No one can be sure about how significant the second wave of COVID-19 will be in New Jersey. State officials feel they will be ready. Especially when it comes to personal protective equipment.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the state currently has 5.7 million N95 masks, with 1.6 million on order. There are 13.3 million surgical masks and 1.3 million face shields in hospitals, with 665,000 more on the way. Hospital gowns are at 3.7 million, with 1.5 million on order. Finally, there are 3.9 million gloves in rotation and 597 ventilators currently deployed statewide.
This, after the state has distributed more than 82 million pieces of PPE to health care workers across the state.
“We’ve used the past months to secure the vital PPE our essential workers and first responders need,” Murphy said during his COVID-19 briefing, still being held over Facebook Live due to the quarantining of the governor and first lady Tammy Murphy.
“We have been continuing with an aggressive program to source the PPE we will need to have a strong, three-month inventory supply in our own state strategic stockpile.”
Other notes from Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing:
Murphy reported 1,477 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 234,547 since the pandemic reached the state in March. Essex County continues to be a hotspot, representing 241 of the new cases reported Thursday. Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic and Union counties are not far behind, as all reported more than 100 new cases.
There have been eight additional deaths that have now been confirmed to be from COVID-related complications. This puts the statewide death total at 14,539, with 1,793 probable deaths. All eight new deaths reported occurred in the past 10 days. There have additionally been 16 deaths reported in hospitals across New Jersey, but they have not yet been confirmed.
Other hospital numbers:
- In hospital: 1,072 (846 confirmed cases, 226 under investigation);
- In ICU: 217;
- On ventilators: 79;
- Rate of transmission: 25;
- Positivity rate: 54% (from Oct. 25).
Latina Equal Pay Day
Murphy acknowledged Latina Equal Pay Day, a sobering reminder of wage discrepancy.
“Today is the day on the calendar when Latinas nationwide had finally earned enough through both 2019 and 2020 to equal the wages earned, on average, by their white male colleagues in similar jobs (in 2019),” Murphy said. “Twenty-two months to earn what others did in 12.”
Murphy said his administration is trying to help.
There have been two increases to the minimum wage since Jan. 1, 2019, when the minimum wage for most New Jersey employers was $8.85 per hour. The Murphy administration now puts the wage at $11 per hour. The wage is scheduled to increase by one dollar every year until getting to $15 in 2024.
“Here in New Jersey, we have enacted the nation’s strongest equal pay law,” he said. “For all women across our state, we are moving significantly to eradicating the wage disparities that have been endemic for so long in our society.”
Essential worker protection
Essential workers have largely been on the front lines of the pandemic since it began almost eight months ago. As the months continue on, protections for these workers have become a crucial concern, and one Murphy said he doesn’t take lightly.
“Our focus has been on building our capabilities in three critical areas: personal protective equipment, testing and contact tracing,” Murphy said. “All in all, this has been a massive undertaking … while we have come a long way, we will not let up in our pursuit.”
The governor praised these workers, right on the heels of an executive order Murphy signed Wednesday providing mandatory health and safety standards in an effort to protect all workers.
“We took this step because, yet again, federal government hasn’t,” Murphy said. “The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, known as OSHA to all, has not yet put forward comprehensive, COVID-19 health and safety standards. However, as it is in so many cases, where Washington doesn’t lead, New Jersey will lead.”
The order included provisions mandating that, in both the public and the private sector, business must provide approved sanitization materials, ensure that employees practice hand hygiene, conduct daily health checks prior to each shift and other initiatives aimed at protecting workers.
Murphy on the eighth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy:
“For many across our state, and especially in our Shore communities, it is a painful anniversary. While so much has been rebuilt and made more resilient, we know there are families to this day who still are not back to where they were before Sandy ripped their lives apart. We continue to do all we can to support their efforts and our commitment to protecting all of our communities is steadfast.”