Gov. Murphy orders NJ residents to stay home as coronavirus deaths rise
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Saturday directing most New Jersey residents to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The state announced that the total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 1,327 overnight, with 16 deaths. That’s up from 890 cases and 11 deaths on Friday.
The five who died since Friday included a man in his 80s, another in his 90s and a woman in her 70s, and two younger victims: a male from Bergen County in his 40s, and a male from Monmouth County in his 50s. At least three of the five were individuals who were in long-term care facilities, state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. She did not specify which those were.
Murphy said the increase in overall numbers reflects more testing.
“No one is spiking any footballs, but we have been ahead of the curve on testing,” Murphy said. “And the numbers will continue to grow.”
The governor said the goal right now is to “break the back of that curve as fast as we can,” referring to a spike in cases that has been seen in multiple locations worldwide, and can overwhelm hospitals. The best strategy for reducing the spread is for everyone to stay home, the governor said.
He stressed that the order bans parties and other events. “This is no time for anyone to be acting selfishly and taking a gathering underground,” he said.
Local police will be involved in enforcing the executive order, Murphy said.
Grocery stores, food banks, pharmacies, medical marijuana dispensaries, medical supply stores, gas stations, banks, pet supply stores and restaurants, bars and liquor stores that provide take-out and delivery will be able to remain open. Work at construction sites will also be allowed to continue.
The order also instructs businesses to allow their employees to work from home wherever possible.
Murphy also implored people who own summer homes on the Jersey Shore to stay away from the beach. “The local infrastructure, especially the healthcare system, is not prepared for an influx of part-time residents,” he said.
The Hamptons and some Upstate New York communities have seen an influx of summer homeowners in recent weeks, who then emptied local grocery stores and partied at bars and restaurants, defying orders to stay away from crowds.
Persichilli said some hospitals in the state are reopening closed wings, and the state is moving to open some hospitals that closed in recent years. Those efforts will bring on about 1,000 beds in the next two weeks another 1,300 in the following weeks.
The state is also working with the Army Corps of Engineers to identify a site in southern New Jersey where a field hospital can be set up to help care for residents in that part of the state, she said.
While beds have been identified, Murphy said, “We are not remotely where we need to be in terms of personal protective equipment” like masks and gowns for healthcare workers. He’s asking for more from the federal government and searching for other sources.
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