What to Know
- New Jersey continues to see thousands more cases of the new coronavirus as the state continues to emphasize testing for COVID-19. On Thursday they announced nearly 200 more deaths for the first time.
- At least 537 people have died after contracting the novel coronavirus, as of Thursday. At least 25,590 have tested positive for COVID-19.
- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy warned that social-distancing and business closures could last "deep into May."
For the first time, New Jersey has announced more than 150 additional coronavirus deaths in a single day.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that 537 people died from COVID-19-related causes. It's an increase of 182 people since Wednesday. The number of confirmed infections jumped by more than 3,500 in a day with the total number of cases in the state reaching 25,590.
"I know these numbers are stark," Murphy said.
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Murphy said there is a "lag" when it comes to confirming deaths so this doesn't mean that 182 people died since Wednesday, but rather state health officials are just confirming the deaths over the 24-hour period.
In the southern half of the state, Ocean County has been hardest hit with 38 deaths and 1,371 COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began. Eight people have died in Burlington County, six in Camden County, four in Mercer County, two in Gloucester County and one person each in Atlantic, Cumberland and Salem counties.
Commandeering Medical Supplies
Murphy said he has signed an executive order that allows New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan to commandeer medical supplies like N95 masks, ventilators and PPE masks to help in the coronavirus fight.
Murphy didn't reveal exactly how far state police can go in the taking of medical supplies outside of saying the items can "run the gamut." But, he did continue his ask for medical supplies to be donated instead.
Expanding Medical Care
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that as coronavirus cases continue to grow in New Jersey, field hospitals are being set up to care for overflow non-COVID-19 patients from existing medical centers. The first one will soft open at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in North Jersey next week.
Murphy toured the Meadowlands facility on Thursday morning.
Persichilli said she expected the pressure on the health care system to continue to increase as COVID-19 spreads so the field hospitals, including one being built in Atlantic City, will be vital for treating overflow patients.
New Testing Site Opens in Mercer County
Mercer County has opened a drive-up COVID-19 testing site at the Quaker Bridge Mall. The site is ONLY for county residents with an appointment who have coronavirus symptoms, Murphy said.
The mall testing site will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Arresting Spitting 'Kucklehead Row'
Murphy spoke Thursday about the arrest of six people accused of spitting on law enforcement members while claiming to have COVID-19. The governor called them "Knucklehead Row."
Earlier, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal promised that anyone threatening police officers will face criminal charges.
"We take all assaults on police officers seriously, but it is especially heinous for someone to spit or cough at an officer in an attempt to infect or threaten to infect them with COVID-19," Grewal said.
'Deep Into May'
Murphy, appearing on CNN late Wednesday, said he thinks rigorous social distancing and the shuttering of many businesses will continue “deep into May.”
The first-term Democrat on March 21 ordered the state's residents to stay home, after he earlier required the closure of casinos, gyms, theaters and restaurants and bars except for take-out or delivery.
Also shuttered are the state's more than 600 school districts. It's uncertain when they could reopen.
Murphy continues to call on New Jerseyans to stay at home and practice social distancing when they must leave their homes. He thanked most of the residents who are following the rules.
NJ Unemployment Claims Skyrocket to Record Level
A record number of New Jersey residents applied for unemployment benefits last week, climbing 32% higher than the week before, the state Labor Department announced Thursday.
There were more than 206,000 claims for the week ending March 28, up from 155,000 the previous week, the department said in a statement.
The new claims over the past two weeks dwarf the state's previous record for jobless claims: In 2012 Superstorm Sandy led to a spike of 46,000 claims.
Nearly 156,000 residents are currently collecting unemployment benefits, about 51,000 more than the week before, according to the department.
The news came as the federal Labor Department reported that more than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.