Saying he was proud to sign legislation to borrow funds due to a budget deficit arising from the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Phil Murphy responded to criticism about his plan.
“Our successful recovery from this pandemic requires us to look and lean forward. We cannot be pushed backward,” said Murphy at a press briefing July 17. “Absence this step, I have yet to hear one idea from its opponent on how to move us forward.”
“We don’t need a return to the old way of doing things.”
The governor noted several budget accomplishments that preceded the COVID-19, including record-high surpluses, record-low reliance on one-shots, and made the first deposit in a decade into the Rainy Day Fund, but said “but today it is pouring.”
The administration now has the full authority to borrow essential funds to secure the core services New Jersey residents rely upon as we emerge from this pandemic, with Murphy saying the borrowing would allow for flexibility and creativity that is needed to meet the budget crisis.
“The brutal reality we face is that cuts simply will not be enough given the storm that is raging around us. We simply can’t cut our way out of this,” he said.
Murphy listed the priorities where the money will be used, including property tax relief for seniors and middle-class families, school funding, social services for the most vulnerable and those in underserved communities.
“We need to make New Jersey the state where everyone can thrive,” said the first-term Democratic governor.
Under the law, the state can issue bonds totaling $2.7 billion for the remainder of the extended Fiscal Year 2020, which runs through Sept. 30, and up to an additional $7.2 billion for the nine-month Fiscal Year 2021 that runs from Oct. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
Murphy stressed that the state plans to borrow only what is necessary to speed New Jersey’s recovery from the unparalleled recession and that is still need federal aid.
Additionally, the law establishes the Select Commission on Emergency COVID-19 Borrowing, composed of two members of the Senate selected by the Senate President and two members of the Assembly selected by the Speaker of the General Assembly, which must approve any proposal to issue bonds prior to their issuance.
“The current economic crisis is virtually unprecedented in both its severity and swiftness,” said Murphy in a press statement. “Our unemployment numbers and drop in revenue have both far outpaced the worst months of the Great Recession so while we see this bill as an important step, our ultimate recovery will depend on a number of factors including additional federal aid and savings within state government.”
As of July 17, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 176,551 with 202 new cases and 20 new deaths, bringing that total to 13,710. The state probable death count remained at 1,947, bringing the overall total to 15,684.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted deaths of the 22 deaths reported, seven of the deaths occurred in the last five days.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,837, followed by Bergen at 1,765, Hudson with 1,312, Passaic at 1,076, Morris at 669, Sussex at 158 and Warren with 154.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 268, Essex has 255, Hudson has 185, Passaic 158, Morris 157, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 17.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of July 13 was 1.7%,. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. By region, the north tested at 1.4%, the central at 1.4% and the south 3.0%.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.11, compared with July 16’s 1.0. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 844 patients are hospitalized, with 397 confirmed cases and 447 patients under investigation for having coronavirus. The north tier had 387 patients hospitalized, the central 261 and the south 220.
Of those hospitalized, 139 are in intensive care units and 65 on ventilators, while 80 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 19,966, followed by Hudson at 19,246, Essex at 19,111,Middlesex at 17,162, Passaic at 17,154, Union at 16,540, Ocean at 9,917, Monmouth at 9,636, Mercer at 7,828, Camden at 7,791, Morris at 6,937, Burlington at 5,419, Somerset at 5,061, Atlantic at 3,087, Cumberland at 3,074, Gloucester at 2,808, Warren at 1,272, Sussex at 1,240, Hunterdon at 1,099, Salem at 824 and Cape May at 749.
Another 630 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state.
In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 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 confirmed deaths shows 47% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 33% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49.
State officials are tracking cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children who in turn test positive for COVID-19. No new cases were reported July 17, with the total remaining at 53 cumulative cases for children ranging in age from 1-18. All have tested positive for COVID-19 or have antibodies in their blood. Two are currently hospitalized. No deaths have been reported from the disease.
Persichilli stated “Black and Hispanic children account for a disproportionately high number” on a national scale. While only a small sample, Persichilli reported the racial breakdown in New Jersey was 39% Hispanic, 34% Black, 16% White, 7% Asian and 5% other.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted currently 419 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 30,938 of the cases, broken down between 20,302 residents and 10,636 staff.
Cumulatively, 571 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,511 residents and 12,657 staff, for a total of 37,168 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 6,805 on July 17. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,643 residents deaths and 120 staff deaths.