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New Jersey testing
Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a Thursday, April 30 press briefing in Trenton. COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey will receive more than half a million COVID-19 testing kits from the federal government in the coming days.

The announcement was made following a Thursday morning meeting between New Jersey state officials and federal officials at the White House.

This morning, Gov. Phil Murphy, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and other state officials met with President Donald Trump to discuss the need for direct federal aid to New Jersey and other states, and to discuss New Jersey’s ongoing COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

The expanded testing is one of the key principles for New Jersey’s plan to re-open following the stay at home order issued March 21 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

New Jersey will receive 550,000 testing kits and 750,000 swabs, Murphy said. He also described the conversations with the president as productive.

In addition, 350 nursing homes and long-term care facilities in New Jersey will receive direct shipments of personal protective equipment, the president promised today.

As of Thursday, New Jersey was reporting 2,633 new positive cases, bringing the state total to 118,652. The day before, there were 2,481 new positives.

Persichilli said New Jersey experienced its peak in cases between April 13 and 14, when hospitals around the state were treating 8,200 patients. Since then, there has been a flattening of cases, and in the last three to four days, she said.

New Jersey has also seen 460 additional deaths, up from the 329 reported on Wednesday. This brings the statewide death toll to 7,228. Murphy said upticks in death reportings typically occur on Tuesdays, as the numbers from the weekend and Monday are compiled. For an uptick in deaths to be reported on a Thursday is a concern, he said.

At 10 p.m. on Wednesday, 6,137 people were hospitalized, of which 1,765 were in critical care, Patients on ventilators were at 1,271, the lowest number since April 4, Murphy said. Yesterday, 502 new patients were hospitalized, and 514 were discharged.

By comparison, at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, 6,289 people were in the hospital due to COVID-19, with 1,811 people in critical care. Seventy-three percent of the critical care patients were on ventilators. That day, 613 people were discharged.

The township Health Department reported today, April 30, the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from yesterday’s count of 356 to 365; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness increased from 41 to 43.

As of 9 a.m. today, Essex County was reporting 13,829 cases and 1,196 deaths, up from 13,296 cases and 1,143 deaths on Wednesday.

The state death toll now exceeds the number of people from New Jersey who died during World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, both Gulf Wars, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Superstorm Sandy and 9/11 combined, Murphy said.

State officials are expected to decide no later than May 15 on whether New Jersey’s schools would remain closed for the balance of the year or reopen. Murphy said he hoped a decision would be announced sooner.

The New Jersey Education Association sent an open letter to Murphy urging him to have the schools remain closed for the year. Additionally, school superintendents sent an open letter to the governor asking him to make an official declaration soon on what the districts should expect for the balance of the year.

On Saturday, New Jersey will allow state and county parks and golf courses to reopen for the first time since March 16, when all public recreation areas were closed.

Murphy said that officials were placing trust in New Jersey residents by doing so, and he said that residents had earned that trust by being vigilant in practicing social distancing. “This is a big weekend in terms of behavior for us,” he said. He acknowledged that many residents had been feeling cooped up and needed to let off steam. Additionally, he said, there is a mental health factor in allowing people to have access to the parks.

State officials will be monitoring the situation in parks very closely. “Don’t let a few knuckleheads ruin it for the rest of us.”