Apr 23, 2020
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Coronavirus Briefing April 23
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy held a coronavirus press conference today, April 23. He took more shots at Mitch McConnell for suggesting that he is “in favor” of letting states go bankrupt from the financial burden of COVID-19. Full transcript here.
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Phil Murphy: (00:35)
Good afternoon, everyone. To our friends and neighbors in our Muslim community, and by the way, we have the second largest Muslim community of any American state, Ramadan Mubarak [Arabic 00:00:00:45]. We wish you a blessed, holy, and reflective month of Ramadan.
Phil Murphy: (00:55)
Also, before we begin, I want to give everybody a huge thank you to all the folks who joined us last night for Jersey 4 Jersey. What a tremendous night. To all the artists and Jersey icons who joined in, to every single one of you who watched and listened, to the heroes, healthcare workers, firefighters, first responders, small business owners who are highlighted and everybody who was last night together sharing Jersey pride, I, and I can certainly say for the first lady, can’t thank you enough. Again, to the stars, to the heroes, bless you all. And, by the way, it raised, the meter is still running, but it raised many millions of dollars for the pandemic relief fund. And that money will be put to good use. As I’ve said from the very beginning, it will not be without casualty and we will have the sad task to update that in a minute. We’re going to get through this as one New Jersey family. And, last night, that family came together as possibly never before. I’m honored to be joined by the woman on my right who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of Department of Health, Judy Persichilli. To her right, another person who needs no introduction, our state’s epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan. Thank you, ladies. To my immediate left, another guy who needs no introduction, superintendent of state police, Colonel Pat Callahan. We have Jared Maples, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness with us. I know Matt Platkin, chief counsel will join us in a bit. And joining us today on the far left, another good friend, Dr. Brian L. Strom chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. As we know, there are tremendous things happening at our state’s flagship university. And I am proud to have Brian and his team as part of our army against COVID-19. And we’ll get to all of that in a little bit. So, Brian, great to have you with us, man.
Phil Murphy: (02:54)
First, as we have been doing of late, upfront, we will get to our daily discussion of the numbers, as sobering as they may be, and the charts that underpin them. We’re announcing 4,427 positive test results pushing our state total to just under a 100,000, 99,989. We should carry the expectation that tomorrow we will exceed 100,000 total positive cases. And remember, I urge each of you to keep in mind that this is a cumulative number, since our first positive case was announced only on March 4th. Of the nearly 100,000 total cases we have reported from then until today, roughly, we know 46,000 of these individuals have now exited the two week incubation window. So, even as we prepare for tomorrow, let’s remember that there are tens of thousands of residents who have received a prior positive test result who have now likely defeated the virus.
Phil Murphy: (04:04)
Sadly, however, we know that there are many who have not. And today we also report 307 additional deaths of precious souls and members of our New Jersey family, meaning that we have now lost a total of 5,368 blessing residents in New Jersey to COVID-19 related complications. We continue to see that the curve of new COVID-19 cases, as you see, remains significantly flat, even with today’s slight uptick in cases. And, as we map the outbreak across the state, we continue to see a slowing of the rate of spread. Byron, let’s go back to the chart before though, if we could.
Phil Murphy: (04:52)
Let’s just remember one thing. And Judy and Christina can can add to this. This is not the denominator. We wish we knew what the denominator was. These are more positive tests, probably specimens, Judy, taken five to seven days ago on average. Thanks to Brian and team, it’s a much more rapid return if you’re in the Rutgers model. And it’s a slower return, perhaps, in other models. But I don’t want folks to confuse the fact that we’ve got more testing. We’re now the fourth highest tested state in America. And we may be, frankly, getting close to the third highest tested state in America, considering where we started, which was basically no readiness or preparedness in our country. That’s quite a feat. But it still doesn’t mean we know what the denominator is. This is just the amount of folks who have tested positive. And maybe if we could now flip to the chart that you were on. And here we go.
Phil Murphy: (05:55)
So, the map, as we’ve seen before, it measures the outbreak across the state. And we see a slowing of the rate of spread. And you could see this is a meaningful slowing. We changed our color code yesterday because we ran out of runway on light shades. But you’ve already seen a couple of counties go to over 30 days of doubling. This is the amount of time it takes to double the spread of the virus. So, that includes, by the way, my county of Monmouth. Look up at Bergen County, which is where ground zero was. 29 days. So, you’re starting to see lengthening. And that’s because of what your wall are doing out there. I’m sure we’re helping, but you’re all doing the heavy work. You’re the ones who are staying away from each other and abiding by social distancing. And, because of that, that map shows us enormous progress and encouragement.
Phil Murphy: (06:48)
Again, but at this point, and I’d like to think it’s otherwise, but we can’t ease up one bit on our social distancing. I am not and we’re not in a position yet to begin reopening our state and jump-starting our economy. I still think that’s weeks away. We need to see more progress and more slowing before we can begin those considerations. But stay at it because you are making a difference unlike, by the way, in any American state right now. And that is another source of great Jersey pride.
Phil Murphy: (07:20)
In our health care system, as of 10:00 P.M. last night, there are 7,000, as you can see, 240 residents hospitalized for COVID-19. That is, I think, virtually, Judy, unchanged from the night before. Our field medical stations have patients in total of 91 persons. And, if you look at the rate of new hospitalizations, we see an uptick since yesterday, but still below our previous highs. There were 1,990 patients in either critical or intensive care, also virtually unchanged. Notably ventilator use had a considerable one day drop to 1,462 currently in use. I think that’s the lowest we’ve been since April 5th, according to our notes. So, Judy can give you some color on that. That’s a good sign. And, for the 24 hours preceding 10:00 P.M. last night, our hospitals reported 752 total discharges, also equal to new admittances.
Phil Murphy: (08:24)
However, even as we know there are many who are defeating COVID-19 there are many whose battle with the invisible enemy was not successful. I’d like to remember a few of them if I can today. First up, Carolyn Martins-Reitz, there with her son Thomas Martins. We’ve lost them both. You may have read about them, but today we want to honor them here. They lived in Carney with Carolyn’s husband and Thomas’s stepfather, Rudy, with whom I had the honor of speaking this morning, and their daughter Sharon, who was Thomas’ half sister. Sharon, by the way, is going through what a lot of seniors are going through, and that is facing the end of her college years at a virtual graduation, much to her consternation, as opposed to something physical, and in person, and celebrating together.
Phil Murphy: (09:22)
Carolyn, bless her soul, a graphic artist who had worked for the Archdiocese of Newark, was the primary caregiver for Thomas who has down syndrome. Yet, through Carolyn’s love and hard work, Thomas was given every possible opportunity to thrive. COVID-19 took Carolyn away from her family at the end of March to her eternal rest at the age of just 55. And just a little over a week later, it also took Thomas, just as he was turning 30 years old. Rudy called Carolyn, and I’ll quote Rudy, her husband, one of the smartest, kindest, gentlest people. And these traits are what helped her give Thomas such a tremendous life too. And Thomas is remembered fondly by so many. We are keeping them, both Carolyn and Thomas, god rest their souls, as well as Rudy, and Sharon, and their whole family and community in our prayers. Got heartbreaking right there.
Phil Murphy: (10:29)
Dave Clark, there he is, was a firefighter with the Bay Head Fire Company where he filled any role that needed to be filled from chief engineer, looking after the mechanical performance of the company’s vehicles, to safety officer. He was a truck driver professionally and took a special interest in following the changes being made in fire truck and emergency equipment designs and builds. He was just 47 years old. And, by the way, not just Dave but his family. This family believes in service to the Bay Head community. Dave’s wife Lisa, who is with him there and with whom I just had the honor of speaking, serves with the Bay Head Fire Police. And son, Zach, is a probationary firefighter and is set to become a full firefighter this month. And I know dad is looking down with pride. Dave also leaves behind his daughter, and I had a quick word with her as well, bless her, McKayla. Bay Head lost one of its bravest. To Dave, we thank you for your service. And to the entire Clark family, we are with you in prayer and mourning. God bless you all.
Phil Murphy: (11:44)
Pat will know this guy, Rick Vandorclock, 71 years old of Wayne. Rabbi Kushner, by the way, of Temple Emmanuel raised this with me yesterday. Rick grew up, look at that guy, man. Talk about the prototypical New Jersey state trooper. Huh? It looks like he’s cut out of granite. Rick grew up in Midland Park in Bergen County and was a member of the 85th class of the New Jersey Police Academy in 1971. He was a trooper for 29 years.
Phil Murphy: (12:19)
He leaves behind his wife of 46 years, Maureen, with whom I had the great honor of speaking, his sons, Rick, who I also spoke with, by the way, Rick tested positive and has got his first day back with the Wayne PD tomorrow, his other son, David, who I have not yet spoken with but tried. He retired recently from the West Caldwell Police Department. And by the way, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I mentioned that Rick Sr. grew up in Midland Park. And I believe it’s accurate to say that his dad was the police chief in Midland Park. So, you talk about law enforcement families. But God blessed Maureen, Rick, David, and their families, including Rick’s grandchildren, Julia, Jason, Ava, and Jake, along with his brother Robert and sister Joy and their families. May Rick’s memory bring them comfort at this difficult time. And may they also bring them happiness in the times to come. God bless them all and God bless you, Rick.
Phil Murphy: (13:24)
Four, in fact, more lives among the total of 5,368 which are all worth remembering. And believe me, all of us would like to speak to each and every one of those. And maybe at some point down the road, when the dust settles on this awful thing, we’ll be able to do that. To every family who has lost a loved one, our entire state stands with you in support as the great and diverse family we are.
Phil Murphy: (13:54)
Now, moving forward. Today with Brian here, I am pleased to announce that, because of the new saliva based training, which Rutgers University has-
Phil Murphy: (14:03)
Saliva-based training which Rutgers University has developed. Next week, we will begin testing all residents and staff at each of our five state developmental centers. This is a total of more than 5,500 tests. More than 1200 residents and an excess of 4,300 members of staff. These are among our most vulnerable residents and the women and men who provide care for them daily are among our most essential workers. They are dedicated employees who are showing up 24 seven to help care for the adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who call by the way, our centers, their home. These doctors, nurses, direct care staff, food service providers, housekeeping staff and many others are doing an extraordinary job and are making a difference in the lives of so many who have no other place to turn by the way.
Phil Murphy: (14:59)
And our residents, many of whom have called these centers home, literally Judy for decades, have faced many challenges in this difficult time, including not being able to visit with family or enjoy their regular outings in the community. Sadly, we have seen this virus in all of our centers and we owe our residents and staff our best and testing will help us best serve them. And we are working to expand testing to other state workers and the individuals we serve. These tests would not have been as quickly administered, if not for the testing system created by Brian’s team at Rutgers University. And it should be noted, this testing system is already going into wide use by our state’s largest healthcare systems at the PBA sponsored first responder test sites and soon at many other places statewide. And as I have noted many times, having a robust and greatly expanded testing program in place is vital to our being able to begin to reopen responsibly our state. I said it on Monday, I still believe it today on Thursday, that we need to at least roughly double our testing capacity as a minimal benchmark.
Phil Murphy: (16:20)
Testing will be the starting point. Judy and Christina have forgotten more about this than I’ll ever know. For any contact tracing program that we’ll be able to implement, whether it be narrow and localized within our communities or broad based in partnership with our neighboring states. Without testing, we will not be able to take the necessary steps to contain future cases and prevent them from becoming boomerang outbreaks. Remember again, sufficient scaled and rapid return testing, contact tracing, and then a plan for isolation and or quarantining. Those are the essential elements of the healthcare infrastructure that we’re going to need before you have the confidence and we could tell you that we’ve got the confidence to begin to reopen our state. And we’re working as fast as we can by the way in all the above. So having an FDA approved test that can provide us rapid results is critical and through their saliva-based test system, Rutgers University is in position to help us get there. Moreover, this is a tremendous point of Jersey pride for us all.
Phil Murphy: (17:28)
Our state after all is the historic home of innovations, especially in the life sciences and now we have a huge breakthrough coming from our very own flagship university. To be clear, Rutgers is an invaluable partner amongst so many in the expansion of testing statewide and so much is being made possible because of this and I look forward to this continued partnership. I know Brian will have more to say about this testing system after Judy’s remarks along with other advances being made On the Banks of the Old Raritan, but right now to you and all at Rutgers, Brian, I say both thank you and I look forward to the cooperation to come. Speaking of testing more generally, there are now 86 sites across the state providing COVID-19 testing including some that are utilizing Rutgers tests. A complete list of the publicly run and community based sites can be found on our information portal at covid19.nj.gov/testing and should you believe you need to be tested, your primary care practitioner could direct you to one of the privately run testing sites nearest to you.
Phil Murphy: (18:48)
Switching gears, this morning, the Department of Labor reported that an additional 140,000 New Jerseyans filed for unemployment last week and that $1 billion in unemployment benefits have now been distributed since this emergency began a little more than a month ago. Since March 15th, more than 858,000 New Jerseyans have filed for unemployment benefits. Just to put that in context, folks, one year ago the total number collecting unemployment was less than 10% of that, 84,0000. 84,000 a year ago, 858,000 today. The department continues to do everything it can to streamline processes and ensure that all claims are handled quickly. For those of you trying to connect on the phone, we thank you for your continued patience. The department is still dealing with volumes that are [inaudible 00:19:48] stated unprecedented. We urge you to go to our online hub again at covid19.nj.gov and search unemployment for answers and additional links to many of your questions regarding things like eligibility, benefits for self-employed workers, how to claim your weekly benefits and much more.
Phil Murphy: (20:11)
Regardless of when your claim is accepted, I’ve said this before and I want to repeat it again today. No one will be denied one penny of the benefit they deserve. And by the way, if you have lost your job and you could still work, please visit the jobs portal available through covid19.nj.gov. The information hub, which is currently listing more than 66,000 jobs from more than 740 essential employers across the state and across an array of industries. And a reminder that anyone who is left their job voluntarily or who refuses to work at their currently available job is not available and not eligible rather, for unemployment. Now, as we do every day, I’d like to acknowledge some of the really good things going on around our state, whether it be from our corporate citizens or just everyday New Jerseyans, the outpouring of community spirit and support has been critical to sustaining us through this emergency. One of our state’s iconic businesses, AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have partnered with the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association to provide meals from local restaurants to the healthcare professionals and support staff at our field medical stations in Secaucus and Edison. And AT&T has also stepped forward with critical financial support for the United Way of Essex and West Hudson so they can provide for those in our communities who need a helping hand. So to AT&T and the AT&T Foundation, New Jersey thanks you.
Phil Murphy: (21:58)
I want to also give a shout out to New Jersey based Premium Nature and in particular to Shulem Iskowitz and Aharon Stefansky who came through with a donation of 500 gallons of hand sanitizer to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management Pat. This product will soon find its way out of our warehouse into the front lines of our fight against COVID-19. Our dear friend and colleague second from the left State Police Chaplain, Rabbi Abe Friedman, God bless you, Abe, was there at Division headquarters in Trenton and he was joined by your new Chief Chaplain, Reverend John Taylor of Trenton right here and state police personnel to accept this donation and to give Premium Nature our thanks. And now from me and the Colonel, New Jersey thanks you. And by the way, I’m very gratified to see social distancing going on in that picture Judy.
Phil Murphy: (22:56)
And once again to everyone who joined us for Jersey for Jersey last night, the stars, the first line responders, heroes, the healthcare worker heroes to the small businesses who were profiled and community leaders, also heroes and everybody who played a part in that as well as the Jersey Takeover on HQ Trivia. Thank you.
Phil Murphy: (23:22)
Finally, before I turn things over to Judy, I want to return to something that I said yesterday. I spoke about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s views on state bankruptcy. I used some strong language, which was richly deserved by the way. But that’s because I know how dire this situation is. I have been clear for weeks that if we do not get significant, direct and flexible financial support from the federal government, we will be forced to make many difficult decisions about programs we all rely upon and which we will lean on in the months ahead. And I know that doesn’t just go for New Jersey. It also goes for many of our sister states, red and blue alike. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t bad enough yesterday when Senator McConnell was talking about bankruptcies, and by the way, Senator, if you are watching, remember you are from the party of Abraham Lincoln, of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Three American presidents who when faced with challenges, found ways to meet those challenges, to be greater than the challenges, to rise up.
Phil Murphy: (24:34)
This isn’t about partisanship. This is about America and doing what’s right in our values, not just here in New Jersey, but across our country and looking to history to find role models. What better role model than Abraham Lincoln? Who freed the slaves, who kept our country together in civil war or Theodore Roosevelt, the environmentalists around this country to this day look to him for leadership. Or George H. W. Bush, the guy who presided this country when the Berlin Wall fell. Those were leaders who met the moment, who got big, they did not get small. They got big in that moment and that is the challenge Senator to you and to all leaders in this country, to find your bigness, to find this moment in time is a chance to stand up and to meet history head on and to do the right thing.
Phil Murphy: (25:26)
So if it was bad enough yesterday talking about bankruptcies, unfortunately we received some additional bad news when the US Treasury Department issued its guidance for how we can use the billions of dollars in funding provided to the state and many of our counties in the CARES Act, which was signed several weeks ago. I have been clear that even this funding, while deeply appreciated, is woefully insufficient to address the scale of the revenue loss that we are experiencing due to our mitigation efforts. Efforts which are working by the way and are saving lives. I was assured that this funding would be able to be used flexibly by states, filling holes that we now must deal with. Those assurances apparently were empty. Treasury’s guidance renders much of this funding literally unusable and without additional flexibility, will mean that we will likely not only not be able to use it, but we’ll have to return a good chunk of it to the federal government.
Phil Murphy: (26:27)
Let me explain in case you’re wondering what this means. Unlike the federal government, we can’t print money by the way. The federal government can also run trillion dollar deficits every single year. New Jersey can’t. I, by the way, just like New Jersey’s families, I might add, have to budget based on certain income and certain expenses, and for the past two years we have done something unique for New Jersey. We actually put some money away for a rainy day. When we close our economy as we have had to do to crack the back of this virus and to slow its spread and to save lives, that income goes away. If the federal government doesn’t do its job and support New Jersey’s families, we may not be able to keep our teachers, cops, firefighters and paramedics employed. The very people who are on the front lines every day, and we’ll have to send this money back to Washington.
Phil Murphy: (27:31)
Sadly, the message from Washington to our first responders and to our educators and to others on the front lines is clear. As you work tirelessly to stop this pandemic, to keep people safe, our national leadership thinks you are not essential and in fact that you should fear for your jobs. And again, I was reminded by someone yesterday, whenever anything goes into bankruptcy or there’s a financial catastrophe, the people who pay the biggest price are our seniors. Think about that as well.
Phil Murphy: (28:03)
… biggest price are our seniors. Think about that as well. [inaudible 00:28:05] $1.8 billion from the CARES Act several weeks ago. We’re happy for it, but it was never enough to begin with. But at the very least, we should be able to support our people and help keep the funding that municipalities and school districts are expecting to stay whole.
Phil Murphy: (28:24)
I and my staff have already reached out to Senate Democratic leaders, Chuck Schumer’s office. I spoke with speaker Pelosi last night. We’ve been on with their respective staffs. We will not relent until the federal government provides the support we need to protect the services that millions of residents rely upon. Remember this, I, and we, will never stop fighting for you. We will fight this to the death.
Phil Murphy: (28:51)
With that, please help me welcome the woman who needs no introduction. The commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli.
Judy Persichilli: (28:58)
Thank you, Governor, and good afternoon. Epidemiologist and chronic disease experts tell us that those with underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure are at greater risk for more serious complications and deaths from diseases like the flu. New Jersey mirrors national statistics on this issue. A recent study of New York City patients with COVID-19 that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association provides further evidence of this elevated risk. The study examined 5,700 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York. The most common comorbidities among these individuals were hypertension, 56.6%, obesity, 41.7% and diabetes 33.8%. of the patients who died, those with diabetes were more likely to have received invasive mechanical ventilation or care in the ICU compared to those who do not have diabetes. Of our COVID-19 deaths, the breakdown of underlying conditions is as follows: Heart disease, 60%; 42% had diabetes; 20% had chronic lung disease, such as asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease; 16% chronic renal disease; 15% neurological disability; 11% had cancer; and 31% had other chronic diseases.
Judy Persichilli: (30:42)
Given this greater risk of severe illness and death, the Department of Health is recommending that all individuals who have even mild symptoms that could be associated with COVID-19 such as fever, cough, tightening in the chest, call your doctor and get tested, especially if you have underlying conditions.
Judy Persichilli: (31:06)
Today, we report 7,240 hospitalizations last night, basically flat over the last two days. There are 1,990 individuals in critical care, of which 73% are on ventilators, which is much lower than we have seen previously. I know there is a request for hospital discharge data by location. We are still looking into that. As soon as we can get that from the discharge dataset, we will share that with you. Today, we are reporting 4,247 new cases, for a total of 99,989 positive cases in the state. Sadly, 307 new deaths have been reported to the department.
Judy Persichilli: (31:53)
The breakdown of deaths by race and ethnicity is as follows: White, non-Hispanic, 53.6%; black, non-Hispanic, 20%; Hispanic, 16%; Asian, non-Hispanic 5.4%; and other non-Hispanic 5%. Today, the veteran homes are reporting five additional deaths associated with COVID-19.
Judy Persichilli: (32:24)
We also are receiving reconciled data from our longterm-care facilities. We are also starting to look at death certificates to reconcile individuals who have died with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 and/or a secondary diagnosis associated with COVID-19. We do expect that you will see on our dashboard an increase in the number of deaths because we are including probable mortalities from COVID-19. As you know, across many other states and certainly in New Jersey, our longterm-care facilities are reporting cases and deaths. There are 446 longterm-care facilities in the state right now that are reporting COVID-19 cases, for a total of 13,769 cases. In collaboration with Cooper University Health System, we started yesterday testing 3000 longterm-care residents and staff at 16 longterm-care facilities in the southern part of the state. Our goal is to contain the spread of COVID-19 among the these facilities in the southern part of the state that is not experiencing as many cases compared to the northern regions and where we see a possibility to actually decrease the spread and save lives. In terms of lab reports, according to the data from this morning, of seven labs sending us COVID-19 results, 179,717 individuals were tested. 79,558 are reported as positive, for a positivity rate of 44.27%.
Judy Persichilli: (34:26)
I want to mention our call center again for individuals looking for covert 19 information. As you know, the state working along with New Jersey Poison Information Center established a dedicated coronavirus hotline in January, reachable at 1-800-962-1253. Since that time, trained health professionals have taken more than 25,000 calls. Additionally, NJ 211 answered more than 15,000 calls from residents seeking general information. These continue to be excellent resources for information on the virus and the state’s response.
Judy Persichilli: (35:08)
As always, I thank you for staying home and maintaining social distancing. Stay connected, stay safe and stay healthy. Thank you.
Phil Murphy: (35:18)
Judy, thank you for that update and for everything.
Phil Murphy: (35:23)
Counties, just briefly, the same six counties continue to be the leading locations for positive results, and that’s in order: Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Union, Passaic and Middlesex. That’s the six that we’ve had. But remind everybody, every one of our 21 counties has both positives and, sadly, fatalities. This is a statewide all-hands moment. Thank you, Judy.
Phil Murphy: (35:58)
I mentioned him earlier and I’m going to ask him to say a few words, but Brian Strom is an outstanding leader as one of the chancellors at Rutgers, and in his case in overseeing the biomedical and health sciences. He’s a guy I’ve gotten to know over the past few years. He and his team, as we’ve mentioned many times in these briefings, we mentioned earlier in our remarks, have been leading a pioneering saliva test-based COVID-19 test protocol. By the way, we know this for a fact, including from the White House that the Rutgers test protocol is being held up as a model, not just in our state but nationally. With that, Brian, it is great to have you with us. Please help me welcome Dr. Brian L. Strom. Brian.
Brian L. Strom: (36:52)
Thank you. First I’d like to begin by thanking the governor and the health commissioner for guiding the state through this worst pandemic in the century. They’ve done a magnificent job ranging from the supervising and assisting in the enormous surge and the capacity of our hospitals to be able to handle this crisis, leading the public through the difficult but critically needed social distancing and near lockdown. We would not be doing anywhere near as well. The curve has flattened, as you’ve seen, now coming to a plateau. We wouldn’t be doing any way nearly as well without their expert leadership.
Brian L. Strom: (37:32)
Second, I went to just point out that the citizens in New Jersey can be proud of their state university. We’ve been tracking and anticipating this epidemic since early January when it became apparent. We invoked our emergency operation center in late Febr- [inaudible 00:09:47].
Brian L. Strom: (38:26)
… tremendous partner in the expanding of testing statewide. I’ll give you some examples. Indeed all the expansion I’ll talk about it is in partnership with the state.
Brian L. Strom: (38:36)
The first FDA-approved point-of-care test was developed in Newark, New Jersey Medical School. This test- [inaudible 00:10:46].
Brian L. Strom: (39:02)
… hospital in Newark, New Jersey Medical School, RWJ Barnabas Health, Hackensack Meridian System, Atlantic Health System and lots of individual hospitals throughout the state. [inaudible 00:39:13]
Brian L. Strom: (39:25)
… even a few days, certainly not a week or 10 days as used to be the case. This test will be key as we reopen our research labs and eventually our classrooms at Rutgers and certainly for many other uses as well throughout the state.
Brian L. Strom: (39:37)
In addition, Rutgers New Brunswick developed high-throughput testing for the virus, which gives results in 24 to 48 hours, widely used across the state and more recently now tested it as a saliva-based test, as the governor had mentioned, again, based on this same high-throughput testing developed at Rutgers New Brunswick. Indeed a paper just came out yesterday from Yale showing that the saliva-based test actually looks like it bookworms better than the normal testing.
Brian L. Strom: (40:11)
This approach, collecting the samples by saliva, decreases exposure to healthcare professionals, increases collection throughput, how quickly you can collect the specimens, quadrupling it, decreases the use of PPEs, that people have heard a lot about the shortages, during collection by 90% because you don’t need the PPEs in order to be able to collect the specimens, and eliminates the need for swabs and viral transport media, which are the key rate-limiting steps for most tests right now. Early in the epidemic, the rate-limiting step was lack of test kits. Now, there are plenty of test kits, but the reason most states can’t do enough testing is because they don’t have enough swabs. [inaudible 00:40:52]
Brian L. Strom: (40:52)
… it was piloted last week in drive-through testing in Middlesex County. Right now, it’s being used live in drive-throughs in Edison, in South Brunswick, in PBA Police Benevolence Association testing sites, and the American Dream Mall, Somerset and Deptford. It’s being used with Newark first responders. It’s being used in Edison municipalities and Somerset Hunterdon counties’ drive ups.
Brian L. Strom: (41:28)
Imminent, meaning in the next week, we will launch the testing that the governor mentioned in the five state developmental centers. Friday, tomorrow, we’ll begin to test everybody at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, all of the healthcare workers. It doesn’t matter whether they are employed there at RWJ, by Rutgers or private physicians. It doesn’t matter. As we begin to plan for the ability of the healthcare enterprise in the state to begin to take care of non- COVID patients again, we need to make sure that we don’t give COVID-
COVID patients. Again, we need to make sure that we don’t give COVID to the patients that we’re taking care of. Walk ups will open next week in New Brunswick and in Perth Amboy. Camden County employees and 31 or more longterm care facilities in Camden County will start within the next two weeks. We’re also working with mayor Baraka on testing for 100,000 residents of Newark as part of a comprehensive plan we’re working on to enable them to help Newark re-emerge from this terrible epidemic. And many, many more initiatives are underway. Again, with this new testing, we can test 10,000 people a day, and it is expandable in a modular fashion at an additional 10,000 people a day for second module and yet a third… Stay home. Stay away from other people. It is working. Keep doing it.
Phil Murphy: (45:04)
Brian, thank you. I noted Yale is in your background, so I wasn’t surprised that Yale put a paper out yesterday that validated, but all kidding aside, just absolutely extraordinary work. And if things continue to go well, Rutgers alone could be the source of a lot of our salvation in terms of the testing we’re going to need to have the confidence to reopen. Brian, let me ask you before we turn to Pat, what’s your most limiting factor right now? Is it raw material? Is it manpower? Is it innovation? What limits you from going from that 10,000 module, I’m just making this up, up to a 50,000 or 100,000?
In many ways, there is no limit. It’s just this is all so new. We’re just launching it. Right now we can go from 10, 000 with new equipment, which isn’t all that expensive. We could double it with another module of that. We can double that. Probably the rate limiting step is the manpower, technicians to be able to man it. And so we already actually have ordered the equipment for the second module and we’re looking for the 20 or 30 technicians we need to man it. So this can be expanded in a modular way, incredibly powerful.
Phil Murphy: (46:26)
And the equipment is gettable? In other words, this is unlike some of the other missions that we’ve been on where it’s elusive. This is very much gettable?
This is gettable. Key is we don’t need the swabs, we don’t need the viral media, which are what is in short supply. So the equipment is gettable. It’s not a rate limiting step.
Phil Murphy: (46:43)
And the manpower, Brian, just for everyone’s benefit is that front end manpower or folks at the backend processing the tests?
People processing the test. Ultimately what we also need is, because we provide the labs, we need front end people to be able to register people, collect a specimen, do everything needed there. We need further back end people to be able to record the results, report the results to the state, to the patient and so on. So we come in with a lab, there’s a front and backend that needs to be added to each use, to each application.
Phil Murphy: (47:19)
And one more. The saliva test, again for folks watching, turnaround until you know whether you’re positive or not is how long?
24 to 48 hours.
Phil Murphy: (47:27)
And do you see that potentially shrinking?
Not a lot. It takes that long. Some of it is getting the saliva to Paskataway and then it’s run in a batch in Paskataway and then getting the reports back to people. So when you need an answer right away, you want to use the point of care test. That you have 48 hours. And governor, you’re asking a very important question. As the state develops an appropriate testing strategy, you want to use both of them in different ways.
Phil Murphy: (47:57)
The point of care is viral based as opposed to saliva, correct?
Correct. Point of care uses nasal pharyngeal swabs. We are testing that for saliva also, but so far that testing is not clear.
Phil Murphy: (48:11)
Clearly, if I was going to ask you that, you took the words in my mouth, clearly if that worked for saliva, you’ve then got a very quick turnaround so it’s a game changer at that point.
Phil Murphy: (48:19)
Extraordinary work. I mean sometimes, I would say many times our nose is pressed too close to the glass to remind ourselves how extraordinary our state is and how extraordinary Rutgers is because the conversation that we’re having right now, and I think Judy and Christina will attest to it, is not a conversation that is happening in many places around the country if not around the world. And that’s thanks enormously to our leadership and it’s specific to our flagship university. Brian, thank you for that. I suspect folks will have questions for you. With that, before we turn to questions and we’ll start over here with Matt, but if I could ask, and I know we’ve got, I should say this for those of you watching the live stream, we’ve had some technical challenges. Are they behind us at this point?
Phil Murphy: (49:08)
Not yet. But we’re endeavoring to prove that we are the state of innovation and we can figure out the live stream. And secondly, we do have an unusual VTC with the white house tomorrow. They’ve typically been Mondays and then occasionally Thursday’s. Tomorrow, I’m not sure why. I assume it’s the schedule of the president and vice president, but we have one tomorrow, so we’re going to gather tomorrow at 3:00 PM. Is that correct? 3:00 PM here tomorrow, unless you hear otherwise. We’ll be together again Saturday back to our usual one o’clock time. So before we do any questions, Colonel Callahan, any updates on compliance, PPE capacities, or other matters? Thank you.
Colonel Callahan: (49:46)
Thank you, governor. Relatively quiet overnight. I’ll go through it briefly. In Newark, 57 EO violations were issued as well as two businesses were closed. In Cinnaminson, police responded to a gathering on the banks