Gov. Phil Murphy welcomed the agreement in Washington providing the state with badly needed funds, but believes there is more that is needed.
“I think this is a big step in the right direction,” Murphy said of the package. “Is it everything we want? It is not. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
The $2 trillion federal stimulus deal package includes $260 billion for workers, featuring the extension and expansion of unemployment insurance; $377 billion for small business; $150 billion for hospitals and healthcare facilities; $150 billion stabilization fund established for state and local governments; and $230 billion for emergency appropriations.
“It will help our hospitals financially,” Murphy stated. “It will help the folks who have lost their jobs. It will help small businesses. It’s desperately needed. There’s nothing like the federal government coming in to play an outsize role.”
The funding will also include more test kits, something the state urgently needs as it figures how widespread the virus is in the state. Officials expect numbers to keep rising as testing becomes more available in the state, with state officials believing New Jersey is likely two to three weeks from the peak number of cases.
As of March 25, the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey climbed to 4,402 with 736 new cases announced by the state and 18 new deaths, bringing that total to 62. The 18 new deaths include three in Essex County and one each in Bergen, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties. The range in age for those cases was 52 to 93-years-old, with seven being women and 11 men, said Judy Persichilli, commissioner of the state Department of Health.
Bergen with 820 Cases
Bergen is still the primary hot spot in the state with 819 total cases, followed by Essex at 381, Middlesex at 316, Monmouth at 313, Union at 262, Hudson at 260, Passaic at 255, Morris at 223, Ocean at 222, Somerset at 117, Mercer at 82, Camden at 61, Burlington at 48, Sussex at 27, Hunterdon at 25, Gloucester at 23, Warren at 18, Atlantic at nine, Cape May at four, Cumberland at three and Salem with one.
Another 933 cases remain under investigation to determine the location where the person resides.
Murphy came out strongly that each life is “precious” when asked to respond to suggestions that it was more important to have the economy up and running again as well as President Donald Trump remarks of “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem,” targeting easing restrictions in three weeks just in time for Easter.
Follow the Science
While hoping that the times can be achieved, Murphy said he would follow the science when it comes to reevaluate orders currently in place.
“Everyone is indispensable,” said the governor. “We will fight to save every single life. This is a marathon we’re in, and we’re in a race to save lives. If we back off stay-at home-policies, our fear is it will only get worse.”
Despite stay at home and school closures causing issues with child care, Murphy followed through what he had hinted at the day before—mandating child care centers must be certified by the state by March 28 to operate and will exclusively for children of essential workers. If not, they will be ordered to close April 1.
Child Care Changes
“Essential personnel are a vital part of our response and limiting child care to solely these individuals will assist in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, as well as provide our front-line workers with the critical services they need to get through this emergency,” said Murphy.
Child care centers include entities providing care on a regular basis for children through 8th grade. Those deemed essential workers are healthcare workers, including staff working in healthcare facilities and in community-based services; law enforcement personnel, fire and emergency services personnel, and staff at correctional facilities; staff working for entities that provide essential social services; and essential government employees who are unable to work from home.
Will Fix Gaps
Murphy noted that if there are any gaps in child care availability because of his order, he will direct the Office of the Emergency Management to find schools that can serve as emergency childcare centers.
“We need all of our front-line workers on the job helping us to get through this emergency,” Murphy said. “A lack of child care cannot be a barrier for them or our response. While these workers commit themselves to our New Jersey family we will commit to protecting their families.”