 new COVID-19 cases in total, down about 34 percent from the 3,347 reported on Monday.

With the reports of new cases, Bergen County now has 3,494 total cases, followed by Essex County with 2,262.

Bergen saw the highest number of new cases, 338, followed by Essex with 277 new cases today. Monday and Tuesday, Essex had the highest number of cases at 237 on Tuesday and 280 on Monday.

The other deaths were as follows: 13 in Hudson County; five each in Morris, Ocean and Union counties; four each in Middlesex and Passaic counties; three each in Monmouth and Sussex counties; and one each in Somerset and Warren counties.

Ninety-three of New Jersey’s 375 long-term care facilities, which includes nursing homes, rehab centers and mental health facilities, have indicated having at least one positive case of COVID-19.

Murphy said it will be at least a week from April 1 before the state has more of an idea how the social distancing measures put into place will affect the rate of cases. “Some of the test results that we’re getting, they’re from specimens collected eight to 10 days ago,” Murphy said Wednesday morning in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura have both tested positive for COVID-19. Both are now on self-isolation.

Fontoura announced that he had tested positive on March 29.

DiVincenzo announced on April 1 that he had tested positive, and that he has been in self-quarantine since March 21. He had decided to get tested after experiencing a fever for several days.

“So far, my symptoms have been mild, and I have been feeling alright. By working remotely, I have not allowed this virus to prevent me from serving our communities and the residents of Essex County. I implore everyone to practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, limit your movements in public and stay home. We are in the midst of a public health crisis. The prudent actions we take now will determine how severe the impacts of the Coronavirus will be later,” DiVincenzo said.

Essex County has launched its own COVID-19 information hub, essexcovid.org.

The federal government has released an additional 350 ventilators from the stockpile and sent them to New Jersey, in addition to the 300 that the stockpile has already sent. Combined with 200 ventilators that the state has already obtained, New Jersey will have 850 additional ventilators.

The state has also procured nearly 10 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPEs), Murphy said.

Seven hospitals in northern New Jersey have gone on divert status, Persichilli said. This may be due to a number of reasons, such as manpower issues or having reached capacity.

Persichilli said that morgue space is becoming a concern. The State Medical Examiner’s Office has been in discussions with funeral directors, and is in talks about procuring refrigerated trucks for the storage of bodies, she said.

The state is asking volunteers who have prior medical experience to help. So far, 5,200 people from various medical disciplines, including physicians, nurses, physician’s assistants and specialists, have offered to help, Persichilli said.

The COVID-19 outbreak has required the state to adjust its financial proceedings. The state has delayed the deadline to file state income tax from April 15 to July 15. The federal tax filing date has also been moved back to July 15.

Murphy said that the state is also looking to move back the start of the next fiscal year. The fiscal year in New Jersey usually starts on July 1. Instead, the fiscal year will begin on Sept. 30.

“Now is not the time to have packed hearing rooms in packed statehouses,” Murphy said. Additionally, he said, the state needed to determine its economic recovery plan, and plan its budget accordingly. New Jersey will also be applying for direct recovery aid from the federal government.

On Friday, New Jersey will launch its program for small businesses in need of assistance: the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant program. Businesses can learn more about the program at cv.business.nj.gov.

The state has banned all gatherings, including weddings, funerals and parties.

State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said that police had broken up four recent gatherings, including an in-person auction in Edison, a gathering in Lakewood, and an indoor soccer arena. Police in Newark have also issued 121 summonses, he said.

Murphy noted that the overwhelming majority of people in Lakewood and Newark had been in compliance with the state’s social distancing rules.

Murphy said the state needed 100 percent compliance with social distancing. However, “This is no time to turn on each other,” he said. He warned that acts of stereotyping and vilification against certain communities would not be tolerated in any way. “It is completely and utterly unacceptable.”

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