FEMA Decision Hampers New Jersey Schools Ability to Buy PPE, Cleaning Supplies for COVID-19 Protection

A key issue for schools in deciding to offer in-person has been the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies needed to properly enable a safe learning environment for students and work area for teachers.

Efforts to get these needed supplies was dealt with a serious blow when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will no longer provide emergency reimbursement for school systems and local governments for cloth masks used in schools, disinfection services for schools and other public facilities, thermometers, physical barriers, or PPE for teachers, medical staff, and other public workers.

Additionally, FEMA will now limit funding for the storage of a stockpile of PPE to up to sixty days from the date of purchase.

House Delegation Letter

All but one member of the New Jersey House delegation is looking to have that policy changed.

According to FEMA, the interim policy going into effect Sept. 15 will limit reimbursement only to certain emergency protective measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we anticipate a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall, we urge you to reverse this harmful policy,” the Members wrote in a letter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor. “As many students and teachers across our state and our country head back to school, FEMA’s policy will likely make it harder for state and local governments. This will hamstring efforts to slow the spread of the virus and prolong this pandemic.”

Those in the delegation signing the letter included Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Albio Sires, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne, Jr. and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) as well as Donald Norcross, Andy Kim, Chris Smith, Frank Pallone, Tom Malinowski  and Bonnie Watson Coleman. Rep. Jeff Van Drew was the only member of the New Jersey delegation not to sign the letter. 

Case for Federal Aid

For Gov. Phil Murphy, it just showed again that more federal aid is needed so the states can handle the issue through the state’s Office of Emergency Management. 

Said Murphy, “There is a broad consensus in the Democratic side of the aisle that we are overwhelmingly in need of more federal support. We are meaningfully short and that need to get corrected sooner rather than later.” 

Daily Data

As of Sept. 14, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 196,968 with 346 new cases and three new deaths, bringing that total to 14,245. The state probable death count increased to 1,789, bringing the overall total to 16,034.

State officials noted 14 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,894, followed by Bergen at 1,799, Hudson with 1,352, Passaic at 1,106, Morris at 686, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 243, Essex has 229, Hudson has 160, Morris at 145, Passaic at 143, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Sept. 10 was 1.8%. By region, the north has a rate of 1.4%, central at 1.9% and the south at 2.8%. 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. 

As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.06 from the previous day’s 1.08. 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 420 patients are hospitalized, with 216 confirmed and 214 awaiting confirmation. Of those hospitalized, 91 are in intensive care units and 41 on ventilators, while 28 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 21,995, followed by Essex at 20,669, Hudson at 20,385, Middlesex at 18,870, Passaic at 18,673, Union at 17,324, Ocean at 11,774, Monmouth at 11,217, Camden at 9,506, Mercer at 8,498, Morris at 7,647, Burlington at 6,747, Somerset at 5,575, Gloucester at 4,082, Atlantic at 3,895, Cumberland at 3,698, Sussex at 1,428, Warren at 1,424, Hunterdon at 1,264, Salem at 1,016 and Cape May at 986.

Another 313 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

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. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for confirmed deaths shows 48% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 31% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 159 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 8,015 of the cases, broken down between 4,997 residents and 3,018 staff. 

Cumulatively, 688 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,960 residents and 13,441 staff, for a total of 38,401 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,132 on Sept. 14. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,752 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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