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Evelyn Colbert commission
Evelyn Colbert, left, seen with Bob Feinberg and Meredith Ladov , has been named to the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission. Colbert is a founding board member of Montclair Film.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Two Montclair residents have been named as members of the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission, to help New Jersey recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evelyn Colbert and Jeh Johnson were both announced as members of the commission on Tuesday.

Johnson is the former U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security and a partner with the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP.

Colbert is a founding board member of Montclair Film and the vice president of film company Spartina Productions. Her husband is Late Show host Stephen Colbert.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the formation of the commission, which will help advise the state as it re-opens from the COVID-19 shutdown, during a press briefing on Tuesday, April 28.

residents commission restart
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been named to the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The 21 members include Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver; Shirley Tilghman, president emeritus of Princeton; former acting CDC director Richard Besser; Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier; and Tony Coscia, the chairman of Amtrak’s board of directors.

The members of the commission represent several different fields, including academia, health, the arts, faith communities, business and finance, transportation and labor. They were chosen to represent New Jersey’s diversity of people and talent, Murphy said.

As of Tuesday, April 28, New Jersey was continuing to see a flattening of cases and hospitalizations, but Murphy emphasized that New Jersey was still many weeks away from starting the re-opening process.

“We’re nowhere near the endzone,” Murphy said.

On Tuesday, the state announced 2,887 new positive cases, up from the 2,146 new cases announced on Monday, bringing the state total to 113,856.

The state announced 402 new deaths, up from the 106 reported on Monday, bringing the death toll to 6,442. Murphy emphasized that the new deaths had not all occurred in the last 24 hours, and that the weekend tended to skew the numbers of deaths reported on a given day.

Murphy spoke about Thomas Leonard, a longtime Montclair resident who died on April 8 at the age of 60 due to complications with the virus. Leonard was an attorney with New York law firm Barry, McTiernan and Moore. “To his family and friends, he was a die-hard Giants, Mets, Rangers fan, talk about bearing a few crosses, who stuck with his teams through good times and bad,” Murphy said.

In Montclair, Leonard was a board member with the Montclair Golf Club.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the pandemic has exacted a mental health toll as well as a physical health toll. “This is a difficult time. But you are not alone,” she said.

She said the mental toll was particularly severe for health care workers and other frontline workers, who were experiencing significant trauma amid the outbreak.

Persichilli mentioned the New Jersey Mental Health Cares helpline as a resource that is available for anyone who needs help.

On Tuesday, Montclair health officials said the number of positive cases increased from Monday’s count of 349 to 353. The number of individuals who did not survive increased from 40 to 41.

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 28, Essex County was reporting 13,296 positive cases and 1,096 deaths, up from 13,148 cases and 1,033 deaths on Monday.

As of 10 p.m. Monday, April 27,  there were 6,476 people in the hospital, of whom 1,809 were in critical care, and there were 1,262 ventilators in use. Persichilli said that 70 percent of critical care patients were on ventilators, which she said was the lowest rate since the beginning of April.

There were 418 people discharged from the hospital on Monday, but 488 new patients were admitted. “Folks. I want to open up the state as much as the next person, but that’s a lot going into the hospital at this stage,” Murphy said.

At 10 p.m. Sunday, 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.

Murphy exhorted people to continue social distancing, which he acknowledged was a challenge amid increasingly warm spring weather.

“Folks, I would say to each of you watching, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working,” Murphy said.

The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund “Jersey 4 Jersey” concert and broadcast on April 22 raised $5.9 million, Murphy said.