Gov. Phil Murphy to Unveil Opening Guidelines This Week

“Personal health creates economic health.”

That is a mantra Gov. Phil Murphy used repeatedly at the daily coronavirus briefing April 20 when the subject about reopening the state was broached. And according to state officials, the trend of personal health is moving in the right direction.

“We are not claiming victory, but we are making progress,” the governor said. “It can’t be the other way around. It has to happen in that order.”

Stability Achieved

“We have achieved relative stability,” said Murphy as he trumpeted the numbers on hospitalizations declining. “The data helps inform our decisions as we look to a re-opening strategy.”

The first-term Democratic promised he will unveil “guidelines” and “principles” this week that the state will use when it comes time to reopen the state. But he stressed any decision would be data and science driven that puts the health of citizens first.

“This is a two-part scenario—securing the public health situation so you can have confidence as you get back as we reopen our economy,” stated Murphy. “Right now, that confidence does not exist.”

Data-driven Plan

Murphy did state that any plan he enacts will less be date driven and more on the availability of testing in the state. 

The governor stressed one guidepost that will be instrumental is the state’s ability to double the amount of testing it can offer—it currently performs 15,000 to 20,000 tests a day.   

Another key element would be the turnaround of tests. Currently, it takes between five-to-seven days; Murphy wants results to come back within 24 hours to enable health officials to perform contact tracing and prevent spread in cases of positive COVID-19 tests. 

Federal Help

Murphy said he has relayed these benchmarks in conversations with both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The Trump administration has said that testing is a state concern in which the states will have to obtain the test and the materials needed for the tests. 

The governor pushed back on that approach, saying the federal government will be needed to develop the healthcare infrastructure that Murphy believes the country needs to have robust testing.

Cases Just Under 89K

The current healthcare infrastructure on April 20 showed the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reaching 88,806 with 3,528 new cases and 177 new deaths, bringing that total to 4,377. 

Of the total deaths, Bergen had the most of any county with 787, while other North Jersey county totals include Essex at 751, Hudson at 492, Morris at 269, Passaic at 263, Sussex at 64 and Warren with 47.

State officials said 57% of those dead are male and 43% female. The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 55% white, 22% black, 17% hispanic, 5% Asian and 5% another race. Murphy noted deaths in the black community were running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 61% had cardiovascular disease, 39% diabetes, 30% chronic diseases, 21% chronic lung diseases, 15% neurological conditions, 11% cancer and 11% other. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

Bergen Cases Reach 13K

Bergen is still the primary hot spot in the state with 13,011 total cases, followed by Hudson at  11,150, Essex at 10,729, Union at 9,972, Passaic at 8,479, Middlesex at 8,346, Ocean at 4,868, Monmouth at 4,787, Morris at 4,236, Mercer at 2,591, Somerset at 2,488, Camden at 2,255, Burlington at 1,663, Gloucester at 770, Sussex at 680, Warren at 613, Hunterdon at 419, Atlantic at 410, Cumberland at 338, Cape May at 212 and Salem at 120. 

There are another 660 cases and one death under investigation to determine where the person resides. 

Long-term Care Facilities

The state reported 425 long-term care facilities have at least one case of COVID-19. In a county breakdown, Bergen’s 56 facilities had 2,197 residents test positive with 431 total deaths, Essex’s 40 facilities had 1,106 residents test positive with 225 total deaths, Hudson’s 12 facilities had 396 residents test positive with 69 total deaths, Morris’s 36 facilities had 865 residents test positive with 156 total deaths, Passaic’s 19 facilities had 524 residents test positive with 91 total deaths, Sussex’s five facilities had 185 residents test positive with 49 total deaths, and Warren’s six facilities had 191 residents test positive with 27 total deaths. 

The state has processed 161,714 coronavirus tests of symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 45% testing positive for COVID-19. The state estimates between 7,000-9,000 tests are processed a day with test results returning in about a week.

Officials reported 6,986 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus and 583 discharged on April 19; a total of about 11,000 patients have been discharged since March 31. There are currently 74 patients in field hospitals. Of those hospitalized, 2,018 are in intensive care units and 1,594 are on ventilators. 

Downward Trend

Murphy said the number of newly hospitalized patients moving on a “downward trend….is one of our most-important positive indicators” for officials in determining if the procedures they have enacted are working. For April 20, hospitalizations were down 5% from the previous day.

“It means that our healthcare system is in a better position to get ahead and stay ahead,” proclaimed the governor. “It means that our social distancing efforts are working.”

Doubling Grows

Another positive indicator for the state was the amount of days it takes for a county to double its cases as all 21 counties in the state are now taking at least a week. The hardest hit county, Bergen is at a rate of 20 days to double, followed by Sussex at 18, Morris at 19, Hudson and Essex counties both at 15.5, Warren at 13 and Passaic at 14.

Murphy noted “just a few weeks ago, in some areas of the state cases were doubling in a matter of days.” 

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