BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Although the curve of new COVID-19 cases remains flat, the curve needs to “bend down and stay down” before the state can begin opening back up, said Gov. Phil Murphy at today’s debriefing.
Murphy explained today, April 27, what lies ahead on New Jersey’s “road to recovery,” and what is needed in order to begin a slow methodical re-opening of the state.
Today, state officials announced an additional 2,146 COVID-19 positive test results, pushing the statewide total to 111,188. On Sunday, New Jersey reported 3,730 new positive cases of COVID-19, and 3,457 new positive cases were reported on Saturday. Due to the earlier debriefing time Monday, the numbers reported today only reflect the positive results received as of last night.
State officials reported 106 additional deaths, up from the 75 reported on Sunday. A total of 6,044 residents have lost their lives to COVID-19-related complications.
This morning, Essex County officials reported 13,080 positive cases today, up from the 12,944 reported on Sunday and the 12,668 on Saturday. Essex County has the highest number of deaths related to the virus at 1,030, with six new deaths reported this morning.
Montclair health officials reported today that the number of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 increased from yesterday’s count of 346 to 349; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness increased from 39 to 40.
As of last night, there were 6,407 patients statewide hospitalized for COVID-19, with 75 in field medical stations. There were 1,801 patients in either critical or intensive care, down 9 percent from where it was last Monday. Ventilator use is at 1,303, down 18 percent from just one week ago.
There were 314 new hospitalizations yesterday, and 480 total discharges.
A recent sampling of 773 patients reveals that 24.7 percent were discharged to nursing homes, 3 percent to rehabilitation facilities, 1.8 percent to hospice, 10.9 percent died, .9 percent left the hospital against doctors advice, 2.9 percent were moved to another hospital and 50.32 percent were discharged to go home.
“This data, which we receive and report every day, is the measuring stick of our progress against COVID-19…. Because of the work of our New Jersey family, we can announce today a vision to put our state, and our people, on the road to recovery. However, there is still much work to be done. If we let up even one bit with our aggressive social distancing measures too soon – even one day too soon – we can easily see ourselves skidding off this road,” said Murphy.
He said the one principle guiding the state’s plan to reopen is that “public health creates economic health.”
“That’s the order in which we must proceed. It means that before we reopen non-essential stores and businesses, before we can reopen our parks, or before we allow in-person dining in our restaurants – among any host of other activities – people need to know, first and foremost, that their health will be safeguarded from COVID-19,” he said. “Until we give the public confidence that they should not be fearful, we cannot take further steps. A plan that is needlessly rushed is a plan that will needlessly fail.”
New Jersey’s plan needs to merge with surrounding states as well or risk returning the entire region back into lockdown mode, the governor said.
Murphy outlined six principles to beginning to open back up:
- Sustained reductions in new COVID-19 cases and a decreased burden of disease on the healthcare system;
- Doubling testing capacity and speeding up the return of results;
- Robust contact tracing;
- Ensuring safe places where those positively diagnosed in the future can isolate;
- After these have been established, New Jersey can begin to responsibly restart the economy;
- And finally, ensuring New Jersey’s resiliency.
Murphy said the Stay-at-Home Order, which has been in effect since March 21, will remain in effect in its entirety until further notice. As for schools reopening, Murphy is expected to make a decision on May 15.
State health officials will look for 14-day decreases in a sustained reduction in the number of new positive COVID-19 test results and new COVID-19 related hospitalizations, and to see hospitals step down from functioning under a crisis standard of care.
“I am proud to announce that we are actively working toward doubling our diagnostic testing capacity by the end of May, and having everything in place – from the kits themselves to the lab capacity necessary to ensure quick turnaround of results,” Murphy said.
Testing will be expanded to local pharmacies with at-home testing capabilities.
The state will also hire contact tracers, at a rate of 15 to 81 persons for every 100,000 residents — roughly 1,300 to 7,000 in total — to take on this work.
“We are fully prepared that, when we restart our economy, we will see new COVID-19 cases. That much we are sure about. Our goal will be to prevent these new cases from multiplying,” said Murphy.
Tomorrow, the governor will introduce the members of the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission.
During this methodical restart, residents can expect the continuation of social distancing measures – including, potentially, requirements for face coverings in certain locations and for work-from-home directives for employees who do not need to report to a physical location.