NJ, US law enforcement partner over COVID-19 scams; new county test sites open

Murphy announces 18,696 total coronavirus cases, 267 fatalities

KYW Staff
March 31, 2020 - 11:25 am

UPDATED: 8:11 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced 69 new coronavirus-related deaths in the state since Monday, as well as a spike of 2,196 new positive cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney and the state attorney general have teamed up to crack down on fraud stemming from the viral pandemic. The state also received more protective gear from the federal government, and more counties are opening COVID-19 testing sites.

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New cases and deaths

The state now stands at a total of at least 18,696 cases, Murphy said, and a total of at least 267 souls lost. 

Just in South Jersey, there are more 600 cases with at least 15 fatalities.

One Murphy highlighted was Israel Tolentino Jr., a firefighter from Passaic. "He became a firefighter just last year and had also served as an EMT. He was only 33 years old," the governor said.

“The disease has taken service members, first responders, coaches, loved ones, many friends and too many New Jerseyans, and sadly, we know that this number will grow,” he added.

Murphy said without current mitigation efforts in effect throughout the state, such as stay-at-home orders, New Jersey would have enough cases of COVID-19 as to need upwards of 80,000 hospital beds. No state could accommodate that need, he said, and he implored residents to continue doing all they can to prevent the spread of the virus.

On a positive note, water companies across the state have agreed not to shut off service to customers during the pandemic. The state is also opening state parks for strolling — nothing else — and trout season will open a week-and-a-half early. Social distancing rules apply, of course.

Murphy also provided new rules for nursing homes to better house residents with the virus and to make sure no one brings it in from outside. Infected residents will be isolated, and workers will wear masks.

Nearly one-quarter of the state’s nursing homes now have at least one case of coronavirus.

The governor said he’s thinking about what he might do when the state knocks the virus down — specifically, how to make sure people from other states that did not act aggressively don’t bring it back here for another round.

“We’re sure as heck not going to go through the pain we’re going through to go down the road and find, just because of some other non-compliant, non-aggressive policies in other states in America, having people from those states then coming back into New Jersey and restarting the fire,” he said.

Murphy didn’t single out a particular state or say when he might have an answer to that concern, but he did add: “I cannot be any clearer in my call: Stay at home before this hits home. Please do your part to flatten this curve.”

Hoarding, gouging and scamming

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Monday announced a joint state-federal task force to go after people who illegally hoard supplies, gouge prices and conduct other scams.

Murphy has said the state would aggressively pursue any violators.

Law enforcement officials caution residents to be wary of warning signs for scams, including "investment opportunities" tied to COVD-19, as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines and other unproven advice.

Law enforcement officials caution residents to be wary of warning signs for scams, including "investment opportunities" tied to COVID-19, as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, and other unproven advice.

New testing sites

Murphy announced three new county-sponsored testing sites to open on Wednesday. 

A Middlesex County trive-thru site will operate at the Kilmer Vehicle Inspection Center in Edison, open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In Ocean County, a testing site will operate at Ocean County College in Toms River, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

And Camden County plans to open a drive-thru testing site at Cooper’s Poynt Park in Camden, noon to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, through April 15.

Testing at these sites is by appointment only, for county residents only, and requires a referral from a doctor.

The testing centers join two statewide facilities in Bergen and Monmouth counties and a handful of other centers just for county residents.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

New gear

The federal government sent a fourth shipment of personal protective equipment for health workers, Murphy said. The 260,000-piece shipment included gloves and masks.

Murphy has said the state needs ventilators and the protective equipment more than anything else.

More beaches close

The Ocean County beach towns of Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head and Mantoloking jointly decided to close their beaches to help slow the spread of the virus. Point Pleasant Beach had previously banned walking on its boardwalk but still allowed people to cross over it onto the sand. The new restrictions, announced on Tuesday, will take effect on Friday.

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KYW Newsradio's David Madden and Eric Walter, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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