What to Know
- New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says nearly 1,900 people likely died of COVID-19 in New Jersey but were not initially counted in the state’s death toll.
- At a Thursday news conference, Murphy said those deaths will now be counted in the death toll.
- Murphy says state health officials recently completed a review of thousands of death certificates of people who died with coronavirus symptoms despite not having been tested. He says those people likely died from COVID-19.
New Jersey's death toll from the novel coronavirus jumped Thursday as the state accounted for more than 1,800 probable deaths in its new total.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that the state began compiling probable deaths in which people died from what seemed like COVID-19 complications, but were never lab confirmed to have the coronavirus.
On Thursday, the death toll from coronavirus-related complications surpassed 13,000, with at least 13,018 confirmed deaths.
By adding 1,854 probable deaths, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey neared 14,900. The probable deaths account for about 14% of the new total.
Murphy said Thursday that he and state health officials have been grappling with how to deal with the probable deaths.
"In one day, we are significantly adding to the already weighty toll this pandemic has had on our state, and on so many families," Murphy said. "We report this out of nothing else than a solemn sense of duty."
The newly reported deaths fall in three categories, according to Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of the Health Department's communicable disease service. They include a large group of people who were part of a known outbreak, primarily at nursing homes and other similar facilities. Another smaller group was people who had what Lifshitz called a “less specific” COVID-19 test administered. The third group was located by combing through death certificates and searching for coronavirus cases that might have been missed.
Lifshitz said the numbers could fluctuate but that they don't expect any more large changes. The probable death total will be released weekly moving forward. He said there is no evidence of probable deaths prior to March.
More than 170,000 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus to date.
The state has significantly seen a decrease overall in hospitalizations and daily cases for the past couple months. But, as malls, theme parks, museums, arcades and camps open in the coming week as the economy slowly recovers, there is a worry that cases could rise again.
"Tracking our key metrics, we remain in a place where we feel comfortable continuing with Stage 2 of our restart," Murphy said. "We need to get our ranking in hospitalizations and deaths down The only way we can is by remaining vigilant and taking personal responsibility."
Murphy and health officials said they are monitoring any potential upticks and hope to prevent outbreaks with contact tracing and social-distancing measures.
On Thursday, Murphy said that on Friday afternoon the state Department of Education would be issuing guidance for the upcoming school year. The first-term Democrat said "no one size fits all" for the measures that will be released.
33K More Seek Jobless Benefits in NJ Amid Outbreak
Jobless claims in New Jersey ticked up 25% last week, climbing for the second straight week since they had begun to decline amid the COVID-19 shutdown, the Labor Department said Thursday.
There were 33,000 claims made last week, up from about 26,000 the week before, the state Labor Department said. Since the outbreak hit New Jersey in early March there have been nearly 1.3 million claims overall.
A new call center to help handle claims opened up last week, the department added, with the aim of reducing wait times and easing reports of frustration among those seeking benefits.
"Many of the calls coming into (department of labor)'s new call center can be traced to very specific and individualized issues," Murphy said Thursday. "Because of this new call center, more complex cases can be quickly routed back through the department’s experienced staff."
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.