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New Jersey Public Health Emergency Extended 30 Days

Gov. Phil Murphy extended the New Jersey’s public health emergency due to the coronavirus another month as officials continue to see key data metrics moving in a positive direction.

The executive order extends the Public Health Emergency declared on March 9 a second time under the Emergency Health Powers Act. The order is needed as a declared public health emergency expires after 30 days unless renewed. 

“Extending this declaration ensures that we can continue using every resource at our disposal to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Murphy. “I want to make it absolutely clear that this action does not mean that we are seeing anything in the data which would pause our path forward, and it should not be interpreted by anyone to mean we are going to be tightening any of the restrictions currently in place.” 

State Authority

The order is not meant to be seen as extending stay-at-home orders for another month, but as a means to give the state authority to battle the virus, said the governor.

“This ensures we will continue on our current war footing for the coming month,” Murphy said. “The conditions underpinning this declaration have not changed.”

Social distancing and wearing a face mask in public where elements the first-term Democratic governor stressed must be adhered to keep the state on the path back to easing restrictions, noting the overwhelming success officials reported in reopening park and golf courses this first weekend of May. 

Right Direction

The “data leading to dates” metrics government officials are monitoring continue to point in the right direction. Among those noted at the daily press update, the culminated infection rate of those tested is down about four percentage points in a month to 39%, the percent of ICU patients on ventilators is at 79% from a high in early April of 97% and hospitalizations rates have been in a steady decline since a high of 8,293 April 14.  

“All of these numbers are pointing us in the right direction. And, while they are positive, they still mean that thousands of our fellow New Jerseyans are still in the hospital battling COVID-19,” Murphy said. “This is why I needed to extend the public health emergency. We’re seeing good signs, but we cannot lull ourselves into thinking that all is well.”

As of May 6, the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 131,890 with 1,513 new cases and 208 new deaths, bringing that total to 8,549. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,349, followed by Bergen with 1,289, Hudson at 903, Passaic at 690, Morris at 491, Sussex at 122 and Warren with 94.

State Testing

The state has processed 257,587 coronavirus tests of mostly symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 39% testing positive for COVID-19. The state estimates between 9,000-11,000 tests are processed a day with results returning in about a week.

Officials reported 5,221 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 439 new hospitalizations—while 435 patients were discharged. The north tier had 2,738 patients hospitalized, the central 1,606 and the south 877.

There are currently 35 patients in field hospitals, with 409 treated overall. Of those hospitalized, 1,549 are in intensive care units and 1,146 on ventilators. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen still has the most cumulative cases in the state with 16,520, followed by Hudson at 16,197, Essex at 14,951, Passaic at 13,971, Union at 13,604, Middlesex at 13,254, Ocean at 7,125, Monmouth at 6,552, Morris at 5,655, Mercer at 4,860, Camden at 4,307, Somerset at 3,860, Burlington at 3,235, Gloucester at 1,499, Atlantic at 1,246, Cumberland at 1,059, Sussex at 995, Warren at 993, Hunterdon at 682, Cape May at 378 and Salem at 353.

Another 594 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

The amount of days it takes for a county to double its cases in all 21 counties continue to trend up, although cases in the South are doubling at a faster pace than the rest of the state. In North Jersey, it has taken more than 30 days to double in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Esex, Sussex, Passaic, Warren and Morris counties.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 53% white, 20% black, 17% hispanic, 5% Asian and 5% another race. For 40,309 hospitalizations that were tracked, the breakdown was 36% white, 20% black, 18% hispanic, 5% Asian and 11% another race. 

Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state and vowed that any plan to reopen the state will work to reduce racial inequities in healthcare. The governor recently signed legislation mandating hospitals report age, gender, ethnicity and race of people who have tested COVID-19 positive or died from the virus.

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 59% had cardiovascular disease, 43% diabetes, 32% other chronic diseases, 17% neurological conditions, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for 7,223 confirmed deaths shows 43% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 35% in the range of 65-80, 15% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 512 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 23,345 of the cases and 4,261 of the total deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 3,927 residents test positive with 725 total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 2,102 residents test positive with 475 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,501 residents test positive with 357 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,243 residents test positive with 252 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 971 residents test positive with 184 total deaths, Warren’s seven facilities had 443 residents test positive with 73 total deaths and Sussex’s five facilities had 332 residents test positive with 84 total deaths. 

Outside Review

After promising to fix how long-term care facilities operate the day before, Murphy announced the hiring of Cindy Mann and Carole Raphael to review New Jersey’s long-term care facilities, tacked with going over safety procedures, care practices and outbreak protocols throughout the state.

Mann is a 30-year expert in health policy who was a deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, while Raphael is the former CEO/President of Visiting Nurse Service of New York as well as an AARP Board Chair.

Murphy said the two will conduct a two-to-three week review to address immediate concerns related to protecting long-term care facility residents and staff, provide immediate support to the state’s Department of Health and make long-term, systemic reform recommendations.

Huttle Support

These recommendations will guide how long-term care facilities can safely reopen for residents and staff after the current COVID-19 outbreak and address mitigation, protection, and resiliency against future outbreaks. The Department of Health will continue implementing protocols, inspections, and testing at all long-term care facilities while this review takes place.

“We have an obligation to those living and working in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities to conduct a thorough and immediate review in response to this unprecedented crisis,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, chair of the Assembly’s Aging and Senior Services Committee. “At the same time, consulting a team of national experts will help us develop forward-looking solutions to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.”

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