Five more cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey

(Editor’s note: This story was edited and updated after Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency.)

New Jersey state officials announced on Monday that there are five more presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the state (bringing the total to 11), that 24 people are under investigation for the virus and that they expect the number to increase daily.

All of this was expected, state officials said.

“The fact that we are continuing to see additional cases is concerning, but it is not unexpected,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “It follows the trend that we are seeing around the rest of the country and the world.”

Persichilli was speaking at the state’s daily update on the virus in New Jersey. She said the outbreak of the virus is being watched.

“We have 11 cases, primarily in the North, very few in the South, but they are beginning,” she said. “So, we keep an eye on that. I think probably this week we might have some stronger recommendations on mitigation as we see things come out.”

(Later Monday afternoon, Gov. Murphy declared a state of emergency.)

Bergen County executive Jim Tedesco, who attended the press briefing said his county is going to take additional measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. With five cases, Bergen County has thus far been hit the hardest.

“Today I’ve instructed my administration to start to put into place a plan for mitigation,” he said. “Mitigation is an effort to reduce the loss of life and rapid spread of the virus by lessening the impact of the coronavirus disease. In order for the mitigation to be effective, we need to take action now, before the outbreak becomes a health crisis, to reduce human consequences. Part of the mitigation process is to analyze the risk, reduce the risk, ensuring against risk.”

Tedesco did not specify what additional steps may be taken. Possible steps include recommendations to businesses on work-from-home policies, to schools and day care centers to close and to elder-care centers to limit or stop visitors to the locations.

The cases in New Jersey still dwarf those of New York state (more than 150) and New York City (16). Included in the totals are Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton as well as a 7-year-old.

Those diagnosed in New Jersey continue to be older.

Persichilli gave details of the five latest patients to be presumptive for the virus. She did not have the gender of any of them, but provided the following details:

  • Age 18. Clifton (Passaic County). Symptoms started on March 6. Patient is not hospitalized.
  • Age 48. Berkeley Heights Township (Union County). Symptoms started March 1. At Overlook Medical Center.
  • Age 27. Little Silver (Monmouth County). Symptoms started Feb. 28. Patient is not hospitalized.
  • Age 83. Hazlet (Monmouth County). Symptoms started March 3. At Bayshore Medical Center.
  • Age 30. Teaneck (Bergen County). Symptoms started March 3. At Holy Name Medical Center.

Persichilli said more cases are almost a certainty.

Persichilli talked about the potential for growth of the outbreak.

“If we start seeing outbreaks in all 21 counties, if we see exponential increases over time in those counties, we may say this is a statewide effort,” she said. “But we don’t see that yet. We do expect more cases. I don’t want to sugarcoat that, at all. But we also know that if people protect themselves.

“We have to emphasize good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette. If you’re sick, stay home. And if you’re sitting next to someone who is coughing and appears sick and doesn’t have their own self-wisdom to stay home, you get away from them. I just need to emphasize that. It’s like the flu. It’s like any other respiratory droplet disease.”

The state released a number of ways residents can get more information, indicating phone lines and emails are being monitored 24/7.

Phone (in-state): 800 222-1222
Phone (out-of-state): 800-962-1253