President Donald Trump signed a declaration naming New Jersey a disaster area eligible for additional funding.
New claims for unemployment soared in New Jersey last week, an indication of how deeply shutdowns related to the coronavirus are cutting into the workforce and the economy.
And the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark has issued new guidelines banning most church events.
More on the latest developments:
DEATH TOLL RISES
New Jersey's death toll from COVID-19 has nearly doubled in the past two days, rising to 81, Murphy said.
He said nearly 2,500 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to nearly 6,900.
"Sadly, the number of lost lives is going up," Murphy said. "The loss of every single one of these is why we need to do what we're doing. Coronavirus does not spread on its own; it spreads person to person."
JOBLESS CLAIMS SOAR
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that it received 155,815 new claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending March 21. That's an increase of over 1,500% from the prior week.
State officials said it is the largest spike they can recall. Initial claims exceeded 46,000 in a single week after Superstorm Sandy in November 2012, and shot up to over 25,000 for a week in July 2010, the low point of the last recession.
New Jersey has temporarily suspended a requirement that applicants look for other jobs. It also created a jobs portal — jobs.covid19.nj.gov — to match those who are looking for work with immediate openings in industries fighting the pandemic.
An extension of benefits beyond the currently allowable 26 weeks "is all but certain," according to the labor department.
NURSING HOME CASES
State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at least 43 of New Jersey's 375 long term care facilities have a case of the virus.
St. Joseph's in Woodbridge, where residents were moved this week to a facility in Whippany, has at least 24 cases, including five of its 78 staff members. Three residents there have died, and more residents and staff are symptomatic.
Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. It's FREE!
TESTING CENTER TWEAKS
Murphy said that Saturday, testing centers in Bergen County and at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel will only test health care workers and first responders who are showing symptoms of the disease. Starting April 4, only health care workers and first responders will be tested at the Holmdel site on Saturdays.
MEDICAL GLOVES FREED
More than 40 million medical-grade gloves that have been held at customs warehouses since last fall are going to be delivered to health care facilities.
Ansell, a company with a corporate hub in Iselin, New Jersey, said it had resolved a dispute over whether the gloves had been manufactured using forced labor in Malaysia.
"The release of this supply to health care facilities across the United States will be an immediate benefit to workers in dire need of proper PPE supplies," spokesman Tom Paolella said Thursday in an email.
The company credited U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey with helping resolve the dispute. Smith, a Republican who has been active in combating human trafficking and exploitation, became involved recently.
"Ansell makes a very credible case that they moved quickly to ensure that their supply chain was not complicit with forced labor and that problems raised by the U.S. government have been remedied," Smith spokesman Jeff Sagnip said.