COVID-19: New Jersey death toll now exceeds state’s 9/11 casualties, Murphy says
By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey reported 4,331 new positive cases as of Saturday, April 4, bringing the overall total to 34,124. There have been 200 additional deaths, bringing the total death toll to 846.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that the numbers mean that more New Jersey residents have died from COVID-19 than died on 9/11.
Bergen County reported the highest number of new cases: 607, followed by Hudson with 494, Passaic with 489, Essex with 409, and Middlesex with 400.
According to the state, Essex County now has 3,584 cases, the second highest rate after Bergen County’s 5,760 total cases. Essex County has also experienced 155 deaths, behind Bergen’s 179.
Of the new deaths, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, 61 percent are male and 39 percent are female. Forty-six percent of the new deaths were in people 80 years of age and older. Nine percent of the deaths involved people who were in long-term care facilities.
As of Saturday evening, Montclair has 155 recorded cases of COVID-19, according to township health officials. Eighteen people have died.
Fairfield and South Orange are the only municipalities in Essex County that have not yet had a reported death from COVID-19.
In Essex County, both County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and Sheriff Armando Fontoura have tested positive for COVID-19.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill announced Saturday that she would be getting tested after showing symptoms, and consulting with her physician. Sherrill’s husband tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is that we all follow the recommendations of the CDC and the ‘stay at home’ order that is in place. The road ahead for New Jersey is going to be a hard one, so now more than ever, we must take care of each other and work together so that we can end this crisis,” Sherrill said in a statement released by her office.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised residents to wear cloth masks or coverings when going out into a community setting. Residents are urged not to buy surgical masks or N95s, as these are in short supply for health care workers.
Persichilli said nine hospitals in northern New Jersey went on divert status last night, due to staff shortages and a shortage of critical care beds.
Some comparisons were made between the COVID-19 outbreak and the 1918 influenza epidemic. Murphy said that the communities that were spared the worst tolls in 1918 did so because they took aggressive measures to limit public interaction. On the bad side, Murphy said, people travel a lot more than they did in 1918, but on the positive side, there is technology available that wasn’t available in 1918.
Persichilli said that her grandmother, a New Brunswick resident, died in the 1918 epidemic.
Both Murphy and Persichilli said that at the end of the outbreak, there will be a “post-mortem” on the state’s response to the outbreak, what was done well and what should be done differently, and the action plan that will be needed to help the state recover. “We’re going to do our own post-mortem on how we were prepared, how were we not prepared,” Murphy said.
Long-term care facilities have until Monday to confirm that they are complying with the state’s order to put together an effective communications plan with residents and their families. If they do not comply, the names of those facilities will be released to the public.
Rob Asaro-Angelo, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said 362,000 people have applied for unemployment benefits over the past two weeks. There was a 1,600 percent increase in calls to the department during the first week of the outbreak, and Asaro-Angelo said website visits went up “exponentially.”
Asaro-Angelo acknowledged the frustration and worry that many applicants were feeling. “There’s nothing I want more than to put your hard-earned benefits into your family’s budget,” Asaro-Angelo said.
He said the department was doing what it could to expedite the claims process, including adding additional phone lines, training additional staff, and having its website upgraded.
Everyone who is eligible for unemployment will receive full benefits, no matter when their claim gets processed, he said.
State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said that police had broken up some gatherings, including a youth basketball game in Raritan. Additionally, when police in Freehold responded to a domestic violence report, the suspect spat on police. Police in Newark issued 120 summonses and closed seven businesses.
“The knucklehead hall of shame just astounds me, with what that guy did in Monmouth,” Murphy said, referring to the domestic violence incident.
Callahan said he was issuing an administrative order that would let municipalities bar transient guests and seasonal tenants, including at hotels and motels. The order comes as several towns, particularly along the Jersey Shore, raise concerns about families heading for vacation homes in order to try to avoid the outbreak.
Murphy had spoken earlier with Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese of Newark, and said that the archbishop had affirmed the need for everyone to stay at home. Murphy thanked all of the state’s religious leaders of every faith for coming together to aid their congregations and the larger community.
“And I know that this is not easy for anyone, especially Catholics around the state, as tomorrow marks the beginning of Holy Week,” Murphy said. The next day, April 5, was Palm Sunday.
Additionally, Passover will start on Wednesday, and Ramadan will begin on April 23. It is a time of many significant festivals, Murphy said. “But our need, and our mandate, is to find a way to celebrate separately.”