COVID-19 death toll in N.J. now tops total from 9/11

Gov. Phil Murphy announced there were 4,331 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 34,124. Murphy also announced 200 more fatalities, bringing that total to 846. Murphy said the fatality total is now higher than the number of lives the state lost in 9/11.

“Let me put this in a proper, yet very sobering context: We have now lost nearly 100 more of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19 than we did in the Sept. 11 attacks,” he said. “Let’s let that sink in for just a moment.

“This pandemic is writing one of the greatest tragedies in our state’s history. And, just as we have committed to never forgetting those lost on 9/11, we must commit to never forgetting those we are losing to this pandemic.”

Most of the newly reported fatalities were from three counties: Bergen (47), Essex (37) and Ocean (21).

And the northern counties had the majority of new cases: Bergen (607), Hudson (494), Passaic (489) and Essex (409). Middlesex, with 400, was the only other county to reach that total.

Here are other notes from the briefing:

No stay-cations allowed

Murphy said State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan will sign an administrative order giving municipalities or counties the ability to prohibit all rentals to transient guests or seasonal tenants for the duration of this emergency, including at hotels and motels.

“We have heard too many stories, especially from our Shore communities, of people trying to relocate, for the time being, into their towns from impacted areas,” he said. “This is not how social distancing works.

“No one should be leaving their primary residences, and especially for the Shore communities that do not have the infrastructure in place to accommodate an offseason influx of residents.”

Long-term care facility notification

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said all long-term care facilities have been put on notice that they must notify all residents and staff members — in person and in writing — if there is a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

More than 100 such facilities have a case, but Persichilli said she has received numerous complaints that families cannot get information.

Persichilli said the state has held off naming specific facilities that have at least one case, but said that patience has run out. She announced the state will release the names of all those facilities if those facilities have not done so properly by close of business Monday.

“Because of the incidents of disease and the spread that we’re seeing, we’re encouraging long-term care, assisted living, all residences to carry out their obligation and develop a more open and trustful and transparent relationship with their residents and their families,” she said. “We’re giving them a chance to do that.”

Hospital numbers

Persichill said there are more than 4,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in hospitals around the state. More so, there are more than 2,000 PUIs, or persons under investigation, that are awaiting test results.

Of the hospitalized, 1,494 are in critical care — and 1,263 of those are on ventilators.

On Friday, nine hospitals went on divert — meaning they could not accept new patients. Most of those were caused by staff shortages.

Staying apart during holiday season 

Murphy said the need for sacrifice — and social distancing — must remain, even during one of the most religious times of the year.

“I thank the leaders across all our faith communities who are coming together to help meet the spiritual needs of their congregations while also ensuring the social distancing that is so critical to flattening the curve and getting us through this emergency,” he said.

“Especially in this season, when Easter, Passover and Ramadan, among so many other celebrations and festivals, are fast approaching. Our desire is to come together — that’s only natural — but our need is to find a way to observe and celebrate separately.”

More PPEs

Murphy said state will benefit from recent breakup of a Personal Protective Equipment hoarding situation in Brooklyn — and thanked U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito and Newark FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Greg Ehrie for their efforts in seeing that the state’s front-line workers get this gear.

“We will be receiving more than 70,000 N95 masks and 5,000 gloves, among other PPE, from this seizure,” he said.

Final word

“This is complete B.S.” — Murphy on social media posts that the government is getting to ready to use the National Guard and military to lock down the country. Murphy said it’s the work of a foreign actor, trying to cause panic.

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