State nearing (really good) milestone on COVID-19 cases

Mike Karras/Gannett (pool) Gov. Phil Murphy at Saturday's COVID-19 briefing.

The number of New Jerseyans in critical or intensive care is dropping closer to 1,000 — a mark that state has not been under since it began releasing the statistic during the COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Twitter on Sunday that the state is down to 1,030 such patients. The statistic continues a remarkable drop in patients.

Last Monday, 1,306 patients were in intensive or critical care — a drop from the week before, as 1,542 patients were listed as such May 14. The state high came April 13, when 2,080 patients were so categorized. That was part of a seven-day stretch when the state topped 2,000 patients.

At one point, the state said it felt it needed 2,500 ventilators — and began the process of learning how to have two people share a machine in case such a time was needed.

The number of patients in intensive/critical care is just one of numerous data points showing that COVID-19 is decreasing in the state.

As of Sunday, there were 819 patients on ventilators — the ninth straight day the state has been under 1,000. There were 1,705 patients on ventilators April 14.

And there were 3,411 hospitalizations in the state — the fifth consecutive day the state has been under 4,000. There were 8,084 hospitalizations as of April 14. Hospitalizations are down 76% since that peak and 55% since May 1.

Murphy announced there were 1,272 new cases Sunday and 1,239 Saturday — bringing the overall state total to 145,089.

There also were 222 additional deaths announced over the weekend, bringing the state total to 10,356.

Other notes from this weekend:

NJ Transit funding

Murphy said he was thrilled to see New Jersey Transit receive $1.4 billion in funding from the CARES Act — and that he’s looking for more.

The first round of funding can be used for operating expenses to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 crisis dating back to Jan. 20. NJ Transit can use these funds to reimburse operating costs to maintain service and lost revenue, the purchase of personal protective equipment and administrative leave of operations personnel due to a reduction in service. Other operating costs may also be eligible.

On May 12, Murphy said NJ Transit, together with other major transit agencies across the country, requested a second round of federal assistance.

In a letter to New Jersey’s congressional delegation, NJ Transit requested an additional $1.2 billion in federal relief funding to aid in filling a looming gap in its operating budget due to plummeting ridership and millions of dollars in additional expenses for fighting COVID-19.

Though ridership is down more than 90%, Murphy said NJ Transit has been a vital link in helping essential workers get to work during the crisis — and will be a key in the reopening.

“I cannot overstate how vital this funding is to ensure the safe, efficient operations of our mass transit system, as we begin to restart our economy and New Jerseyans return to work,” Murphy said in a statement.

Increased alcohol sales

Murphy signed legislation allowing bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to sell and deliver store-made mixed drinks or kits to go, provided they are in sealed containers.

He said it is a step toward helping a sector that has been crushed by COVID-19.

“New Jersey’s restaurant and hospitality industry, like so many other businesses, has suffered tremendous financial losses due to COVID-19,” he said in a statement. “Allowing business owners with certain licenses and permits to sell beverages directly to consumers is a creative way to alleviate some of their financial uncertainty.”

The final word

Murphy on the $3 trillion stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week but is unlikely to pass in the Senate:

Certainly, we are all realists here and we recognize that any final bill that reaches the president’s desk will not look exactly like the one the House passed last night, but the House bill contains absolutely necessary measures for our statewide recovery and our national recovery. And I speak directly to the inclusion of $1 trillion for state and local government assistance.”

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