What to Know
- Cases of the new coronavirus in New Jersey have exploded in recent days.
- As of Wednesday afternoon, five of the 427 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in New Jersey had died, Gov. Phil Murphy and health officials said.
- The state has set up the 211 phone line for people with questions or concerns about the deadly virus.
For the third straight day, the number of people sickened by the coronavirus in New Jersey has dramatically spiked as two more people have died.
Wednesday night, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County announced its first positive COVID-19 case. That person is currently in isolation at an off-base residence. Medical officials are currently tracking other people the person was in contact with.
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced about 160 more positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the state total to 427. He also said that five people have now died, up from three, after contracting the virus.
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The two new deaths were women from North Jersey who, like previous people who have died, were over 60 years old and had preexisting conditions.
Among the new cases reported Wednesday were three cases in Atlantic County -- including the first in the South Jersey county -- three in Burlington County, five in Camden County, six in Mercer County and four in Ocean County. As state officials announced the new cases, Cape May County reported its first case -- a 30-year-old man visiting from New York City.
Since Sunday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Garden State has exploded from dozens to hundreds as more testing is done.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
To date, the most cases have been in North Jersey, the first positive test in the state was reported on March 4, health officials said.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that hundreds of new hospital beds, including 50 in South Jersey, were ready Wednesday to come online to treat the influx of new cases. Murphy said the Army Corps of Engineers is also coming to New Jersey to help with the health care expansion.
New Jersey health officials are working to further expand the number of available beds for potential infected patients by either adding beds to existing hospitals or reopening shuttered hospitals or nursing homes. On Tuesday, health leaders toured the former Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, Gloucester County. State leaders are working with owner Inspira Health to reopen the facility, which would add 300 beds to the statewide total.
"This facility would be a general acute care hospital to absorb the surge that we're all expecting," Persichilli said.
The state is also looking to increase its nurses to help treat those in need.
Persichilli said that New Jersey is expanding its 211 call center to handle the hundreds of coronavirus calls coming in. The new 211 number is operated by the United Ways of New Jersey and provides information and referral services. Residents also can text NJCOVID to 898-211.
Students across New Jersey stayed home Wednesday as statewide school closures went into effect in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Murphy ordered the closures Monday, though many schools already were ordering students to stay home.
Murphy expanded virus mitigation efforts Tuesday, ordering indoor malls and amusement centers closed, adding to the theaters, casinos, gyms and dining rooms he shuttered earlier this week.
He said that no further social-distancing steps would be taken Wednesday, but continued to urge for people to do their parts to keep others and themselves safe. He called on the state's 9 million or so residents to "think of others and act to protect our entire family."
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The vast majority of people recover over a period a weeks.
A closer look at developments in New Jersey:
WHAT TO DO
State health officials have recommended calling your health care provider if you have symptoms, including fever and shortness of breath. Officials also point people to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which recommends people stay home except to get medical care.
On Wednesday, the state announced the new 211 number residents can call with coronavirus-related questions, to augment the existing hotline operated by the New Jersey Poison Control Center.
Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus began offering drive-through testing by appointment on Tuesday.
Dr. Nizar Kifaieh, the hospital’s president and CEO, said that over a span of three hours Tuesday, the hospital received 250 phone calls. He also said the hospital is limited by the number of testing kits it has on hand — 20, with more promised from two labs.
“We have had to ration them as needed, and we’ve been holding onto them like gold,” he said. “People should be aware that just because you ask, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be tested. You’re going to have to be screened.”
The city's 50,000-plus residents woke up to the first day of a new policy of self-isolation ordered by Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
Bhalla has ordered a 10 p.m. curfew for the 1-mile-square city to cut down on groups of people congregating.
He also ordered the closing of all nonessential businesses. The city published a list of essential businesses that included emergency medical care, supermarkets and grocery stores, bodegas, banks, pharmacies, veterinarians, laundromats and liquor stores.