Death of First Child in New Jersey Announced; State to Expand FEMA Testing

As New Jersey begins to set the stage for expanded coronavirus testing, the first death of a child in New Jersey was announced May 8 by New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. 

“Unfathomable,” said Gov. Phil Murphy upon the announcement.  

Persichilli said the child was four years old. Besides stating the deceased had underlying health conditions, officials would not elaborate further. 

FEMA Testing

The disclosure cast a pall over Murphy’s announcement that testing of asymptomatic residents would begin at FEMA’s two New Jersey sites—Bergen Community College in Paramus and PNC Arts Center in Holmdel.

Testing at both sites, in addition to continuing for symptomatic residents, will be prioritized for asymptomatic healthcare workers and first responders, personnel in congregate living settings, and New Jersey residents who have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Key to Road Back

“Expanded access to testing is one of our key principles for getting New Jersey on the road back to restart and recovery,” said Murphy. 

State officials asked asymptomatic individuals to contact a healthcare provider before seeking testing.

The expansion at the FEMA sites comes as Murphy expressed confidence the plans for testing and contact tracing that are two of the benchmarks in his Road Back plan for the state would be forthcoming the week of May 11.

Meadowlands Stand-Down

In another sign Murphy said the state is moving in the right direction in its war with the coronavirus, the FEMA Field Medical Station at the Meadowlands Expo Center will stand-down over the weekend. Its operations will transfer to the East Orange General Hospital site, with supplies reverting back to the state’s Office of Emergency Management.

“It is a sign that the work we all have been doing so far to slow the spread of COVID-19, and to reduce the numbers of patients in our hospitals, are working,” stated the governor.

The field hospital was erected to handle the surge at hospitals in the north tier of the state. The first-term Democratic governor said that the closing down of operations should not preclude anybody from thinking issues at hospitals have abated.

Hospitals Still Stressed

“(I) cannot overstate this enough: Our hospital systems are still dealing with far more patients than they would be otherwise in any other year,” Murphy noted. “The stress on our health care system, while certainly lessening, is still there.”

As of May 8, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 135,454 with 1,985 new cases and 162 new deaths, bringing that total to 8,952. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,398, followed by Bergen with 1,329, Hudson at 940, Passaic at 715, Morris at 506, Sussex at 125 and Warren with 101.

State Testing

The state has processed 267,373 coronavirus tests of mostly symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 39% testing positive for COVID-19. Murphy noted that the percentage was the lowest since the state began tracking. The state estimates between 9,000-11,000 tests are processed a day with results returning in about a week.

Murphy showcased a new chart revealing the daily rate of infections from those tested has been in steady decline and currently rests at 28%.

Officials reported 4,605 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 334 new hospitalizations—while 464 patients were discharged. The north tier had 2,288 patients hospitalized, the central 1,509 and the south 808, all down from the day before.

Officials broke down by tier the daily discharge and new hospitalizations. For May 8, the north reported 154 new hospitalizations and 211 discharges, the central 113 hospitalizations and 138 hospitalizations, and the south 67 hospitalizations and 115 discharges.   

Of those hospitalized, 1,439 are in intensive care units and 1,089 on ventilators. There are currently 33 patients in field hospitals, with 417 treated overall. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen still has the most cumulative cases in the state with 16,709, followed by Hudson at 16,3520, Essex at 15,256, Passaic at 14,280, Union at 13,917, Middlesex at 13,617, Ocean at 7,277, Monmouth at 6,752, Morris at 5,767, Mercer at 5,111, Camden at 4,619, Somerset at 3,968, Burlington at 3,431, Gloucester at 1,593, Atlantic at 1,423, Cumberland at 1,124, Warren at 1,034, Sussex at 1,015,  Hunterdon at 701, Cape May at 424 and Salem at 363.

Another 533 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, according to Murphy. 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, 19% black, 18% 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. 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 514 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 25,254 of the cases and 4,619 of the total deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 4,099 residents test positive with 793 total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 2,437 residents test positive with 507 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,614 residents test positive with 389 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,384 residents test positive with 275 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 1,071 residents test positive with 175 total deaths, Warren’s seven facilities had 456 residents test positive with 83 total deaths and Sussex’s five facilities had 333 residents test positive with 97 total deaths. 

Advisory Council Named

As the state begins on the road to reopen, Murphy has set up an advisory council he considers “the boots on the ground” for his Restart and Recovery Commission.

The Governor’s Restart and Recovery Advisory Council will consist of nine committees tasked with gathering local intelligence on restarting local economies and creating the framework for new long-term economic realities. The council, co-chaired by Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis, NJ Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan and Choose New Jersey President and CEO Jose Lozano, will be made up of industry, community and faith-based groups and institutions leaders from across the state.

Nine Committees

“We understand we need a smart and granular approach to recovery,” said Murphy. “Reopening the restaurants and boardwalk shops down the Shore is far different from restarting retail in downtown Morristown.”

The council’s nine committees are divided into facilities and construction; government; healthcare; main street; manufacturing and supply chain; professional services; social services and faith; tourism and entertainment; and transportation and infrastructure.

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