1 more COVID-19 death in South Jersey, bringing statewide total to 62

KYW Staff
March 25, 2020 - 1:30 pm
Governor Phil Murphy holds a coronavirus briefing in Newark on March 24, 2020.

Edwin J. Torres for Governor’s Office

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UPDATED: 8:08 p.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday an additional 736 positive cases in New Jersey, bringing the state total to 4,402.

Murphy said there have been 18 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the state total to 62 deaths.

Related: The latest coronavirus news from Pennsylvania and New Jersey

The state confirmed one death in Burlington County, although county officials count three. Cumberland County reported one fatality, and say the patient was from Bridgeton and was hospitalized outside the county. They are not releasing further information, to protect the family's privacy.

Murphy said the state Health Department is working to bring closed hospitals back to service, and officials have found three locations for temporary hospitals in each region of the state.

Murphy said there will come a point when decisions will have to be made on how much health care goes for testing, and how much for treatment. But he makes this vow.

“The fact of the matter is everyone is indispensable. We will fight to save every single life. We will leave nothing on the battlefield in that effort,” he said.

Health officials are mirroring a prediction from their counterparts in New York that the virus may peak in two to three weeks in the hardest hit North Jersey counties. 

Murphy also announced he has signed an executive order requiring child care centers to close down by April 1 unless they serve first responders and emergency workers exclusively and can certify this by Friday. Parents that don’t fit into that category might be accommodated at now closed schools, if counties opt to go that route.

Non-essential businesses that are still open are being reported by citizens to the state to the point where the phone lines have crashed. Complaints are now being taken online.

Ocean City beaches, boardwalk closed 

Ocean City’s mayor has closed the boardwalk and all beaches, hoping to control the spread of coronavirus.

Mayor Jay Gillian said as the weather gets warmer, he’s worried more people will come to the Jersey shore town, ignoring stay-at-home orders.

No timetable has been announced when they would reopen.

Burlington County drive-thru testing site opening 

The first drive-thru coronavirus testing site in Burlington County opens Thursday at 1 p.m. 

It’s at the county’s emergency services training center at 53 Academy Drive in Westampton.

Herb Conaway, director of the county’s COVID-19 task force, said lots of people have been reaching out already.

“Our facility, as well as doctors offices and hospitals across the county, have received numerous requests for testing. As you know, it’s a national issue. We struggle to find testing supplies and the equipment needed to safely do the testing. But we have that at hand and we’re ready to go,” Conaway said. 

Because supplies are scarce, he asks only people showing coronavirus symptoms get tested.

No referrals are needed here.

To make an appointment call 609-726-7097.

Case count is second highest across country

State health officials reported 846 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 3,675, including now at least 44 total deaths. Although this is a fluid situation, Murphy said New Jersey now has the second highest amount of positive cases across the U.S., behind New York.

"If anyone is looking to me for a reason to justify the steps I’ve ordered, I can now give you 44," Murphy said in a tweet.

“There were more than 12,000 tests performed on residents of New Jersey, of which approximately 3,600 have tested positive. The overall positivity rate is 27%,” explained Health Commissioner Judith Persichelli.

That data helps the state better develop both a short- and long-term strategy. That said, Murphy is not ready to predict how long restrictions may stay in place. He can’t say how long schools may remain closed either, but he did receive federal approval to cancel required student testing.

On a positive note, the state is receiving 200,000 N95 masks from the national stockpile, as well as more than 84,000 respirators. 

PSE&G is donating 50,000 N95 face masks as well — a critical piece of protective gear for health care workers. However, the state is still accepting donations for more hospitals and first responders. Anyone with extra supplies is asked to email ppedonations@njsp.org.

FEMA is planning to open four field hospitals in the state soon, one of them at the Atlantic City Convention Center.

The state also launched a job portal to help residents who have been laid off as a result of the virus. People can apply at jobs.covid19.nj.gov or post job availabilities at jobs.covid19.nj.gov/intake.

In addition, Murphy passionately emphasized the importance of non-essential businesses closing. He said his office has heard many reports of some non-retail businesses violating the stay-at-home order.

“No one who can do their job from home should be going to work in an office. We must have 100% compliance. This is about people’s lives, your employees' lives, their families’ lives, and your life,” he said in a tweet. “Let me be clear: my Executive Order is not a polite suggestion. It is an order.”

Inquiries about failures to comply with the order should call 609-963-6817.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. It may take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear. The vast majority of people recover.

State health officials have recommended calling your health care provider if you have symptoms, including fever and shortness of breath. Officials also point people to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends people stay home except to get medical care.

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Stay with KYW Newsradio for more on this developing story.

KYW Newsradio's David Madden and Andrew Kramer contributed to this report.