COVID-19: Cases climb in Essex, with two deaths reported
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Twelve more Essex County cases of COVID-19 were announced Wednesday, March 18, as the number of statewide cases nearly doubled overnight. And two Essex County residents have died from the virus, according to a release sent out by Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. this afternoon.
State officials announced Wednesday that 162 residents have tested positive, bringing the state’s total to 427. Essex County has now reported 45 cases, the second-highest total in New Jersey, behind Bergen County’s 114.
"This news really hits home about the devastating impact the virus can have on the well-being of our residents and community. This is why the dramatic steps we have taken to close our parks and reduce contact visits at our offices are so important. These measures promote social distancing that can help slow the spread of the virus,” said DiVincenzo in his statement.
Four Montclair residents had tested positive for COVID-19 as of yesterday, March 17. Montclair health officials did not respond to email asking if any more Montclair residents have tested positive for the virus today.
Three additional deaths were announced Wednesday, bringing the total of deaths due to complications from COVID-19 to six. Two other deaths were residents from Bergen County, one from Monmouth and one in Hudson. Officials did not have their hometowns for the newest deaths in Essex. All were over the age of 60, said state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
In an effort to implement social distancing, earlier in the week Gov. Phil Murphy closed down all restaurants, malls and schools and instituted a 8 p.m travel restriction. Restaurants are now open for take-out only.
He thanked the clergy for their help in getting information about the virus and state mandates out to their congregations and also for shutting down so many services that draw 50 or more people.
As the number of cases grows, Persichilli said, the state has identified 260 more acute beds, with 199 in North Jersey, 11 in Central and 50 in the south. The state plans to reopen Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, which could provide 300 more beds. They are also looking into using closed school dorms and even buildings that are newly constructed but not being used.
After mandating the canceling of events with 50 people or more earlier in the week, Gov. Phil Murphy said they were concerned with events that could “go underground.” And he said that funerals, religious rights of passage, birthdays and anniversaries with 50 people or more should be canceled.
“We will aggressively enforce this,” Murphy said, adding that any place where groups gather is where COVID spreads.
Just last night Lakewood Police broke up two weddings being held at banquet halls there, according to NJ.com.
The shutdown of so many businesses has left thousands without jobs, with 15,000 applications filed as of Tuesday. Lt Gov. Sheila Oliver reminded residents to go to the state portal to apply for benefits.
The four known cases in Montclair as of Tuesday include a 73-year-old woman who tested positive yesterday, a 66-year-old Montclair State University employee who tested positive on Thursday, March 12, a 60-year-old man and a 77-year-old woman who tested positive on Friday, March 13. All were treated at Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Hospital.
Murphy also urged people to continue the social distancing, noting that people could be asymptomatic but still carry the virus.
“You could visit a loved one, grandparent, a coach and pass it along,” he said.