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NJ COVID-19 deaths climb by 17 to 44 in biggest jump yet

March 24, 2020 GMT
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A line of cars waits to get into a drive-though COVID-19 testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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A line of cars waits to get into a drive-though COVID-19 testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — There have been 17 new deaths stemming from coronavirus, an increase that Gov. Phil Murphy said is New Jersey’s biggest single-day jump yet.

Murphy called the report sobering and said the state has become No. 2 in the nation for positive COVID-19 results, but said that is the result of much more testing over recent days.

The total number of positive cases climbed overnight by more than 800 and stands at nearly 3,700, the governor said. There have been a total of 44 deaths.

The virus is also continuing to take a toll on nursing homes, with the number of facilities with positive cases climbing from six last week to 19, according to Murphy. One facility is also transferring its residents and considering closing because of the virus.

Murphy also said the federal government is increasing the number of masks and respirators, but said the state still needs additional personal protective equipment for health workers.

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

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

A look at other developments:

CLOSING NURSING HOME?

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that St. Joseph’s Senior Home in Woodbridge is transferring its nearly 90 patients out of the facility and may have to close because of COVID-19.

She said 12 workers at the nursing home were out of work with respiratory illness and the sisters who ran the facility called the state to say they were working around the clock to care for the residents.

The facility has been operated by the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception since 1981. It is a non-profit Catholic facility, focused on offering a continuity of high-quality senior living, according to its website.

It’s unclear where the residents are being transferred.

FIELD HOSPITALS

New Jersey State Police superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said that four field hospitals would be located at Atlantic City’s convention center, Edison’s convention center, the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus and another undetermined location.

Murphy had said earlier that federal authorities had signed off on the field hospitals.

BUDGET CRUNCH

New Jersey is preparing for a huge drop in tax revenue from the hit to the economy from coronavirus, and Murphy is putting nearly $1 billion in reserve to get ready, the state treasurer announced.

Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio said in a statement issued late Monday night that $900 billion in appropriations are being placed into reserve.

It’s unclear exactly what the frozen funds will mean for residents. The list of frozen spending includes money for homestead property tax rebates, as well funds for the Motor Vehicle Commission and aid programs to towns and cities.

ENFORCEMENT

Murphy said he’s been receiving “too many reports” of retail businesses avoiding his executive order not to go out by deeming all employees essential and making them report to work.

“My executive order is not a polite suggestion,” he said. “It is an order. No one who can do their job from home should be going in to an office. This is about public health, it’s about your employees’ lives, their families’ lives, your life.”

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DETAINEE TESTS POSITIVE

Federal authorities said that a 31-year-old Mexican citizen in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Hackensack has tested positive for the virus. Officials said in a statement that the person is quarantined and receiving care.

ICE is also suspending taking on any more detainees for now, according to the statement.

NEW FUND

First lady Tammy Murphy on Tuesday unveiled the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund with a video featuring some of the state’s biggest celebrities, including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart and Bon Jovi.

She said in an emailed statement that all the fund’s money would go toward fighting medical, social, and economic impact of COVID-19 on the state’s most vulnerable. She said administrative costs would be covered by grants.

BEACH CLOSES

Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz instructed town officials to close beaches to better adhere to the governor’s weekend order for the state’s nonessential businesses to close for gatherings to cease.

The mayor also told people with vacation homes in the Ocean County town to stay away, according to NJ.com.

TESTING CENTERS

Murphy said Passaic County is opening its first testing center for county residents at William Paterson University. The center said county residents must have a doctor’s referral for testing.

The center will join two facilities for state residents: one in Holmdel in Monmouth County opened and another at Bergen Community College in Paramus.

There are also centers for county residents at Kean University in Union County and Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus for Hudson County residents only.