NEW JERSEY - The death toll in New Jersey from COVID-19 rose to 140 by Saturday afternoon, Gov. Phil Murphy said at a press conference. The number of cases jumped to 11,124, up from nearly 9,000 on Friday.
Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said many of the positive tests are from people who were tested a week earlier, and may not yet indicate any effect from the stricter rules announced last weekend. the rules restricted social interactions and the closing of non-essential businesses.
Murphy also announced a 90-day mortgage payment grace period in New Jersey for borrowers under financial strain from the coronavirus outbreak. Murphy said he also expected any landlord receiving mortgage relief to provide similar relief to their tenants, and reminded tenants that they could not be kicked out of their homes during the current emergency.
Beginning Sunday, Murphy announced that the drive-thru centers — at Bergen County College in Paramus and the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel — will open at 8.am. on alternate days and provide up to 500 tests each day, roughly double what they each have been offering daily until now. A new drive-thru testing site will open on Monday at the County College of Morris in Randolph, by appointment for residents who have a referral from a health care provider.
Murphy said the state is continuing to accept all PPE donations, and encourages anyone looking to donate to visit covid19.nj.gov/ppedonations.
When asked about President Trump's consideration of a quarantine of New York and New Jersey, Murphy said that until further notification came, the state would continue to be as aggressive as they have been to enforce social distancing and flatten the curve in New Jersey.
HARD HIT HOSPITAL IMPROVISES AS CORONVIRUS CHALLENGES LOOM
A hospital that has been at the center of the COVID-19 outbreak response in New Jersey in recent weeks has been making do with ingenuity and improvisation, amid concerns that a further spike in cases could force more difficult choices.
Teaneck's Holy Name Medical Center is in Bergen County, which has recorded more than 1,500 cases, nearly twice as many as any of the state's other 20 counties. As of Friday, 108 patients were hospitalized with the virus and 13 had died, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The town of approximately 41,000 people asked residents to self-quarantine earlier this month, about a week before Gov. Phil Murphy announced restrictions on gatherings and ordered non-essential businesses closed.
The hospital has one 18-bed intensive care unit and currently has more than 30 patients on ventilators who require intensive care, Dr. Adam Jarrett, the hospital's chief medical officer, told The Associated Press. That has forced the hospital to convert other sections of the facility into auxiliary ICUs, including two additional spaces that were expected to be available in the next few days. Jarrett said the hospital is even considering converting conference room space if necessary.
“It's not so much that we’ve had surges; we've had a constant flow of patients that come in pretty sick and needing to be admitted, and a large percentage go from sick but stable to being critically ill and requiring ventilators,” he said. “It's like nothing I’ve ever seen, and I've been doing this for 30 years.”
The hospital has been able to maintain a supply of ventilators by buying or renting them or repurposing other machines such as anesthesia machines, Jarrett said. But that may not be sustainable in the long term. The state has requested more than 2,000 ventilators from the federal government's stockpile and is awaiting word.
“We've been very resourceful, but at some point the resourcefulness is not going to be able to handle the volume,” Jarrett said. The hospital has discussed putting more than one patient on a ventilator if there is a spike, a measure Jarrett said would be “inconceivable” in normal times.
Jarrett added that hospital CEO Michael Maron, who the hospital announced on March 20 had tested positive for COVID-19, was “doing great” and could return to work as soon as Monday.
With the Associated Press.