Apr 4, 2020
NJ Governor Phil Murphy COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 4
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy held a press conference on coronavirus today, April 4. He warned, “we’re going through hell together” and commented on the need for more ventilators from the federal stockpile. Full transcript is here.
What is Rev?
Governor Phil Murphy: (00:12)
Good afternoon everybody. Just to remind folks what our plan is for the next couple of days. Obviously we’re together right now and as I mentioned where unless there’s a very meaningful material development, in which case we’ll change plans, tomorrow will be an email paper release in terms of the overnight numbers and in any other news that we have to report. Because of a White House VTC on Monday we’ll do the press conference at two o’clock instead of our usual one o’clock time frame here. So I’m honored to be joined today as I am every day by the woman to my right who needs no introduction. The commissioner of the department of health, Judy Persichilli, to her right, another name that is well known to most folks in the state , state epidemiologist, Dr. Christina Tan. Great to have the two of you here with us. To my far left, another familiar face, state police superintendent, Colonel Pat Callahan and to my immediate left, representing the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:36)
I’d mentioned, I think yesterday that I asked Rob to give us an update on the Department of Labor’s efforts to ensure that every New Jerseyan in need of unemployment insurance relief is able to file their claim and receive their benefits. The folks in Rob’s department are dealing with an unprecedented crush of people trying to reach them. We understand that it could get frustrating, we do when the UI website gets bogged down or if you’re stuck on hold on the telephone, but also know that these people are working harder than ever while also worrying about their own families. So I’ve asked Rob and I thank you Rob for doing it to help us understand a little bit better his team’s efforts and where we go from here. So thank you. And so as we have been doing of late, let’s get to the numbers early in our discussion and they are particularly sobering today. Since yesterday we have found that another 4,331, that’s 4,331 residents have tested positive for coronavirus. That brings our statewide total to 34,124. Again, 4,331 overnight positive tests for a total of 34,124. As usual, Judy will give you more color. In addition, with the heaviest of hearts we are today reporting than another 200 residents have passed due to covid-19 related complications. Our state total now sits at 846 precious lives lost. Let me put this in a proper yet very sobering context. We have now lost nearly 100 more of our fellow new Jerseyans to covid-19 than we did on the September 11th attacks. Please let that sink in for a moment. This pandemic is writing one of the greatest tragedies in our state’s history and just as we have committed to never forget, those lost on nine 11 we must commit to never forgetting those we are losing to this pandemic. We won’t do this every day and we certainly won’t do it often even though those numbers will continue to climb, but I’m going to pause right now for a moment of silence.
Governor Phil Murphy: (04:21)
Allow me to mention some of those. Very few sadly, of the many we’ve lost, the precious lives we’ve lost. Retired Colonel Samuel Fuoco of Eatontown in my home county and there is Samuel on one of our recent Memorial Days with me admiring one of the wreaths that were placed in honor of our fallen veterans and Sam has now fallen himself from Eatontown. He served our nation in the army and army reserves for more than 37 years. He was awarded the bronze medal for his service in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 and he also received the New Jersey Distinguished Service medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He also led the Monmouth Chapter of The Association of The United States Army. Our state lost him yesterday. We thank him for his life of service as we do every single one of our proud veterans. His memory and his family are in our prayers. I want to thank my friend Vin Gopal to making sure that I knew, sadly the minute he knew that we had lost Sam. Another one. Jesus Villaluz was a patient transport worker at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck where he had worked for 27 years. His coworkers remembered the time that he won the 50-50 raffle and instead of keeping it for himself, he shared it with his colleagues. He was 75 years old and we join his family and everyone he touched in mourning his passing. Teaneck, which has been particularly hard hit, lost another great member of its community, Perry Rosentein. Perry was the uncle, there’s Perry. I love the hat. Perry was the uncle of CWA New Jersey director Hetty Rosentein, who so many of us here in Trenton know so well. Perry founded both the Puffin Foundation in Teaneck to support the arts and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives to chronicle the American fighters who stood against Spanish fascism during the Franco regime among so much more. All of us send our condolences to Hetty and the entire Rosentein family and the friends and fellow Teaneckers who Perry touched.
Governor Phil Murphy: (06:47)
And I learned last night that a dear friend in Morris County, my dear friend, Scott Carlson lost his dad Gerald who was going to turn 88 and two weeks. He was a lifelong New Jerseyan, he was a lifelong design draftsman. He worked on both the Shuttle Columbia and Challenger. We’re keeping Scott ans his family and his dad’s memory in our prayers this weekend. He was the proud grandfather of Hayley and Evan. So to each and every one of them and the many, many more who we are not mentioning by name today, God rest their souls. Today, as I mentioned yesterday, our flags are flying at half staff in their memories, in the memory of all who had been lost and for all the families who have been impacted by covid-19 and are not, we have to remind everyone, are not able to fully gather properly for a funeral or a memorial and the flags will continue to fly at half staff throughout the duration of this pandemic.
Governor Phil Murphy: (07:49)
No family, whether in New Jersey or anywhere will be forgotten. I know that staying apart is really hard, whether it be for a funeral or a religious right that we long to attend, but right now we have no choice. It’s what we need to do. It is what we must do. I spoke yesterday by telephone with a great leader in our state, Cardinal Joe Tobin. The Cardinal made it clear that everyone needs to stay home including, and I say this and I know he says this with profound gravity, including not taking communion, whether it’s tomorrow for Palm Sunday or any day, and I know it’s not easy for him or Catholics around the state as this especially is the beginning of Holy Week. So to all our Christian brothers and sisters, we acknowledge the beginning of the week tomorrow, but we plead with you to stay home and stay away from each other.
Governor Phil Murphy: (08:47)
Cardinal Tobin then spoke as he volunteered to do with each of the archbishops in this state and while I’m mentioning him and that was the conversation I had. I know he speaks for all, I know he speaks for, he spoke with, and I want to give a particular shout out to my Bishop from the archdiocese of Trenton right here, Bishop O’Connell. I thank, not just the Catholic leadership, but leaders across all of our faith communities who are coming together to help meet the spiritual needs of their congregations while also ensuring the social distancing that is so critical to flattening the curve and getting us through this emergency, especially in this season when you’ve got, as I mentioned, Holy Week leading up to Easter, you’ve got Passover starting on Wednesday and not too far behind Ramadan to pick three big religious holidays amongst so many other celebrations and festivals that are fast approaching. Our desire clearly is to come together. That’s only natural. We are humans, but our need and our mandate is to find a way to observe and celebrate separately.
Governor Phil Murphy: (09:56)
I know it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we are more than up to meeting. Keep practicing your social distancing. As we note in this map and I’ll come to it in a second. Consider it as Father Jim would say, social solidarity. By being apart, we’re actually working together. And this graphic from the New York Times shows the impact, it shows on how vital social distancing is to slow the spread. Let’s stay with this just for a second in mind. This is color coded for all 21 counties and by the way, there’s no amount of football spiking that we should attach to this graph, but it gives you some sense and this has changed meaningfully over the past several days. And on the margin that’s a good thing. The darker colors are where the amount of folks who are infected is doubling at a faster rate.
Governor Phil Murphy: (10:57)
And so while the cases in Salem and Cape May county to pick two in the south are quite low, I think Judy, total positives in Cape May are 50 and in Salem County 25, so between them only 25 positive cases that have been tested by the way. Again, that’s just folks who have been tested. So it’s a very low number, but the curve is steep. So the folks there need to get out ahead of this as fast as they can. The orange color is where cases are doubling in a much slower rate and the yellow color, actually happens to be my home County of Monmouth, where they are doubling yet again an even slower rate. There’s another color that’s better than yellow, which basically means, you’ve broken the back of it. I don’t know what that color is, but I look forward to seeing it up there sooner than later.
Governor Phil Murphy: (11:50)
And then we could show you a national map, which we remind you that we showed yesterday and the deeper the red, the more traveling there is going on and the grayer the gray, the more social distancing and less travel that’s going on. And we showed this to you yesterday. I don’t think it’s changed meaningfully in any way since yesterday. In fact, probably not at all. But the point is, the good news is you see New Jersey among the cohort of very gray states, which means folks, thank you. What you’re doing is making a difference and that ultimately will give us the best weapon we have to deal with this and break the back of that curve and flatten it. We still have a ways to go by the way. I wish that this would be an overnight next week, two weeks from now phenomenon, it isn’t. But you also can see why we’re concerned about other places that are still traveling and have gotten to that stay at home status much more slowly than we have in New Jersey in our neighboring states.
Governor Phil Murphy: (12:52)
We’re going to have to be very, very careful when we slowly, whenever it is to begin to responsibly reopening our economy and our state and our society. We got to be very careful, particularly Judy and your team will remind me of contact tracing and being aggressive in quarantining and isolating anybody down the road once we’ve, listen, as I’ve said many times, we’re going through hell together. I’ll be darned if we’re going to do that more than once. We got to make sure, this is going to be longer than any of us want, but we’ve got to make sure that we not only crack the back of the reality here, but as we begin to open things up again, we don’t inadvertently put gasoline back on the fire.
Governor Phil Murphy: (13:34)
And again, back to our communities of faith, regardless of your faith, we need you to remember that we are all in this together and that we must find ways to stay at home. We mandate stay at home and exercise your faith, practice your faith, social distance even from your fellow family members but at home. So I thank you for that. There are a number of different other points which I’ll make as quickly as I can before I turn things over to Judy. We’ve had a number of conversations at the most senior levels of the administration. Literally this morning I had a good conversation with vice president Mike Pence across a whole range of critical asks on our behalf. You won’t be surprised, ventilators was at the top of that conversation as it is in almost every conversation we have. We have an outstanding remaining ask of 1,650 from the feds. We spoke about in these conversations also with Jared Kushner with Admiral [inaudible 00:14:40]
Governor Phil Murphy: (14:39)
We spoke about FEMA activities in the state. We spoke about PPE. As I mentioned, ventilators I re-expressed to the vice president how extraordinarily important it is that the Treasury Department be as flexible as they can be and as flexible as possible when they take the monies from the CARES Act that was signed last week and apply it to states. We’re in a world of hurt, not only are our expenses exploding, our revenues have fallen off the table and that’s in addition to what you all are going through as individuals, whether it’s filing for unemployment or small businesses, nonprofits. We hear from the arts community. We’re all in a world of hurt and I wanted to make sure that the vice president heard yet again that the more flexibility we applied to that, the better off we’ll be. Again, themes again repeated with Jared as it relates to ventilators and PPE in particular.
Governor Phil Murphy: (15:36)
We also went back and forth to make sure we had the flexibility we needed for those field medical stations, field hospitals as I call them, that are beginning to populate themselves. Judy can give you an update on Secaucus, so a whole range of conversations. Longterm care facilities is something Judy’s going to hit and that’s been a topic of other conversations that I know we’ve been having as a team. I was on with the Senate president last night and again this morning on some particular concerns that he had. I just got off the phone as I was coming here with John Dolan who heads the association. John reminds me that there … We talk about 375 longterm care facility. There’s another about 230 assisted living property, so there’s really over 600 in the broader community and I reiterated not only our thanks for their help but also a couple of things.
Governor Phil Murphy: (16:32)
Judy’s going to go over the fact that we need all of the workers at these facilities who inadvertently may be bringing in the virus to be fully masked in their work as Judy has articulated already. That if there’s any positive testing in a facility, it is the obligation mandated obligation of the operators of that facility to let next of kin know that that’s happened. Judy, and I know you’ve stressed that, so that’ll give you some sense of some of the conversations I was on with president Clinton this morning talking about supply chain and just getting his advice and just brainstorming about other ways we may be able to get at shortages that we continue to have. Again, we continue to be short ventilators, PPE beds, healthcare workers, which I know Judy will talk about our heroes at the front lines.
Governor Phil Murphy: (17:24)
We’re trying everything we can to stay out ahead of all the above, but I don’t have to say this, when you lose 200 people not necessarily overnight. I say that Judy, but this is another day where that 200 includes a lot of folks who did pass yesterday and this morning, but also folks that cumulatively have passed recently so God rest their souls. We’re doing everything we can to keep the amount of folks of lives we lose as low as possible and separately and to keep the number of folks who get this virus as low as possible. As cases continue to surge as we expect them to do, we are adding hospital capacity as I mentioned as quickly as we can and under Judy’s leadership and under Pat’s leadership and alongside the US Army Corps of Engineers, we’re working with all of our hospitals to rapidly and significantly increase bed capacity. We are building out new wings and bringing vacated buildings back online and we’re building out our field medical stations as I mentioned a minute ago and expect to have our second location in Edison ready, I believe early next week, Pat, right? 14th, okay.
Governor Phil Murphy: (18:37)
We’re also working to expand capacity by utilizing hotels and dormitories, particularly those located in hotspot areas or in close proximity to hospitals which are nearing capacity. This is an enormous effort to bring thousands of new beds online, which also requires us to plan for medical and administrative staffing, providing wraparound services and meeting, as I mentioned, our equipment and supply needs at every level. This is a data driven moneyball process. We know where we expect our numbers to go in the coming weeks and we have to do the difficult things to prepare for that. I will speak, I’ve sort of previewed this already. The past couple of days I, and we will speak to this in more detail on Monday.
Governor Phil Murphy: (19:24)
Switching gears again, earlier this week, federal authorities broke up a significant PPE hoarding situation in Brooklyn and seized hundreds of thousands of pieces of PPE, precisely the equipment that is in short supply. Yesterday we learned from the FBI and the US Attorney’s office that New Jersey will be one of the beneficiaries of the distribution of those hoarded supplies. We’ll be receiving more than 70,095 masks as you can see, and 5,000 gloves among other PPE from this seizure. I’d like to thank especially US Attorney Craig Carpenito and Newark FBI special agent in charge, Greg Ehrie for their efforts in seeing that our frontline get this gear and it gives me an opportunity to give a shout out to Jared Maples, who’s with us, the Director of the Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness. Good to have you Jared with us as always.
Governor Phil Murphy: (20:20)
Today Colonel Callahan will be signing an administrative order giving municipalities or counties the ability to prohibit all rentals to transient guests or seasonal tenants for the duration of this emergency, including at hotels and motels. We have heard too many stories, especially from our shore communities of people trying to relocate for the time being into their towns from impacted areas. This is not how social distancing works. No one should be leaving their primary residences and especially for the shore communities that do not have the infrastructure, especially the health and first responder infrastructure in place, particularly off season to accommodate an influx of residents.
Governor Phil Murphy: (21:07)
Meanwhile, we are still seeing individuals and members of our business community stepping up to help our entire family get through this. Yesterday by example, we were contacted by Uber Eats, the food delivery service, which is donating 14,000 meals totaling $350,000 to frontline workers at four hospital systems across the state. We are incredibly grateful to them and of course we are incredibly grateful to the heroic workers who will be receiving these meals.
Governor Phil Murphy: (21:39)
And of course we are still looking for many more people to join the thousands of retired or student health care workers and others with previous medical experience who have already signed up to volunteer to help us on the front lines. Please visit covid19.nj.gov/ volunteer. Again, covid19.nj.gov/volunteer to add your name and to have your experience matched with our emergent needs. Judy will likely address this, but it’s fair to say with all the challenges we have on ventilators where we’re short, PPE where we’re short, beds where we’re short. In fact in some cases the gating factor is healthcare workers, right? Folks. Because of folks who are not surprisingly out sick, social distancing, self- quarantining, we need all the help we can get, so please keep raising your hand and add your name to the many thousands who have come forward and said they’re willing to help.
Governor Phil Murphy: (22:42)
If I may switch gears again to the topic of testing, tomorrow Sunday April 5th, the Bergen Community College testing site, we will be operating again in partnership with FEMA, will be open at 8:00 AM and that will remain open until it reaches its 500 test capacity. To be tested you must be a New Jersey resident and you must be showing symptoms of a respiratory illness. Please asymptomatic folks, I don’t blame you for being worried. We understand that, but you’ve got to step aside and let the folks who are symptomatic step forward and get tested.
Governor Phil Murphy: (23:17)
The PNC Bank Arts Center site, which today I’ll remind you, is serving only healthcare workers and first responders will be closed to the general public tomorrow. And please remember, these are only two sites which are being operated directly through the Department of Health. There are many, many other county-run and other testing sites across the state. You can find one near you by visiting covid19.nj.gov/testing, covid19.nj.gov/testing. By last count, we had at least 45 separate testing sites across the state. And by the way, the number of tests that have been completed in this state has New Jersey with the-
Governor Phil Murphy: (24:03)
That have been completed in this state has New Jersey with the 11th largest population in America, ranked number four in America. Only behind New York, Florida, which have many more people than we do, and the state of Washington where this all first evidenced itself. And, if you believe you are showing symptoms, you can also take a self assessment covid19.nj.gov and go on the symptoms page.
Governor Phil Murphy: (24:27)
In any case, if you feel sick, call your primary care practitioner to see if you meet the requirements for testing. Before I close, I’d like to take a moment to once again highlight and applaud some of the folks around our state who are truly living our Jersey values by helping their community. One of them is somebody I know, Gwen Love, the executive director of Lunchbreak in Red Bank in my County, Monmouth County. Gwen is keeping the doors there open to continue distributing meals and serving the needs of those across Monmouth County who need a helping hand, especially at this time.
Governor Phil Murphy: (25:06)
So, to Gwen and her team, I say thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: (25:10)
And, how about this guy? This is Jim Hoffman. He’s a science and technology educator at Newton high school in Sussex County where he coaches, by the way, the robotics team. His son Justin is a resident doctor at university hospital in Newark. Used to work for you, Judy. Jim is using, Jim, the dad, is using both his personal three D printer and the two at Newton high school to produce protective face shields for the doctors and nurses who need them. So, to Jim, we cannot thank you enough.
Governor Phil Murphy: (25:45)
Gwen and Jim are just two of what we know are thousands of ordinary New Jerseyans who are doing extraordinary things to help us pull through this emergency. Whether it’s by keeping a community fed or making sure our frontline healthcare workers have the gear they need to stay safe on the job. Or, I should note, the work of the many community pharmacists. Another group I want to give a big shout out to who have kept their doors open to preserve their community’s health and wellness.
Governor Phil Murphy: (26:16)
We have heroes up and down the state beginning with our healthcare workers, our first responders, the community pharmacists I just mentioned, the folks who are working in essential retail, the N-J transit bus and rail folks, the supply chain folks and warehouses, the longshoreman I mentioned yesterday. The list is incredibly impressive. And, they are collectively our heroes and many more.
Governor Phil Murphy: (26:44)
We want to hear more stories like theirs. So, please, keep tweeting and using the hashtag N-J thanks you. And, we’ll keep sharing them. And, please, everybody, please keep doing what you’re doing to slow the spread and flatten the curve. That’s also heroism. That’s everyday heroism. In 100 years from now when they write the memorials about what you did that will be prominent among your life achievements. That you were there when we were needed the most.
Governor Phil Murphy: (27:15)
Keep up with your social distancing and keep staying indoors at home unless you absolutely need to go out or unless you are part of our frontline response in whichever way you are serving. Because we need you.
Governor Phil Murphy: (27:29)
Keep doing the little things. Washing your hands with soap and water. Keep smart. Keep remembering that we’ll get through this and we’ll get through this faster and stronger if we all do our parts. And, before I introduce Judy, let’s just all remember again, this is war. We are in a war. How do you win wars? You don’t panic and you don’t go business as usual. You win it by being smart, aggressive, proactive, shooting straight with each other, being honest about the toll that is both before us and will continue to grow. Let’s not kid each other. You win wars by not turning on each other, but to the contrary, coming together, this extraordinary diverse state coming together as one family. You win a war because you work harder than the next folks.
Governor Phil Murphy: (28:16)
You win it because you show courage as we’re seeing every single day up and down this state. From our frontline healthcare workers to every single one of the nine million of us. Including folks right now at home by themselves doing exactly what we need them to do. Every single one of us is a hero right now. Every single one of us must do our part if we are to flatten the curve of this virus, allow our healthcare system to be able to deal with it properly. And, then, emerge on the other side.
Governor Phil Murphy: (28:48)
And, unequivocally, may I say if we all do our part, there is no question in my mind we will win this war and we will emerge from this stronger as one New Jersey family. More together than ever before. With that, please help me welcome the woman who needs no introduction. The commissioner of the department of health, Judy Persichilli.
Judy Persichilli: (29:10)
Thank you governor. Well, good afternoon. Yesterday the C-D-C recommended the use of cloth face coverings in community settings to help reduce the spread of COVID 19. There is a growing body of evidence that asymptomatic, or what they call pre-symptomatic individuals can actually spread the virus. So, the C-D-C is recommending using a simple cloth face covering that covers the nose and the mouth.
Judy Persichilli: (29:42)
Cloth face coverings can be made at home from common materials like scarves or bandanas. And, remember, a face covering, lowering your chances of spreading the virus to others, it is not a fail safe measure to prevent you from getting sick. Everyone can do their part to slow the spread of this virus. If you wear a mask, you are protecting others. And, if others wear masks, they are protecting you. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical mass. They are not medical grade N 95 respirators.
Judy Persichilli: (30:19)
Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders who are caring for the sick. As the governor said yesterday, social distancing is by far our best preventative measure. Wearing a simple cloth face covering when you are out is not in any way a replacement for social distancing to flatten the curve. You must continue to keep at least six feet distance apart from others.
Judy Persichilli: (30:57)
Keep regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Practice safe respiratory hygiene. And, if you feel under the weather, even if you’re convinced it’s just your allergies acting up, stay indoors and away from others.
Judy Persichilli: (31:15)
I also want to return to another concern we talked about yesterday, the growing distress and fear of family members who have loved ones in longterm care settings. Family members have expressed growing concern about the lack of communication in some facilities when there is a resident who was confirmed with covid 19. Families are frustrated that they believe they can’t get someone on the phone in these facilities and they want to know if there’s an outbreak in the facility in which their loved one has residence.
Judy Persichilli: (31:49)
On March 6th, our deputy commissioner, Marcella Maisiers, sent a letter to all nursing homes, assisted living residences, comprehensive personal care homes, residential healthcare facilities and dementia care homes reminding them of their responsibility under the law to have an outbreak response plan. Including clear policies for the notification of residents, residents’ families, visitors, and staff when at least one COVID 19 case has been confirmed in a resident or a staff member at the facility. Today, I will be sending a follow up notification to all longterm care facilities with specific guidance as to how to notify people. It must be in person and in writing to all residents. In person and in writing to all staff members. Notification via telephone, email, or other method of communication the facility is using to notify the residents, family member, guardian, or designated person during this time of restricted visitation must be followed up in writing within three days.
Judy Persichilli: (33:13)
This morning, I also spoke, as the governor did to the C-E-O of the longterm care association to inform him that we are not notified… That if we are not notified by the close of business on Monday that these directives are taking place, we will release the names of the longterm care facilities with at least one COVID 19 case.
Judy Persichilli: (33:40)
Regarding our hospitals in the northern part of the state. We predicted that we would see a surge beginning the mid second week of April going through the end of April and into May. However, we believe that part of that surge has just starting. Last night we had nine hospitals on divert primarily due to staffing issues and critical care bed capacity. Three hospitals were on divert for critical care. Six on full divert primarily due to staff issues. We need volunteers. We need volunteers to assist us in this effort. If you can volunteer, please visit COVID-19. nj.gov/volunteer to sign up. We are sending out, today, a crisis alert for more volunteers. If you can volunteer, again, please visit covid19.nj.gov/volunteer to sign up. We need you.
Judy Persichilli: (34:50)
Our hospitals are reporting over 4,000 confirmed positive COVID patients in our hospitals as of last evening. And, an additional over 2000 P-U-Is, or persons under investigations awaiting test results. 1,494 of those patients of confirmed positive are in critical care. And, over 85%, or 1,263 are on ventilators.
Judy Persichilli: (35:28)
Also, our first field medical station in Secaucus will open on Monday. This morning, as we speak, there is a training session being held for individuals who are volunteering to staff that site. As the governor mentioned, we are reporting 4,331 new cases for a total of 34,124 cases in the state. That will continue to grow. We need the volunteers. We need the field operation to be up and running.
Judy Persichilli: (36:02)
Again, sadly, 200 new deaths have been reported. Of the new deaths reported, 47 were from Bergen County, 37 from Essex, 21 from Ocean, eight each from Mercer and Mars, six from Monmouth, four from Passaic, three from Warren and one each from Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Hunterdon, Somerset, and Sussex. Nine of these new deaths were residents of longterm care facilities. So, we now have 846 fatalities in our state. We join with the governor and offer condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.
Judy Persichilli: (36:52)
The county breakdown of new cases is as follows, Atlantic, 28, Bergen, 607, Burlington, 98, Camden, 74, Cape May, seven, Cumberland, five, Essex, 409, Gloucester, 31, Hudson, 490, 123, Mercer, 89, Middlesex, 400, Monmouth, 301, Morris, 214, Ocean, 268, Passaic, 489, none in Salem, Somerset, 108, Sussex, 21, Union, 287, and Warren, 30. And, we are still gathering more details on 348 of these new cases.
Judy Persichilli: (37:52)
At this point, 148 longterm care facilities in the state are reporting at least one COVID 19 case. And, as the governor share we have 375 longterm care nursing facilities and approximately 200 assisted living facilities and other settings such as residential memory care housing.
Judy Persichilli: (38:17)
I do want to share the breakdown of the 846 reported fatalities. 61% are male, 39% are female. As far as the age range. There are six cases, or 1% under the age of 30. 47, or 6%, between 30 and 49. 16%, or 136, between the ages of 50 and 64. 32%, or 268 individuals between the ages of 65 and 79. And, 46%, 389, over the age of 80. We have documented underlying health conditions for 300 of our cases at this point, or 35%. we have four cases identified as not having an underlying health condition. Only four. Otherwise we have 542 still under investigation so we expect those with underlying health conditions to increase. And, again, about 9% associated with longterm care.
Judy Persichilli: (39:35)
So, you may not feel sick, but it is possible that you could transmit CODIV 19 to someone more vulnerable. We ask you to be careful. We ask you to follow the C-D-C guidelines when you leave your residence. For more information, I encourage you to call nj211 or visit covid19.nj.gov. They are great resources for the public to get information. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: (40:07)
Thank you, Judy, for that and for all. A couple of points if I may follow up, Judy with you, again, top five counties are staying about the same in terms of positive cases. I’ll just read them in order. Bergen continued number one. Essex, number two, Hudson, three, Union, four, Passaic, five. So, it’s that same cluster of the northeast counties.
Governor Phil Murphy: (40:32)
Again, Judy, cloth face covering is the recommendation from the C-D-C. And, to dovetail that with… And, by the way, that’s something that I’ll speak for all of us that we’ll all take seriously. It’s hard to do a press conference with a face mask or a face covering. And, we’re staying six feet apart. And, we will make sure of that. But that’s advice that we’re not only giving to people via the C-D-C, but we’ll take their advice ourselves. But, importantly, cloth face covering is not a face mask, necessarily. And, certainly it isn’t a surgical or N 95. And, I would just beg people, do not, I’m begging you, don’t go out and and have a run on the very masks that are healthcare workers, first responders, and, by the way, they don’t even have enough, nevermind expanding it out to the other categories of folks that we want to expand it to.
Governor Phil Murphy: (41:28)
Essential retail, N-J transit, et cetera, et cetera. Did I get that right? So, again, don’t, don’t, please don’t compound a challenge that we already have.
Governor Phil Murphy: (41:42)
Bear with me. The notification on longterm care facilities, I just want to repeat need business on that, right? If the facilities don’t do the proper communication by Monday, we will communicate directly to you in this forum or in some other forum ourselves. Is that fair to say? So, we mean business on that front.
Governor Phil Murphy: (42:04)
Cannot say that enough on volunteers. Please go to the main website covid19.nj.gov/volunteer. Because, goodness knows we need you. And, I saw a great picture of the very group of volunteers today in Secaucus going through their training. And, it was really heartening to see. That’s going to really be up modest at first, but it’s going to be up and open for business on Monday. It’s an extraordinary feat in terms of getting it up and running and now getting it staffed and, very soon, within a couple of days, being able to handle patients.
Governor Phil Murphy: (42:40)
So, hats off. And, obviously Edison and Atlantic city not too far behind. Before we hear from Rob, thank you, Judy, for everything. Before we hear from Rob, anything, Pat, on the compliance, P-P-E bed construction or other topics?
Just, thank you, governor. Just one correction. I had Atlantic City and Edison confused. The Edison field medical station is about 75% complete. That should be ready by April 8th, not the 14th. It is the Atlantic City convention center that the target date is April 14th, I just wanted to clarify that.
Governor Phil Murphy: (43:13)
So, that’s Secaucus open for patients on Monday. Again, slowly but surely. On Wednesday, Edison likely to be in the shape that you and I saw Secaucus as of last Thursday.
Governor Phil Murphy: (43:26)
And, then it would be a week from Tuesday for Atlantic City.
That is correct.
Governor Phil Murphy: (43:29)
I’ve got that. Perfect.
As far as the overnight, really generally quiet, there was a subject charged with the executive order violation for facilitating and pulling together a youth basketball game with six juveniles.
He was cited. There was a subject arrested for domestic violence and brought to the Monmouth County jail in free hold where during his processing, he claimed to have the coronavirus and spit on the officers trying to process him. And, once again, Newark last night issued 122 summonses and closed seven businesses. I did speak with director Ambross this morning to thank him for his continued efforts and to offer our condolences on the loss of officer Tolbert Farr who did pass away as a result of COVID 19.
Thank you, governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: (44:19)
God, rest his soul. And, all the others whose lives are lost. The knucklehead hall of shame just astounds me that somebody would do what that that guy did in Monmouth. So, again, folks, the great news is, overwhelmingly, everybody in New Jersey is doing exactly what we need you to do. But, we need everybody to do that. And, so, please, no gatherings. No stupid behavior, certainly. But, please, everybody stay at home.
Governor Phil Murphy: (44:53)
So, clearly this is a time of hurt for so many. Look at the lives lost, the precious souls, their families and friends and communities. The folks who are dealing with covid 19 right now as we speak.
Governor Phil Murphy: (45:10)
But, let’s also remember at the top of the list is a historic amount of people who have lost their jobs in this state and in this country at levels that are literally, Rob, I said yesterday, tens of fold, tens times, tens of times more than any normal period. And, even relative to other spikes in our past.
Governor Phil Murphy: (45:35)
And, I know there’s a lot of folks out there who are clamoring, and who could blame you, to get that security of having the connection made, whether it’s online, whether it’s on the telephone that you know you’re going to get the unemployment insurance. And, the great news coming out of the bill that was signed by the president a week ago yesterday, there’s now more federal help and that’s a big deal.
Governor Phil Murphy: (45:57)
And, I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, as I introduce Rob, everybody please bear with us. They’ve got some extraordinary folks led by this guy and his team are doing everything they can to answer your calls and to respond and to make sure you get that comfort you need. Just know that it’s an unprecedented level and you won’t lose one penny of support if it takes a little bit longer. I promise you that. So, with that, the leader of an extraordinary group of folks who are doing everything they can, please help me welcome the commissioner, the department of labor and workforce development, Rob Asaro-Angelo.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (46:33)
Thank you, governor for having me this afternoon. And, thank you for the shout out to James Hoffman and the Newton robotics team. I’ve seen aperture perform a couple of times and they are no joke. Judy, Pat, thank you so much for your strong and stable leadership during these times. I really appreciate it as your colleague and New Jersey resident.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (46:49)
Over the prior two weeks, we saw more than 362,000 people apply for unemployment as a result of this public health emergency. The crush of layoffs and furloughs of overwhelmed state unemployment agencies nationwide and New Jersey is no exception. We are seeing volumes of claims to our website and calls to our customer service centers exponentially higher than anytime in history. I don’t like correcting the boss who said we had tens times increase in claims, but the first week of the crisis we saw a 1600% increase in volume. 1600% in a single week. But, I’m not here to talk about the strain our system has been under the last few weeks.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (47:28)
I’m here to talk about what’s really important. Our action plan to serve the public at this difficult time. There’s nothing I want more than to put your hard earned benefits into your family budget sooner. We’ve made no secret about the inflexibilities of our legacy technology and our desperate desire to receive and act on more of your phone calls. We hear your frustration and we are with you. We’re currently working to bring into our systems more of your calls and emails. This is our number one priority. We hear it from family, our own family members, friends, friends of friends, all making similar pleas for help.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (48:03)
Friends of friends all making similar pleas for help as this pandemic has impacted everyone. As one New Jersey family, we’ve been affected together and I’m confident we will get through this together. I want to thank my colleague, Chris Ryan at the office of information technology. And, our own it staff led by Sharon Pagano who had been working nonstop to make our 40 year old mainframe systems continue to perform under such atypical circumstances and all of our U-I division, led by Greg Castalani, who have become economic first responders for much of our state.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (48:33)
We are moving aggressively. Here’s what we have done and what we are doing to better serve our customers. We’re increasing capacity to ensure more calls and more applications get through at one time. In recent years, we’ve incorporated pocket solutions and changes to our unemployment systems that have allowed 92% of claims to come in online.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (48:52)
Taking stress off of our phone lines. By comparison, after super storm Sandy, peak of online filing was just 70%. When you’re talking about the numbers we’re talking about, that’s a big difference. We’re pinpointing places where claims are getting stuck and using all the department’s resources to reroute those claims so we can pay them as soon as possible.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (49:11)
We’re adding phone lines and have trained employees from other divisions to help us field calls. We have procured hundreds of additional laptops so more staff can work remotely. We’re continuously updating our website, adding information in easy, plain language to walk our customers through the application process. We know this is new for a lot of people, so we’re trying to make our clunky, old applications as user friendly as possible. Nj.gov/labor and myunemployment.nj.gov provide great resources for first-time filers, including F-A-Qs. We have put out helpful guides so our customers can feel secure.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (49:47)
They’re applying for the right program. Which also speeds their processing. We’re working to make sure our customers have the information they need from us to understand what is happening every step of the way so they won’t have to worry about their benefit application, their benefit amount, or waste time and trying to get through on the phone.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (50:04)
We have our staff working overtime, late hours and on weekends to move claims along that need an agent’s review. The number of new unemployment claims moving through without issue is about 50%. which is no different than before the pandemic. That means half the residents who file for unemployment begin receiving benefits within two or three weeks. When filing online, there are reasons a claim might not be processed immediately and need one of our claims examiners to review it. A person may be filing for the first time and did not provide all the required information or already had an old account in the system.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (50:37)
A person may be temporarily furloughed. They may feel confused about the work source, the federally mandated work search questions on the unemployment application. Or, they are independent contractors who have been told to apply while we await federal guidelines on how to administer benefits to this unique population.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (50:54)
These are not uncommon issues for our staff, but they do require verifying important information and walking through the process with claimants one at a time. Imagine a stadium with 10,000 seats, but there are a million people waiting to get in. There are only so many who can get through the gates at one time. To help reduce the number of claims that do need agent intervention, just last night, maybe it was early this morning, we posted a brand new F-A-Q with 45 additional covid-specific filing questions. I can’t stress enough how much we empathize with the frustration, fear, and economic uncertainty that comes with suddenly being unemployed.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (51:32)
Due to the high volume of claims being filed, there may be a delay in processing the back date, but they will be paid for each week they’re eligible for benefits no matter when the claim gets processed. We also suggest applying online during off hours, such as first thing in the morning, or later in the evening when traffic is lightest.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (51:51)
We recognize this is small constellation the when the bills are due today. But, we are working on getting you help as fast as we can. This is why we’re also grateful for the additional support the federal government and the N-J-E-D-A are providing to businesses in the forms of grants, loans and payroll tax credits for keeping employees on the payroll that my colleague Tim Sullivan talked about here yesterday. The federal CARES Act, the governor mentioned, signed last Friday night, will bring direct relief to our workers by expanding unemployment eligibility and providing an additional $600 per week for four months on top of what state programs pay. And, also, will open up benefits to those who are not traditionally eligible such as the self employed and independent contractors.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (52:33)
However, we still have to wait for federal guidance before this can begin, but relief is coming. This week that ends today is the first week claimants are eligible for this additional $600 benefit. And, New Jersey residents will receive this just a few days after they receive their regular unemployment check next week. They do not have to do anything else to get this additional funding. We are awaiting guidance from the US department of labor on how and when to administer the 13 week extension of unemployment benefits known as pandemic emergency unemployment compensation. But, we will share this information far and wide as soon as we have it.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (53:08)
In closing, I want everybody watching to know that our department is working harder than ever before to address the hardships many of you are facing due to this pandemic. Our staff is in our office or at home working remotely right now because this is the biggest emergency our department has ever and, hopefully, will ever face.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (53:25)
I join in the governor’s sentiments that together we’ll not only beat this unprecedented threat to our health and welfare, but we will emerge on the other side a stronger and more united New Jersey. Our workers and businesses have paid into the system precisely for this moment and now it’s here for you. We will get every one of you, our fellow new Jerseyans, the help they deserve. Thank you, governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: (53:46)
Rob, thank you. And, thank you for your leadership every day, but certainly these days. You know, Rob has got deep, firstly, he’s an organized labor family guy. Secondly, he has deep state experience, clearly. He’s leading our efforts. But, also had federal experience under secretary Perez in the Obama administration. And for all those reasons, we’re incredibly honored and glad to have you at the helm, particularly during this crisis.
Governor Phil Murphy: (54:13)
This will be of no solace to somebody who’s trying to get through. And I’m not intending it to be any solace. But, as we look at other States and compare notes, which we do all the time, I’d say we’re in a meaningfully, again, not going to make you feel any better, we’re in a better position than most of the folks that we’re talking to. So, we’re all in this together. The numbers are ginormous relative to any thing we’ve ever dealt with historically. And, certainly, relative to any norm. Secondly, in our list of volunteers, Judy, not only do we need healthcare workers, but given the legacy systems, we should add a page for cobalt computer skills. Because, that’s what we’re dealing with in these legacies. Chris Ryan is doing a heck of a job. But, literally, we have systems that are 40 plus years old and there’ll be lots of postmortems. And, one of them on our list will be, how the heck did we get here when we literally needed cobalt programmers? So, thank you Rob. And, thanks to each and everyone. And, we’re going to start over here. We’re going to try to go at a pretty good pace today. Brett, we’ll start with you. Good afternoon.
Yes, good afternoon.
Governor Phil Murphy: (55:22)
Brendan’s got the microphone. That’s Brendan, he’s with you.
Oh, no problem. Hi, Brendan. So, colonel, do you have any more information on where that basketball game was? And, it was six people, just juveniles?
Yeah, I’m sorry, that was in Raritan Township.
[inaudible 00:55:39] county?
It was in… Yes. And it was just, again, a gentleman organizing a game of six juveniles.
Okay. And, then, more pressingly, some corrections officers don’t believe they’re being offered enough protection behind bars and they’ve raised concerns about a lack of P-P-E and flagged reports that inmates are still being transferred between facilities in the Northern and Southern parts of the state.
Some unions have asked you, the governor, to lock down state prisons and all transfers. Are you open to either of those requests? Then, two more. From Dan Munoz of NJ biz, can you ask… can I ask, which dorms and hotels are being used for patients? And, this is another question I have, this transient order, does that mean all hotels and motels across the state are being asked not to accept people anymore? And, they’re now going to be used for hospital space?
And, then, last one, this is from my colleague Sue Livio, you issued guidance this week that described when it’s sick healthcare workers allowed back to work. The guidance is based on C-D-C guidance. But, it doesn’t include one important aspect, the C-D-C included, which allows the guidance to be set aside if there is a staffing shortage.
Governor Phil Murphy: (56:53)
Set aside with what? Sorry.
Set aside a staffing… which allows guidance to be set aside if there is a staffing shortage. We hear hospitals are following the C-D-C language of bringing sick workers back before they recover. Did you leave this loophole out intentionally? And, what do you want the hospitals to do?
Governor Phil Murphy: (57:10)
Okay. A number of things. Is Daniel well, by the way?
I think he’s just not, yeah.
Governor Phil Murphy: (57:18)
I think he’s fine.
Governor Phil Murphy: (57:19)
Tell everyone who’s given you these, and I know some of others have feel that their questions tell them where we said, “Hey, we’re thinking of them.”
Governor Phil Murphy: (57:27)
So, we’ve got corrections officers who don’t have enough P-P-E. I don’t think there’s any category in this state that has enough P-P-E. I could say definitively. So, that doesn’t mean we’re not taking it seriously. But, that is a fact. Judy could comment on corrections in a minute. Because, you, in fact, have been back and forth a lot with Marcus Hicks, our commissioner. Dorms and hotels with a priority, Pat, near hospitals. Am I right?
That’s correct. It’s a daily discussion. We’re trying to, at this junction, those dorms and hotels are for the medical staffing. We’re trying to have them close to not only the Secaucus field medical station. I think we’re talking about Rutgers in new Brunswick as well as Rutgers in Newark. That’s right in close proximity to st Michael’s. So, to try and get those hotels slash dorms at first glance to house the medical staff. So we have them in close proximity to where we need them.
The administrative order that you’re going to sign, I just want a little more detail on that. What exactly does that do?
I think it is a combination. I think the governor made the point. We don’t want people traveling down there. I don’t think at this juncture that those smaller hotels, but I certainly would defer to Matt Platkin who’s standing in the back there with regards to that.
Governor Phil Murphy: (58:46)
The whole… Bear with us. Bear with us. Let me hit Judy. Corrections. Then I want to come back and ask Matt to talk about both the staffing shortage question you asked vis-a-vis C-D-C guidelines as well as the order on hotels and transit. Is that good? We’re giving you Pat. Judy. Corrections. [crosstalk 00:59:04] please.
Judy Persichilli: (59:04)
Commissioner Hicks and I have been back and forth, actually, over the last 24 hours. We’ve also touched in with Dr. Tam. And, we are starting at all of the correctional, the state correctional institutions. The same guidance that we gave to longterm care institutions that employees should be screened on their way in. They should be wearing protective masks to protect actually the inmates from the employees. Because, we’ve had a number of employees testing positive.
Judy Persichilli: (59:39)
Additionally, to the degree possible or communal dining will is stopped. I don’t want to say will be stopped, is stopped. If that’s an impossibility, they are arranging their dining facilities so everyone is six feet apart. I didn’t know. I know Dr. Tam reviewed that guidance. I forget whether it was last evening or this morning because we’ve been going back and forth. Correction, it was both. So, I don’t know if you have anything to add on corrections.
Dr. Tam: (01:00:09)
Nothing more to add about corrections. But, regarding the comments about the alignment with C-D-C guidance about health care workers, I’m going to actually read specifically from our guidance which is completely aligned with C-D-C guidance. We actually have, on our website, guidance for covid 19 diagnosed and or exposed healthcare personnel.
Dr. Tam: (01:00:32)
And, regarding the particular question, symptomatic healthcare workers who have tested positive for a covid 19 may return to work. And, this is, again, what we’ve been saying before, they may return to work seven days after symptoms first developed and 72 hours after fever has resolved without the use of fever reducing medications with a significant improvement in symptoms. Whichever period is longer. And, in recognition of possible staffing issues, health care providers who have tested positive for covid 19 shall be masked at work until symptoms have completely resolved or until 14 days after illness onset or positive tests, whichever is longer. And, they should be restricted.
Dr. Tam: (01:01:19)
And, this is actually good common sense measures, too. Restricted from caring for severely immunocompromised patients. Which include, for example, patients who have just been recently transplanted, or our cancer patients, until 14 days after illness onset or positive test.
Dr. Tam: (01:01:37)
And, again, this is completely aligned with the C-D-C guidance.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:01:41)
Thank you, Dr. Tam. Matt, could you add some color on the executive order regarding hotels and transmit?
Sure. The administrative order that the colonel issued today is actually an addendum to an executive order 108. Which, as we’ve talked about before, gives a few limited exceptions to the broader executive order around mitigation that allows towns in other jurisdictions to make their own policies. This will give them, if they choose. It’s not mandatory, it won’t be a statewide policy. But, some towns may want to close short term rentals, hotels, motels, within their jurisdiction.
They cannot interfere with… Even if they do that, they cannot interfere with statewide or statewide housing plans with respect to the covid outbreak. They can’t restrict healthcare workers. And, they can’t restrict temporary housing or other housing assistance. And, we’ll put the order out later and that will lay all that out.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:02:40)
You also asked about moving prisoners around, Brent. And, the answer is we haven’t made any decision on that. That’s on a long list of considerations that would always the right to get back to fair to say.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:02:53)
Sir, come on down front here. You’ll get to come down front, Brendan. Right here.
My name’s Darren. Darren Katz. I’m actually retired from C-B-S. Actually claiming unemployment right now. What should… I have a question for Robert Angelo. What should a person do that’s filing unemployment when they get a bad request and they can’t get through online or on the phone. And, or, maybe the account’s unable to be created?
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (01:03:21)
That’s a really good question. First of all, it’s very hard.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (01:03:24)
Okay, that’s fine. I’ll take your stuff on the way out. You know, part of the problem with this is it’s hard to answer questions about specific cases either here at a press conference or online or anywhere else. But, one thing I do want to let folks know that are getting messages like that online or they’re told to call, which is a normal course of business for our systems. We have a team of folks who are going through manually afterwards. And, basically, hand fixing most of these claims.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (01:03:50)
So, a good way to put it is that folks who are complaining and freaking out at the beginning of last week, most of those folks now have already been updated in the system and they’re going to be getting their benefit payments. I know that’s small solace now, because you want to know that for sure that your claim is cured, essentially. But, that’s all I can say right now. Is that generally folks who are getting those kinds of messages, that we have a team of folks on the back end who are going through manually and fixing those claims. And, if they need information from you, they’ll reach out to you. Where in the past we have the ability to just call those folks or them get through easily enough that we’ll do it over the phone or online. We’re just doing it ourselves as many large batches as possible. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:04:29)
Good luck. Obviously, we’re with you. Charlie.
Yes, governor, can you hear me?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:04:34)
I can hear you.
Okay. So, I do want to ask the commissioner of health, how prepared was our healthcare system for this type of thing? And, what lessons have we learned to maybe become more prepared in case something like this happens again? And, I know it was a long time ago, but I’m curious if anybody’s looked into the 1918 pandemic and what lessons New Jersey can take from that? And, finally, I want to ask, governor, how you view your prohibition on gatherings in terms of public protests. There’s a number of controversial things that are still moving forward. I know the toll hikes, for instance. And, what would you say to people who want to make their voices heard and do it in a responsible way? What do you think is the best way for them to do that?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:05:24)
Okay, good questions. If Joe Fjord Elisa were here, I would say something of wise-guyish. Like, Joe was here for the 1918 pandemic and he’ll give us comments on it. But, Joe’s not here, so I won’t. I’m going to, Judy, I’m going to start and throw it to you. Is that all right? I mentioned the particularly relevant period in world war two, particularly for the Brits with the United States not yet in the war. With the Germans having basically conquered the entirety of the continent, including France. And, the challenges that Churchill and his team and the citizens had to be able to both prepare for something awful, unknown. As well as keep an optimism that this was winnable. And, that’s, in so many respects, what we’re dealing with, right? So, this is something that none of us have ever dealt with before and all levels, including yours truly and every one of us.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:06:25)
And, at the same time, we have to remind ourselves that somehow, some way we’re going to win this thing and we’re going to get through it. So, I’m not being short on this, but I don’t think Churchill was doing a lot of, in May of 1940, a lot of how do we get into this position postmortems yet. I’m going to be all for a postmortem as to how we got to where we are. I think, particularly, at the federal level. Particularly, based on these conversations, which are all constructive by the way, with the white house and with others. But, the facts are what they are. And, we’re going to do our own post-mortem in terms of where were we prepared, where were we not prepared. And, we’re going to be… I don’t know how that’s going to take shape, but I promise you that we will do that. And, Judy can add any color in a second here.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:07:15)
I would just say, one of the big lessons in the 1918 pandemic is it’s quite clear that communities that aggressively shut down first or most were communities that had less of a toll. There’s just no question about it. Now, that’s more complicated at one level and less complicated in another, today. Because, we have a lot more travel than we did 102 years ago. That’s the bad news.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:07:43)
The good news is we’ve got technology that we didn’t have 102 years ago that allows us to virtually travel. So, that, to me, is the one big, and Judy can jump in and add her two cents on this stuff, the one big one. I forget the communities, but it’s pretty stark. The ones that shut down first and shut down hardest were the ones that had less of a toll.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:08:05)
And, I would say on gatherings, protests or otherwise, including the toll hearings, democracy has to continue, but we have to do it in a smarter way. And, I think, in particular, it’s going to have to be things like virtual participation. I don’t see any way around that. I was on a board meeting this morning, a board on which I sit ex-officio. It was all done on Zoom and telephone. We’re going to, as I mentioned on the toll hearings, it’s going to have to be, or I can’t condone them unless they’re done virtually on the telephone. There’s an 800 number for somebody to call. There’s an extended comment period. But, we cannot be gathering right now. And, the most tragic for obvious reasons, but the one that really hurts the most is funerals. And, wakes and memorial services. Where we’ve got now hundreds of precious lives and families and friends that spider network out from there. You’ve got many, many thousands of people right now who are mourning deeply and who want to come together and can’t come together.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:09:12)
So, it’s not just the protests, it’s not just the hearings, it’s gatherings of any type. And, as I mentioned earlier, particularly on the cusp of three of the biggest faith seasons, celebrations, of any time of the year. Judy, any comments on how prepared were we in any lessons from Spanish flu or other pandemics?
Judy Persichilli: (01:09:33)
Sure. Well, first of all, the fact that we’re sitting here and all of the departments within state government not only had plans that they dusted off from the shelf and updated, but people are getting fed. The shelters are, so far, are continuing to take care of the most vulnerable people.
Judy Persichilli: (01:09:56)
WIC is still up and running and mothers and children are still getting, if not differently, the same level of service that they got before the complete shutdown. To me, being new in this position, is an extraordinary testament to how prepared, once the coronavirus task force was put into place, how prepared people were. On the other hand, it’s kind of interesting to me. My grandmother died in the 1918 flu epidemic. And, the same thing that would have saved her life is what we’re asking everyone to do today. Is social distancing. Non-technology interventions that can save lives.
Judy Persichilli: (01:10:43)
To me, that’s an amazing comparison and a lesson learned. As the governor said, that’s what stopped that pandemic from claiming more lives than it actually did. So, we’ve done some things extraordinarily well done. On the other hand, we’ve asked every department to have an after action plan to write down every single day what could be better.
Judy Persichilli: (01:11:06)
I have a whole list in front of me. I do, at the end of every day, I add to it. And, there’s a lot of things that I think we can address to be even more prepared going into the future. It’s a little too early to reveal all of that now. Not because it’s a secret, but because of the comparisons between and amongst departments should take place. But, we will have an after action plan.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:11:31)
Judy, what was your… Where’d your grandmother live?
Judy Persichilli: (01:11:35)
New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:11:36)
New Brunswick, New Jersey. God, rest her soul. Yeah. Let there be no doubt. We’re going to keep moving here, but let there be no doubt, we will do a rigorous, and it will be fully transparent, the results of which at least, postmortem. We have no choice. And, we will make sure of that. You have my commitment. And, I, please, God, ask that we do one nationally as well. Akin. No politics, bipartisan-
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:12:02)
Again, no politics, bipartisan, just the facts like the 9/11 commission that one of my mentors, Governor Tom Kane, chaired and Lee Hamilton was the vice chair for which that’s what we need as a country and we’ll have I’m sure some version of that for our state. Please. You’re good? Okay. Anybody in the back? Sir, who are you with again?
Carlos Ramirez: (01:12:26)
Carlos Ramirez, New Brunswick Today. My first question-
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:12:28)
You guys from the same operation? Okay, so we do have one… You have to help us out here. I thought [inaudible 01:12:35] were limiting to one per organ, so just please help us out going forward. Go ahead.
Carlos Ramirez: (01:12:39)
All right. I just wanted to ask, what type of aid is being offered to low income families, special immigrant families that have been left out of work and their kids are at home?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:12:50)
What else do you have?
Carlos Ramirez: (01:12:51)
And also in the jails that are quarantined, why haven’t they been tested.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:12:56)
One more time?
Carlos Ramirez: (01:12:57)
The jails that have been quarantined, why they haven’t been tested?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:13:03)
So anything else?
Carlos Ramirez: (01:13:04)
That will be all.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:13:05)
Okay, thank you. Brendan, we’ll come down front here after this. Matt can talk about the former, but we have a whole series of things for the Department of Human Services, largely that are directed at communities that are typically, in a normal time, are being left behind, nevermind at the time of crisis. And I don’t want to go through and list the whole set of programs for you. In fact, I don’t know that I have it off the top of my head, but we are the immigrant nation and this state is the immigrant state and we wear that as a badge of honor. I think like any community, Judy, we’re testing symptomatic folks regardless of where you are in the state. So not sort of hiving off one particular category. And the only time I think we’ve done that either A, certain counties have asked just that their residents be tested at their testing sites and we with the FEMA partners have designated days like today where we’ve sent health care workers and first responders. Am I right in terms of the corrections population as well?
Commissioner Judith: (01:14:09)
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:14:09)
Yeah. Matt, anything you want to add in terms of immigrant communities? We can, Mahan, let’s get back for Carol Johnson, we’ll give you a more specific rundown of some of the programs that we have up and running for our immigrant brothers and sisters. Thank you. Come on down please. Good afternoon.
Speaker 5: (01:14:26)
Afternoon, a couple of-
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:14:27)
Speaker 5: (01:14:28)
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:14:29)
Speaker 5: (01:14:30)
Oh, thank you. So I’ll ask four questions. I’ll just read them off. Focus so far has been largely on North Jersey and the search that’s happening there. I remember from an earlier press conference there being a lot of concerns about bed capacity in the south as well. You’ve mentioned Woodbury, you mentioned the AC pop-up, but I’m curious how you’re going to manage other supplies when the south sees its surge while the north is probably still at peak or coming down off its peak?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:14:55)
Speaker 5: (01:14:56)
So that’s the first one. The second one, a lot of reports in the national media the last couple of weeks, or last week rather, about problems with testing results, false negatives coming back. I think the suggestion is something like 30% of COVID patients are testing negative. Do you have any thoughts about just that generally and how that might affect the use of PPE? I’ve heard some complaints from hospital executives about it’s important to figure out who’s negative so that way you’re not using, burning supplies on those patients. Third one’s a block grant question. You’ve mentioned the importance of getting flexibility from the federal government. Based on your conversations with administration officials, do you believe they’ll actually provide you with that flexibility? I know that that’s what you hope for, but I’m asking if you think that’s going to happen. And then the last one is a little bit of a easier one. You mentioned sourcing PPE and other materials from outside the US, just want to see how those efforts are going, if there’s any news to report there? Thank you so much.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:15:52)
Okay. What’s that?
Speaker 5: (01:15:52)
Thank you so much.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:15:52)
My pleasure. Thanks for coming. Do you have a couple of general comments, Madam Commissioner? Then over to you, is that all right? And by the way, Pat, you shouldn’t hesitate to come in here as well. So a couple things on the regional pieces, the south, while there are certain counties that I showed in that heat map that are hotter, but lower numbers, there are other counties that have meaningful numbers. Camden’s got just under 500 positives, lost eight lives. Burlington’s got just under 500 positives. They’ve lost 10 lives, et cetera. Gloucester, I was on with Steve Sweeney earlier, 215 positives, three lost lives. So it is in every county. Judy, to her great credit has regionalized the response to this and that’s going to allow us to be much broader in the way that we deal with a particular part of the state.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:16:53)
Clearly we’re in a world of hurt up north. We’re in a pretty close world of hurt in the central part. It isn’t at that level yet in the south. Kevin O’Dowd, the CEO of Cooper is our point person in the south working with Virtua, obviously working with Pat and folks in terms of the pop-up at Atlantic City, which is due to be ready to go on the 14th and you rightfully point out that we go into this with a smaller population clearly in the south, but with a still less than probably on the postmortem list, a less than adequate healthcare infrastructure in the south even for that population. I’ll let Judy add to that. Testing results in terms of this is largely how long it takes to get back or positives that turned out to be negatives or negatives that were positives?
Speaker 5: (01:17:41)
You’re coming fast.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:17:42)
Sorry, don’t [crosstalk 00:05:44].
Speaker 5: (01:17:43)
No, it’s okay.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:17:43)
We don’t add to any dental work from our members of the media here today.
Speaker 5: (01:17:47)
No. It had to do with false negatives, so there’s worries about the accuracy of the tests themselves. So if you’re getting a patient whose been testing negative.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:17:56)
Got it. I’ll let the experts answer that. I haven’t heard a whole lot of that, but I will say this, I think it’s fair to say just because you tested negative a week ago, Monday, doesn’t mean you’re going to stay negative forever and that’s not a false negative. That’s just the fact that this is a movie, not a snapshot. Block grants, too early to tell. Frankly, it’s too early to tell. We had some strong assurances at very senior levels of the administration. I’ll leave the details to themselves. We let our concerns be known as this bill was being hatched to the highest levels in both chambers, in Congress as well as to the administration. It’s too early to tell. We need maximum flexibility or we can’t continue to do the job that we’re doing. And so that is to be determined.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:18:45)
Listen, a big chunk of my conversation with President Clinton today was on this very question of how are you thinking about sourcing in particular, not just around the country but around the world? If we were fishing, I’d say we got a lot of lines in the water right now. We’ve purchased now over 10 million items costing tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars as the state of New Jersey. This is a line of business we weren’t in six weeks ago. A and we’re now a huge player in, but we’re talking morning, noon, and night. I was exchanging notes this morning with folks in Taiwan, as I mentioned over the past 48 hours, the PRC as well as Germany. I’d say China feels to me, outside the United States, the deepest pond to use the fishing analogy in which we’re fishing and we’re getting hits here and there, but we’re going to stay at it. And I would say if we’ve got really big news on that front, we’ll let you know. Judy, any comments you want to add and then Pat, anything you want to add?
Commissioner Judith: (01:19:53)
Well, first we’ve tested over 72,000 people. Our positivity rate is about 42%. I don’t know what the false negative or the false positive rate is, Dr. Tan, so I’m going to send it over to you.
Dr. Tan: (01:20:06)
So these tests, the PCR tests, are really good at picking up disease if you have disease. So the way that the tests work is that they pick up small amounts of genetic material from the virus. And because there’s been a focus on testing individuals who have been symptomatic, there’s definitely a much greater chance then that you’re going to be picking up individuals with disease. That’s why we’ve had a really high positivity rate in general. And again getting back to the issue of the sensitivity, the ability to pick up infection when it’s there, it is considered to be very high in this particular test.
Commissioner Judith: (01:20:52)
And in terms of how we’re organizing the state, the governor hit upon some of this, we’ve separated the state into the north, central, and south region and the level ones are what we call the collaborating agencies. The reason for that is to have the capacity to transport not only equipment and supplies in a very expedient manner, but also to be able to transport patients so they get to the appropriate level of care. The level ones not only have ground transport as you know, they also have air transportation because it may be that we might have to transport someone from the northern part of the state who is in critical condition, who has to go to an appropriate bed in the southern part of the state. So far we’ve moved a few things around, ventilators being the one that comes top of mind because we’ve had to do that.
Commissioner Judith: (01:21:51)
It’s too early to tell how much movement we’re going to have because every hospital, and we’re confirming all of this, have increased their actual bed capacity. Putting beds and stretchers in areas that have never been used before but have the appropriate ability to take care of patients. So for example, [inaudible 00:01:22:15], post-anesthesia recovery rooms are being used as patient care areas because we’re not doing elective surgeries. We know that one hospital has set up a portion of their cafeteria with beds to be able to take care of patients. We also know that almost every hospital, particularly in the north right now, is increasing their critical care capacity because they have to. We had projected two and a half weeks ago that the critical care capacity had to increase by 100% from 2000 licensed beds to 4000. So every hospital is doing what they have to do. The surge, I think we’re in the beginning of it in the north and we may have a lot of movement of supplies, equipment, and patients so that people get taken care of. We monitor that every eight hours. Did that help?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:23:16)
Judy, thank you. Anything on PPE, Pat?
I would just add to remind the universe that we are trying to address, it’s healthcare, it’s first responders, corrections, juvenile justice commission, the retail workers, human services, children and families, and this morning I spoke to a funeral director because they’re at the tail end of this and whether they’re cremating or embalming. We’re even talking about burn rates for funeral directors, which is a discussion that is a sobering reality. So when we talk about that and the procurement efforts that are underway, we are trying to do that all with all hands on deck with regards to whoever picks up the phone or goes onto covid19.nj.gov whether it’s a donation, whether it’s a manufacturer, whether it’s a distributor who says I’ve got it. We are tracking down every one of those and I think I mentioned it yesterday, we’ve spent 27 million dollars so far and I anticipate we will be spending a lot more. And hopefully that we’re able to get it in our warehouses and out to those who need it as soon as possible.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:24:19)
I think actually, and you said this yesterday, I think the 27 million is actually for the stuff we’ve gotten and it’s another tens and tens and tens beyond that. This is not cheap stuff. Jared Maples is with us. I just want to say a friend just sent… Just checking my phone, but this is a flier that’s on Facebook before we get to you John and I apologize. By the way, this is what’s out here. We have no evidence whatsoever that any of this is true and if we had evidence otherwise, we would tell you. Homeland Security is preparing to mobilize the National Guard, preparing to dispatch them across the US along with military, everyone home, et cetera. They’ll announce at the end of the weekend. Bare with me, stock up on whatever you need to make sure you have a two week supply of everything. Please forward to your family and friends. This is complete BS, right?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:25:09)
So I’m sure it’s a non US, I won’t name them by names. I suspect somebody, a foreign actor is involved in something like this. We know of no… A friend of me has just sent this to me. We have no evidence that anything like that is being considered, but that is intended to get people to panic and that’s the last thing we need. As I said, you win wars not because you panic. It’s also equally true it’s not business as usual, but you’re deliberate, you’re smart, you make your decisions based on facts and you reach deep for that well of great courage and work ethic that all of us need. So I want to make sure in Jarod’s presence, because he’d want me to say this, none of what I just read a minute ago, to the best of my knowledge or any of our knowledge, is true. Those are actors trying to make folks panic. That’s the last thing we need right now. John, please.
A couple of quick questions on unemployment and then longterm care. People who were having problems filing the claims and then need to call in, can you give them any guidance to prevent the need for them to call in? Anything they should do in terms of making sure the application is right the first time? Have you hired a new staff to help handle this volume? Particularly, have you found new COBOL programmers? And again, any details. People are clamoring for how they get the added federal benefit, the 600 dollars. I know you’ve mentioned that, but just anything more clarity on that. And the longterm care, do you have a sense of how many providers are being noncompliant in terms of notification? We’re getting a lot of anecdotal calls from families. Is it widespread? Is it a handful? And why not just name them now so that people can know where their loved ones are or not if they’re having those problems getting the word out?
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:26:58)
Anything else or you’re good? Rob, do you mind tackling John’s first three on unemployment?
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (01:27:03)
I think I got them all. The 600 dollars, there’s nothing that anybody has to do. Once they’re eligible in claiming, they will be able to get that the extra 600 dollars additional. As of right now it is going out as a separate payment. But there’s still nothing they need to do. It’ll come a few days after their regular unemployment payment. I just need to say one thing though, that this is still a federally administered program. Plus now we’re still waiting for guidance. I’m saying we are good to go, we’re good to make the payment, but until the feds say, okay go ahead, we can’t make that payment. But I’m hopeful that we’re going to be the first state to have that in people’s pockets because our systems are ready to go.
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (01:27:39)
Secondly, how to keep from getting on the phone. I mentioned there’s a new FAQ which sounds boring but if you go to the website now, it was posted last night. And a lot of it was to address a lot of those questions. As I said earlier, it’s hard to talk about specific issues for claimants. A lot of the things in the new FAQ that was posted last night, those 45 new questions answered on there are specifically about trying to help people with the mistakes, or not mistakes, the things that would make something become an agent intervention. And so we’re trying to really mitigate and flatten our curve because I think right now we’re at the peak of our curve for unemployment filings as far-
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:28:14)
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (01:28:15)
Yes. As far as hiring new staff, we are just trying to push staff on from other divisions. Sadly, I can’t hire my friend here and say come be a UI claims examiner. The training and knowledge you need for that is extensive. I’ve been commissioner for two plus years now and I couldn’t even come close to trying to be a claims examiner for the ins and outs of federal law that you need to know. So what we’re trying to do, not trying, we are doing, is following the lead of some of the other states who are ahead of us, like Washington State who had this first, they have a great program that I think they’re just instituting now, to have short trainings of other Department of Labor staff to at least be able to answer generic basic questions first and then filter them out. The ones that still need specific guidance and their specific claim, then filter them down through the folks who are trained UI examiners.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:29:08)
Rob, are those FAQs, do you happen to know, on the covid19.nj?
Rob Asaro-Angelo: (01:29:12)
I do not know, but there’s definitely a link on there to our unemployment website.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:29:14)
Okay, so Mahad, could we just make sure that working with Rob’s team, we get them posted up there? And secondly, again, we need the federal help in a big way. So you’ve heard us say that individuals need it, small businesses need it, New Jersey needs it, hospitals need it, transit systems need it, et cetera. This is a little bit of a common theme. It is the guidance and the actual operating instructions on how these programs are dispensed are a little bit slower to come to pass here than we would otherwise like. And I think that hurts most importantly individuals, small businesses. It works its way through all the industries that are impacted, healthcare obviously, transit, two big ones, but it also impacts the guidance that you asked about block grants as well earlier. Judy, longterm care.
Commissioner Judith: (01:30:06)
Yeah, I do not have a specific numbers. It’s mostly anecdotal. I have gotten two complaints directly to my email and I have not been notified of any complaints on our hotline. However, because of the incidents of disease and the spread that we’re seeing, we are encouraging longterm care, assisted living, all residences to carry out their obligation and develop a more open and trustful and transparent relationship with their residents and their families. We’re giving them the chance to do that.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:30:41)
In not much of a window we will take action. Anybody else with a… Any quickies? Real quick, sir, please hold on one second.
Darren Katz: (01:30:52)
My name is Darren Katz. I just want to praise Seabrook in Tinton Falls, which my parents are residents of, one of two residents of 3,219 residents, not one resident came out of their residence. Before that, not one COVID patient’s been sick and not one person ill. So by doing the protocol, which you said, lock yourself indoors, spray your clothes, spray any packages that come in, it’s actually working. And the next two weeks are going to be hell. But I love my mom and dad and hopefully they’ll be back and I can see them in three, four weeks.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:31:34)
How old are they?
Darren Katz: (01:31:36)
91 and 87.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:31:38)
God bless them both.
Darren Katz: (01:31:38)
My dad’s a former speech writer for Ford Reagan, [inaudible 00:01:31:39], unfortunately, I’m sorry, but-
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:31:43)
That’s all right. He worked for Reagan?
Darren Katz: (01:31:45)
He worked for Ronald Reagan. [crosstalk 01:31:48].
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:31:46)
Then he was one hell of a speechwriter.
Darren Katz: (01:31:48)
Yeah, very tight with Michelle Macon and used to write for Bill Buckley as well.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:31:53)
Wow. Those are some serious orators, so God bless them both.
Darren Katz: (01:31:56)
Yes, sir. You’re doing a great job, sir.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:31:57)
Thank you, sir. Everybody, thank you. I want to thank the Commissioner of the Department of Health again, the woman who needs no introduction. Judy Persichilli on my right, Dr. Christina Tan, state’s epidemiologist to her right. Thank you both and all your teams. Extraordinary leadership. Rob Asaro-Angelo, the Commissioner of Department of Labor and Workforce Development to my left. Thank you, Rob in this hour of need. Superintendent and Colonel Pat Callahan to you and your teams. Jarod Maples. A couple of, again, reminders. Tomorrow will be on paper unless there’s a meaningful material reason to gather even by telephone, in which case we will reserve that right and let you know. Monday we’ll be back here and we’ll be doing it at two o’clock unless you hear otherwise because of the White House VTC. This is as somber a day as we’ve had and every one of them has been somber, but to think that New Jersey’s toll has passed the toll that we suffered on 9/11 takes your breath away.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:32:55)
So to each and every single one of the lives we lost on 9/11 and to each and every one of the single lives who we’ve lost so far and will lose sadly in this, in our prayers, God rest these souls. We will do everything we can. There is no price too high for us to try to save every single life we can. This is again a war. We are in a war. We win these wars, not by panicking and not by business as usual, but doing the stuff that New Jerseyans do naturally and better than anybody else in this country or anywhere in this world.
Governor Phil Murphy: (01:33:30)
Most importantly, we row the boat together, and right now that means stay at home, keep social distance, do the big things and the small things, and remember as diverse as we are, we’re an extraordinary family that comes together like no other state or no other place in the world at a time of crisis. This is a time of crisis. We’re one New Jersey family, we rise and fall and rise again as one family. And we will do that in this case, and in every case, God bless you all and thank you.