Governor Phil Murphy: Good afternoon, everyone. With me up here at the table, the woman to my right, again who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health Judy Persichilli. The Director to her right of the Department of Health’s Communicable Disease Service Dr. Ed Lifshitz – Ed, it’s good to have you back. To my far left State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan – Pat, nice to be with you. And today, to my immediate left we are also joined by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan. Tim, great to have you.
I’ve asked Tim to join us today to give an update on the programs being stood up by the EDA to help out our business sector, and in particular our small business sector, and help them weather this emergency. When we come out of this, we want people to get back to work and get back to getting their lives settled and stabilized, clearly responsibly but as fast as we can as well. Overwhelmingly, New Jerseyans work at small businesses, so making sure those jobs are there to go back to is critical to our long-term recovery. We know that when people are out of work, healthcare outcomes actually worsen for them and their families. So, the work Tim and his team are doing isn’t just about securing our economic health, it’s also about securing our greater public health.
Now, as we’ve done for the past week or so, let’s go right to the numbers. Over the past 24 hours we are reporting an additional 4372 positive cases. Again, that’s 4372, and it brings our statewide total to 29,895 in total – 29,895. And sadly, and with the heaviest of hearts I say that we have lost another 113 of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19-related complications, and to date we have lost 646 members of our extraordinary, broad, loving, precious and diverse family.
A couple of comments in particular, and as usual, Judy will give you more color on both the positive tests as well as the fatalities. But as it relates to the blessed souls lost, if you had 113 Judy I believe to yesterday’s total you won’t get 646 and that’s because as we discussed in some cases, cause of death is still being adjudicated. And by the way, I also want to raise again what we mentioned yesterday. This does not mean that 113 people passed since we were last together yesterday at 2:00. Some of this is catching up in terms of cause of death, death certificates, etc., and Judy can get into some of that.
One of those we have lost is James Brown, the Principal… And there’s James, God bless him, with his family. James was the Principal of the Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell, and the accolades – and if you don’t take my word for it, go online. The accolades being posted in his memory by the members of the community tell just how deeply respected and loved he was. He leaves behind his wife Sherry, to his right, as you can see his three children, and an entire school community who loved him dearly. And James was only 48 years old. Saily Avelenda, who’s a dear friend, is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee’s kids were in this school. They know him well. God rest his soul.
A guy I didn’t know but was known by, I knew generally, I didn’t know personally but was known by millions – we also lost jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli, a Paterson… There is Bucky, a Paterson native who was a tremendously respected and honored jazz guitarist, whose two sons I might add have become tremendous musicians as well. Bucky, you can see him there, was 94 years old, and we mourn his loss. And we mourn with his family and his many friends.
I know that there is nothing we can say to truly dull the pain that the Brown family and the Pizzarelli’s, and every family who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 is feeling right now. But we can make them know that we are thinking about them through our actions. And so, to that end I am signing an executive order today directing that all flags across New Jersey be lowered to half-staff effective immediately and indefinitely to honor those we have lost and those that we will lose. And we will lose more, sadly, as a result of this pandemic.
I don’t know this for sure and I’m not patting ourselves on the back, but I don’t know that any other American state has done this. And we’ve been struggling with how could we both speak about the James Brown’s and the Bucky Pizzarelli’s by name and not speak about all overnight 113 that we’ve lost by name; and at the same time, find some way to acknowledge the totality of this loss.
This is one of the greatest tragedies to ever hit our state and our nation indeed, and we must have a constant and visible memorial of the tremendous personal toll COVID-19 is having on our communities. And since families at this time cannot even hold funerals for their lost loved ones, this is a way – a small way but I think an important way we can make sure that their loss is not forgotten. I want to give my friend Andy Slavin a shoutout for coming up with this idea to begin with.
We can also honor these families and the memories of their loved ones by doing all we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus by doing social distancing. Let me show a graphic that is from the New York Times, and it shows that we’re doing the right thing. And this gives you some sense, if you are gray you are overwhelmingly staying at home; and as you scale to the right – the key is at the lower-left there – as you scale to the right and you get redder and redder, you see a much more intense amount of travel. This again is courtesy of the New York Times.
And I’m proud to say, and by the way, this is due overwhelmingly to the 9 million members of our New Jersey family – we are overwhelmingly gray as you can see us. And we’re in a good neighborhood. If you go, not all of Pennsylvania but eastern Pennsylvania through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are overwhelmingly gray – which means, the stay at home stuff in our neighborhood, and most importantly for us right here in New Jersey, is working. We have to keep it that way, by the way. We can’t backslide and we have to hope that please God, that these other places that are deep red, or if not yet red orange and not the right colors, that the rest of the country gets into the same level of compliance and policies that we have in New Jersey.
Social distancing is by far our best preventative measure. We said it here yesterday. Yes, you can wear a bandana or a scarf or a simple cloth face covering when you’re out. There’s nothing wrong with that but that is not in any way a replacement for social distancing in terms of flattening the curve. Again, if you want to go ahead and do it, no issue. But don’t assume that that makes you Superman or Superwoman and that you can ignore the social distancing that we are pounding the table on. Minimum six feet from anybody else at all times.
And by the way, if you do choose to cover your face, please do not use an N95 or medical-grade mask. Until we’re confident that we have adequate supplies for our heroic, frontline healthcare workers and first responders, and frankly right after them, as we’ve discussed, folks who are in essential retail operations or driving a bus or taking care of our rail service, or somewhere in the supply chain, we have to all of us avoid using up these precious supplies. Again, we have to save every single one of these masks for our frontline public health responders.
And remember, Judy and Ed will chime in – they’ll correct the record if I get anything wrong here. But I think we all believe unanimously that social distancing trumps anything else, but remember, a face covering is more about you – if you are asymptomatic, lowering your chance of spreading the virus to others. It is not a failsafe measure to prevent you from getting sick. That’s why we need to continue social distancing. I can’t say that strongly enough.
Social distancing is both our best offense and our best defense. In the absence of a vaccine which God willing we will have but it won’t be here for a while, it’s our best surrogate vaccine. When you’re out, frankly when you’re in or out but certainly when you’re out keep that safe six-foot distance between you and others. And if you are out running or walking, and that’s okay by the way, make sure that you are at least that far away when you pass others or when you are choosing to run or walk or hike with others.
Sorry, 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 – and by the way, that’s a growing phenomenon this time of year – please just stay indoors.
I know I sound like a broken record on this. I’m joined by folks up here with me who chant the same mantras. But I have to because we know that social distancing works, and if you look at that map that’s up here, you’re seeing it in clear terms that it is working. So, hat’s off to everybody. We need 100% compliance and as usual we’ll have a compliance report from Col. Callahan.
But it is working, New Jersey. We’ve got to make sure it keeps working. This is a marathon. I’d love to tell you it’s over this weekend or two weeks from this weekend, it won’t be. We’ve got to hang in together for a while here. But if we do it, and we will do it, we will break the back of this.
You know, I haven’t said this I don’t think since I’ve been here, but folks do say this – behave as if you’ve got it, right? Behave as if you’ve tested positive. At one level that’s an awful way to think about it but it’s quite convincing when you think about it that way. If I had it, I wouldn’t remotely want to come close than I am to Tim or Judy or to Pat or Ed, or to any of you out here. That’s the way you’ve got to think about this.
There is no silver bullet that we can load to make this go away overnight. As I’ve said many times, this is a war. And wars like this are not won in one day or one month or probably even in a few months. It will take all of us over the coming weeks to stay disciplined in our social distancing, disciplined in our hygiene and disciplined in using our basic common sense.
And that’s always going to be the case, never mind the fact that on Sunday, for the overwhelming amount of our Christian brothers and sisters we begin Holy Week which is the most sacred time of the year; and obviously, historically a time of gathering. We cannot allow that to happen. And on Wednesday, next Wednesday begins Passover for our Jewish brothers and sisters.
So, this is always good advice. We’re going to have to be especially vigilant during these religious holidays. I’ve said this so many times. It’s going to require all 9 million of us to do our share, to do our part. And if we do unequivocally we will get through this – not unscathed, sadly. Look at the 646 lost blessed lives. But we will get through this and we will be stronger as one New Jersey family than ever before.
A couple of notes on testing, if I may – a reminder that the PNC Bank Arts Center drive-through site which we are operating in partnership with FEMA, will be open tomorrow, Saturday April 4th starting at 8:00 AM for symptomatic healthcare workers and public safety first responders only. You must show credentials on your way in, and again, you must be exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness.
Also, we’re proud to report that Cumberland County has brought a testing site online for its residents at the Vineland Campus of Rowan College Cumberland. This site is being run as a partnership between Cumberland County and the Complete Care Health Network. This site is open by appointment only and you must obtain authorization for a test. For these, visit www.completecarenj.org and click on ‘Request an Appointment.’ Then, complete the form and choose ‘COVID-19 telephone screening’ as your reason for visit. Someone will get back to you. Again, you must be a Cumberland County resident.
And in Essex County, the drive-through facility for county residents at Weequahic Park will be providing tests next Monday the 6th, Wednesday the 8th, and Friday the 10th. Screenings are by appointment only for Essex County residents only who are symptomatic. For more information on that, visit www.essexcovid.org, that’s www.essexcovid.org. I thank County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, who I was on the phone with yesterday who’s been dealing with this himself. God bless him, and he sounded great so we have him in our prayers; Freeholder President, dear friend Brendan Gill; and Vice President, another dear friend Wayne Richardson; and the entire Essex County leadership team.
I got my new list of testing sites and I counted 42 sites with the assistance of my friend Brady O’Connor – 42 sites across the entire state. Some folks, by the way, think about testing as if we were in, I don’t know what you’d call it, some sort of nirvana that we’d all love to be in but we haven’t been in since moment one. I mean, my Lord, if I see something else about “Why can’t you be South Korea?” I’d love to be South Korea. I would love to have universal testing.
When you look at the paucity of supplies that we have as a nation, including the specimen collection supplies, the personal protective equipment; when you look at the challenges between dedicating healthcare workers to testing versus the care of those who are sick – we’re not operating in a world that we theoretically are in. We’re operating in a world where this is the hand we’ve been dealt.
And from moment one we have made a cold-blooded decision overwhelmingly to test with limited supplies nationally symptomatic persons. A.) that’s the right thing to do because they’re sick and they need to know whether or not they’ve got this, and Judy’s going to have updated information on the positives versus the negatives in a minute. But it’s also the most robust data that the health professionals can get. And thirdly, it’s a fact of life, given a limited resource world.
So, with all due respect to the folks out there who are chanting, “We’re not South Korea,” believe me, yours truly knows this better than anybody. I would love to have enough stuff to universally test. We never had that from moment one, and no state in America has been more aggressive in testing folks than New Jersey has. I don’t think California has many more thousands tested completed than we do, and they have over four times as many people as New Jersey has, just to pick one example.
Now listen, all bets are off if some of the innovations come to pass. You’ve seen some good press around some developments at Rutgers of late. I mentioned, we mentioned Abbott Labs in small scale recently. If some of these innovations and inventions come to pass at scale then all bets are off. We’ll become the first state in America to universally test. But until then, we have to play the hand that we are dealt.
And until then, we are asking all along, we are still asking for volunteers with prior medical experience to join our team and to assist our efforts. Please go to www.covid19.nj.gov/volunteer to join, you ready for this? The 7539 folks who have already signed up. And to each and every one of you, we say thank you. And I used the phrase, Judy didn’t disagree – we’re in a massive matchmaking process, we could use Dolly Levi here – between needs on the one hand of our healthcare system and then folks over here who have raised their hand in particular by specialty, by geography, etc.
Switching gears for a couple of other thoughts before we turn it over to Judy. Yesterday I had a couple of very good calls, last evening in fact. I had a good private call with Apple CEO Tim Cook to thank him once again for the enormous lift that Apple has sent New Jersey’s way. I reiterated our thanks. I tried to get from him a sense of what he was seeing – he’s working from home by the way, in so many cases as so many of us are. And we had a good conversation in particular about what they were seeing in China and whether or not, you know, what sort of a recovery were they expecting? What sort of level of any ongoing health challenges there were? So again, I want to thank Tim. I want to thank New Jersey’s own Lisa Jackson again for being huge with us.
I had a very helpful call last evening with Dr. Tony Fauci, obviously an American hero known to all of us – by the way, from Brooklyn but married to a woman from Livingston, New Jersey, as he reminded me. I’d say with Dr. Fauci, his sort of world view of how we should be behaving and the policy, when he rattled off best practice policies – stay at home in particular, social distancing – it matched up almost identical to the approaches that we’re taking in New Jersey.
We both agree a huge key here is going to be compliance, and that’s why Pat’s report every day matters so much. It’s why we need each and every one of you, each and every one of us, all of us – not just most of us. And right now it’s overwhelmingly most of us but we need all of us to comply with the stay at home social distancing that we need to get through this. And we each compared notes about the need for compliance to stay ahead of this, to flatten the curve. It was a great conversation with a guy who’s forgotten more about this than I’ll ever know. He’s an American hero frankly.
He looks at us as very much part of the Metro, particularly in the north as part of the Metro New York reality and he didn’t want to hang his hat on this, but it looked to him that we’re sort of a week-ish behind New York as they go through the reality that they’re going through. I think that matches up pretty much with what we’ve thought. We’re targeting early week, hopefully Monday, Judy and I hope Monday to get into much more money ball data stuff about what we’re seeing and where we’re headed.
But I want to thank not just Tim Cook and the other private sector players who have helped us out but Dr. Fauci was extremely helpful. And there are some Jersey… It’s not just Dr. Fauci who’s married to a gal from Livingston but there’s some other Jersey folks in the White House and I want to give them a shoutout. We’re in a regular back and forth with Jared Kushner who’s a Jersey guy. I had a very productive conversation this morning with Kellyanne Conway, another Jersey in this case gal.
And I would just say more often than not, whether or not we’re getting all we need is a separate question and a separate matter from are folks laying down their anything remotely partisan and trying to come together and do the right thing? And it’s my experience that we all are, and I think that’s a tribute to our state and to our nation.
Now separate, switching gears, I know that many residents have experienced delays in trying to file for their unemployment benefits, whether that’s from the online lags or long, in -person wait times over the phone. To each of you, please understand that the Department of Labor is working with volumes literally many tens of times greater than usual. They are pulling out every stop to try to get to everyone as quickly as possible and to keep that website up and functioning. In fact, I’m told the Department was able to successfully process 33,000 claims yesterday.
Please do not give up. No one is going to be denied one penny of the benefit they deserve, including I might add, the additional $600 per week through July 31st as provided by the federal CARES Act. And if you’re calling by phone, when you do get through, please remember that the person on the other end of the line is there to help you and is probably also just as anxious for their family’s safety. Let’s all be good to each other, let’s be kind to each other and understanding of one another.
I’ve asked Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro Angelo to join us, Mahen, tomorrow, is that correct? At tomorrow’s briefing, and we’ll be here at 1:00 PM tomorrow unless you all hear otherwise. And in fact, I’ll give you a quick forward look right now. We’ll be here at 1:00 tomorrow. We will, unless there’s real news to break in which case I will personally commit to be on a phone or in front of you, we will make the sad data reality available to you online on Sunday.
Now, I said last Saturday unless there was news to report, and as I walked in here last Saturday the President, as you may recall, was considering a quarantine of this area. We were within a hair of actually seeing you live on Sunday. That did not come to pass. So, again tomorrow at 1:00 here. Sunday will be on paper and by email distribution unless you hear otherwise, and Monday we will be here at 2:00 PM because we have the White House video call before then. So, that’s just a quick sense of the future.
And by the way, we’ve said this before. For those of you who want to work and help us get through this emergency, the jobs portal at our www.covid19.nj.gov website contains more than 44,000 active job listings from 540 plus employers. When it was launched on March 23rd, not that many days ago, it had 8000 jobs from a few dozen employers. The site now also has improved search functions so that job seekers can more easily narrow their searches either by geography or industry.
Since we put it up just a couple weeks ago, the jobs portal has been accessed, and I’ve got this data here, by more than 410,000 unique users. It’s been visited more than 1 million times. So, if you lost your job due to this emergency there may be another one out there waiting for you. Again, simply go to www.covid19.nj.gov and click ‘Jobs Portal’ underneath the search bar, or you can go directly to the website at the bottom, www.jobs.covid19.nj.gov.
This portal has been the result of a tremendous partnership between the Department of Labor, certainly, but to Tim, hats off to you and the Economic Development Authority, the Office of Innovation under Beth Noveck’s extraordinary leadership, and our private sector partner Yext. I want to give them another shoutout. We cannot thank each of you enough.
www.covid19.nj.gov also has a truly unique feature. It’s called Ask a Scientist. While we’re posting all the public information from the Department of Health and others, we know there are some questions that don’t have a catch-all easy answer. So, the Office of Innovation in partnership with the Federation of American Scientists has put on this site the ability for you to submit a question directly to an expert who will email directly back and answer.
A couple other just quick highlights on this extraordinary website. I mentioned the amount of folks who have gone on who are seeking jobs as well as employers who have jobs. The overall traffic, users since the site was launched – 2.2 million users on this site, which is extraordinary. The Business Information Hub, which Tim knows well, users – over 350,000 individuals who have visited that site since launching, which is extraordinary, not to mention all the folks we’ve already mentioned. The Symptom Tracker’s got almost 200,000 hits as we’ve discussed.
Now, switching gears to PPE, yesterday we were informed that Tito’s Handmade Vodka is sending us a shipment of 432 gallons of hand sanitizer in addition to 3000 much-needed masks and 2000 just-as-needed gloves for our frontline health responders – not the normal context in which we’re referring to Tito’s Handmade Vodka but I want to give them a huge shoutout for that.
Additionally, last night I was contacted directly by Tom Naratil of UBS who’s a good friend, who informed me that his team had sourced an additional 10,000 N95 masks and will be delivering them directly to Pat and team at the Office of Emergency Management. And that’s on top of contributions that they have already made. I did not acknowledge and should the Director of the Office of Homeland Security Jared Maples is with us as always.
We are literally going around the world, not just around the state or the country in terms of trying to source personal protective equipment and ventilators in particular. In addition to lots of traffic that I’ve personally been involved with in New Jersey and in America, within the past twelve hours active engagement and deep engagement not just by me but our teams with counterparties in the People’s Republic of China, in the Republic of China in Taiwan, in Germany just to pick three places outside of the Lower 48.
I’ve said it many times and I and everyone up here are doing all that we can, and I want to give Pat a big shoutout here, to get the PPE supplies and other key equipment like ventilators that we need. I raise this every single day, either with a member of the White House team – and I mentioned some of their senior members but also with the President himself, with the Vice President or again with any members of their team. And we’ve had good success in beginning to see PPE and ventilators flowing to New Jersey from the National Stockpile. We need more. And we are doing all that we can to source more PPE and ventilators not just from the National Stockpile but from anywhere that we can find it on the private market.
But so much of our ability to win this fight rests on the many, many donations we have received from corporate citizens and individuals around the state, across the country and around the world. And we cannot thank you enough. And this is as good a time as any to remind anyone that if you have any PPE to donate, please let us know by going to www.covid19.nj.gov/ppedonations. Again, www.covid19.nj.gov/ppedonations, and we will gladly reach out to accept. Everybody who donates is a hero.
But the heroes in our state come from all over. Yesterday, I asked for you to start sharing with us some of the good news stories happening around our state using the hashtag #njthanksyou, #njthanksyou. Mahen, let’s tomorrow put that one up in lights on a slide so everybody can see it. And you, by the way, our New Jersey brothers and sisters have not disappointed.
A couple from today: I want to give a shoutout to a nurse at Newbridge Medical in Paramus, Victoria Chmielewski who is with her team, and there’s Victoria. She’s with her team on the hospital’s designated COVID-19 floor. She’s just one of literally thousands of nurses and doctors and healthcare professionals putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives. And we cannot thank her and her colleagues enough.
Another hero, Lakewood resident and business leader Sam Stein. His company Complete Care operates nursing homes across our state. He has donated 15 ventilators that he had in reserve to Jersey Shore Medical Center. And in his home community, he is working to spread the word that everybody needs to stay in – please God, folks, stay home – and to live by our stay at home directive. So, hats off to each of Victoria and Sam and the other heroes out there. Again, please share your heroes with us, #njthanksyou.
And finally, I want to give a huge shoutout en masse to a tremendous group of workers who have been on the job throughout this emergency making sure that the products and supplies we need get to us. And I’m talking about the women and men of the International Longshoremen Association who are at our ports. New Jersey is a corridor state. So much of what we need, whether it be medical supplies or groceries, wouldn’t get to us if it were not for these brave folks working at our parts in the International Longshoremen Association.
They are at the head in so many ways of our supply chain. They’ve been working as hard as ever and they deserve a huge thank you. I was on with its leader Harold Daggett this morning, and Harold and I – I’m going to give Harold and his family a big shoutout to all of the brothers and sisters in the ILA. And I learned something this morning, that Harold and I are both lifelong Elvis fans, and he shared an Elvis nugget with me this morning.
So, to all of you, and each of you who have taken to heart our need to work together to get through this, thank you. Social distancing, frankly at times is not a whole lot of fun and it does take a bit of work at times to remember to do it. We understand. But we are seeing tremendous compliance across our state. We need to bat 1000 folks and where we don’t see compliance, where we’re cracking down we will continue to crack down. And let there be no doubt about that, and we’ll hear that from Pat in a little bit.
As I noted earlier, Dr. Fauci said clearly not just the policies that we’re doing, which line up almost seamlessly with his recommendations – and I think in fact seamlessly – that compliance with those policies, particularly on social distancing, is absolutely key. So, to each of you, please stay safe. Please be smart. This is without question the fight of our lives. This is war. It’s nothing less than that.
And you win wars, again, as we’ve said it before, not by panicking but not by business as usual. By being smart, aggressive, proactive, shooting straight with each other about what the facts are. And by the way, as we’ve been saying for many, many days if not weeks, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I’d love to say it won’t, but it will. I’d love to say we’ll be through this tomorrow or next week – we won’t. But if we all work our tails off, if we show that courage that we’re showing, if we comply at 100%; if we do the big things as well as the little things.
This is the fight of our lives and we will win this fight unequivocally together, stronger than ever before as one New Jersey family. Bless you all. Please help me welcome the woman who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health Judy Persichilli.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone.
Well, we know that COVID-19 can cause serious illness and hospitalization, particularly for those who have underlying conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, kidney [disease] and diabetes. This week CDC released data that confirmed that there are higher percentages of patients with underlying conditions admitted to the hospital and to the intensive care units than those without chronic illness. So, that bares true in our statistics as well.
The CDC study included smoking as a factor that might place individuals at higher risk for severe disease and death. We already know that smoking and vaping can cause damage to lungs, and this new data is just another reason – you know I can’t help myself – to give up those habits and protect your health.
I also want to address the upcoming religious holidays. Normally, many of us would be preparing to congregate for religious services and family gatherings. However, I want to, as the Governor did, urge our residents to abide by the ban on social gatherings. I know this will be difficult. We understand that while this may be disappointing to many who look forward to spending time with relatives and friends, it is imperative to limit face-to-face interaction in an effort to slow the spread of this virus, which causes COVID-19.
We hope our faith leaders will reach out to the members of their congregations and remind them that they should not be gathering for religious services or for meals until the ban is lifted. I cannot think of another time when we need each other more, so we encourage leaders to notify their congregations of any livestreams or televised services that may be available, and provide them with suggestions on how they can create meaningful celebrations at home without gathering with others.
Social distancing is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19. We must all take this seriously. It is the only tool in our toolkit. All residents need to take steps to protect not only their health but also the health of their loved ones, particularly vulnerable populations. You may not feel sick but it is possible that you could transmit COVID-19 to someone you love.
As the Governor mentioned, we are reporting 4372 new cases for a total of 29,895 cases in the state. 113 of these cases, sadly, are deaths for a total of 646 deaths. Three of the new cases are from long-term care facilities.
Of the 646 deaths, 59% are male, 40% are female. 34% have documented underlying conditions.
In the state, we’ve completed a total of 64,827 tests with 27,219 testing positive, for a positivity rate of 41.99%, slightly up from yesterday’s rate of 41.11%.
19 of the deaths were from Essex County; 16 from Hudson; 14 from Bergen; 11 each from Passaic and Union; 10 from Monmouth; 8 from Middlesex; 7 from Ocean; 6 from Somerset; 3 from Morris County; and 1 each from Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Mercer and Salem. And we are still determining the county of residence for two additional deaths, and as I said, three are from long-term care facilities. We offer our condolences to all of the families who have lost loved ones.
Of the new cases, the county breakdown that I have to date is Atlantic 25, Bergen 576, Burlington 73, Camden 61, Cape May 10, Cumberland 5, Essex 328, Gloucester 15, Hudson 382, Hunterdon 16, Mercer 91, Middlesex 309, Monmouth 256, Morris 163, Ocean 231, Passaic 370, Salem 5, Somerset 77, Sussex 24, Union 351, Warren 33, and we are still gathering details on over 1000 outstanding cases.
Currently, we have 3016 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in our hospitals, that’s 3016. We have equally the number of PUIs, persons under investigations, awaiting their testing results. The 3016 represents 12% of the total hospitalizations in the state today. Of those that are hospitalized, 1227 or 41% are on ventilators.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to affect our state, we all know that residents are feeling concerned. We all are. The state and local healthcare partners are working around the clock to implement efforts to protect the public and our frontline healthcare workers. Please do your part by continuing to follow social distancing steps.
And as the Governor reminds you, practice good health habits. Stay home when you’re sick. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds many times during the day. Avoid contact with people who are sick even if they’re in your household. Cover coughs and sneezes. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
For more information, I encourage you to call NJ211 or visit www.covid19.nj.gov. They’re great resources for the public to get information.
So, in this Spring holiday time of reflection, all of us in state government offer our thoughts and urge you to stay safe, stay connected and stay healthy. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you as always for extraordinary leadership.
A couple of things to make sure I’ve got it, positives of the 375 long-term care facilities, positives I think you said in 132 of them, right? So, just over a third.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yes. And growing.
Governor Phil Murphy: And growing. You’ve seen that number, I think it was about eight days ago that was in the teens as I recall, number one. Number two, the positivity rate is up a little but it’s basically been in a similar neighborhood plus or minus a couple percentage points, right?
And again, as we remind everyone, two things about testing. Number one, these are symptomatic people, and again, we’ve got Judy and Ed who are experts over here. But they’re symptomatic people which means they are less healthy than the average New Jerseyan by definition. They’re not entirely symptomatic but overwhelmingly they are.
Secondly, as Dr. Tan would want me to say if she were here, just because you didn’t test positive, you’re sick. You’ve still got to use your head here. Don’t be silly about that. Take care of yourself.
And again, we’ve said this before, we’re now 13 days since the most aggressive steps we’ve taken. We had taken a whole series of aggressive steps in terms of shutting the state. We’re 13 days away from that. Perhaps the New York Times’ map we showed earlier is beginning to show indications from that, but it’s also fair to say the positive test results we’re getting now, because the labs are so backed up are also dated – maybe a week or two as much.
So, as I said, we’re going to be getting more data-heavy early in the week, and that’s not a coincidence. And Judy’s already started to give you a sense of that in terms of the number of folks versus who are hospitalized. But it’s also not a coincidence; it’s also consistent with the time period I think that we feel like the data is becoming more meaningful.
Two other quick things before I ask Pat to come in on compliance. Total cases, the top five counties and this is largely where it’s been – Bergen far and away number one, Essex two, Hudson three, Union four, Passaic five, so you’ve sort of got that northeast cluster of counties are leading the way.
Not only, Mahen, would I love to get tomorrow the #njthanksyou slide to make sure everyone can see it, I don’t know whether or not my boss to the right of me would agree with this but the New York Times is doing a county-by-county, are you increasing… How long is it taking for you to double cases versus not? That map, this is way too early to draw conclusions but that map is interesting to look at. Perhaps tomorrow we can look at it, just as we looked at the American map today – which we should, by the way, we should regularly show that. I’m not sure we have to show it every day. That’s being updated daily. Let’s also look at our county map to give folks a sense of what that looks like. Is that fair, is that okay with you?
Pat Callahan, thank you for everything. A quick report on compliance and any other matters you’ve got, thank you.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you, Governor. On the overnight, in Blairstown a pub owner was cited, her second offense. She was also cited on March 22nd for serving patrons. In Independence at a domestic violence call, officers were advised by the woman involved that she had tested positive. It was later determined that she had not. She was charged with assault and also creating false public alarm.
In Newark, those police officers issued 228 summonses overnight and closed nine businesses. In Lakewood, a subject was cited for operating a retail clothing store in violation of the executive order, and another subject was cited for selling alcohol out of a U-Haul truck. And in Atlantic City, in response to a shot spotter activation, Atlantic City Police located that motor vehicle; made a subsequent motor vehicle stop and recovered a 38 caliber revolver as well as controlled dangerous substance. And all five of those subjects were arrested and charged with those charges. And to date, 79 indictable offenses have been charged in relation to the executive order, Governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: Pat, thank you. I mentioned in a radio interview this morning and the input I had this morning turns out to not have been entirely accurate, that a particular hospital had received some ventilators and that “none of them were working.” It turns out some of them in fact are working, but could you give 30 seconds because this has come up for questions. I know nationally the Stockpile’s been under criticism for ventilators that aren’t necessarily working. Could you maybe walk through just real quick what do they look like when we get them and why it’s hard to predict whether they’ll work or not? And then secondly, what the private sector might be doing to help us out.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thanks, Governor. And I think Elise might have asked it yesterday, and I think the report, although 15… Well, first I’ll speak to how they arrive here. They’re in a sealed package which is sanitized, so to go in and take them apart and really to have our logistics folks doing that would be inappropriate anyway because I’m not so sure that they would know if it was functioning or not.
But yesterday, I believe it was a total of 14 at two different hospitals experienced issues with missing parts and malfunctioning ventilators. I think eight of those 14 were able to be repaired by staff on hand, and we are as the Governor advised, working with the private sector to make sure that there’s a process in place – that we have the model numbers, the brand numbers and that this outside company could assist us in not only the assessment but in the repair of any of those ventilators should they be found inoperable upon being opened up.
Governor Phil Murphy: I think we’re not ready to go live with who the particular partner is that’s preferred right now but it’s a player in the region. And when we’ve got our T’s crossed and I’s dotted we’ll let everyone know who it is. Thank you again, Pat, and thank you again, Judy, for your leadership and for everything.
So, this is not just a healthcare crisis; it’s an economic crisis. I saw Governor Cuomo say that “New York was broke,” I think that was his quote today at his press conference, and I feel his pain. This is an enormous challenge at the state level but more importantly to workers out there who have lost their jobs. The abruptness; I mentioned the article the other day. 70% of folks, I forget the region – I think it was Dallas – showing up at a foodbank, it was the first time they’d ever gone in their lives. It’s hitting so broadly and it’s really hitting small businesses.
And God knows we need the feds, so the federal money and support and the programs that come out of the bill that the President signed a week ago today is going to be incredibly important. We can’t do this on our own. But to the credit of Tim Sullivan and his team at the Economic Development Authority, they weren’t waiting for the feds to act. They had already begun to put programs in place. We announced them last week and I’m honored that Tim would join us today to just walk through again exactly what it is that we’re doing and what sort of reaction we’ve had from our small business community.
By the way, let’s say it again, small businesses employ about 60% of the people who have jobs in this state, so this is incredibly important to be there for them. So, please help me welcome the CEO of the Economic Development Authority Tim Sullivan.
New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan: Thank you, Governor. It’s an honor to be here and I stand in awe of my colleagues over here every day doing the frontline work to respond to this crisis. And thank you on behalf of all 9 million of us. Thank you to you, Governor, and to the leaders around the administration who are working on this night and day.
As the Governor said, obviously first and foremost this is a public health crisis, but right behind it it’s an economic crisis. You can see that in the data on the unemployment filings, 350,000 new claims in New Jersey alone in the last two weeks. We did a survey in advance of rolling out the programs the Governor just mentioned. We did a survey of small businesses about ten days ago, so this data is already a little stale. We got 2000 responses.
Two weeks ago, 73% of them were already reporting a significant loss of revenue and more than half had either had to undertake layoffs or were in range of having to contemplate a reduction in their staff in response to what’s going on. And so, the pain is very real. Obviously, the human suffering is first and foremost on all of our minds but the pain in the small business part of the economy is very real. And from the Governor on down, I think we recognize that, and that’s a real priority here as we seek to stabilize small business through this challenge.
So, the Governor had announced last Thursday a package of programs that the EDA is administering with our partners all throughout government, all throughout the administration. It’s a $40 million direct package of supports from the EDA which we think will leverage or result in a pool of between $75 million and $100 million of public and private support for small business here in New Jersey. As the Governor mentioned, that is a first wave in advance of what’s coming down from Washington or coming up from Washington and what the private sector will be doing via the banks. But we thought it was important to get some programs up and running, get some money on the street.
The programs we announced last week, that the Governor announced last week were a grant program, a loan program and supporting the banking sector, primarily the community development finance institutions so that they could lend and make more money available to small businesses. We really wanted to stretch the public dollars that we could put into this effort and leverage that amount of money as best we could in advance of a broader set of resources from the federal government that we’re thrilled to see beginning to roll out.
The first of those programs was a grant for the very smallest businesses, folks with ten employees or less. The smaller you are the likelier you are to be hardest hit by this and to have the fewest resources to be ready for this and for the suddenness that the Governor just described. It’s a $5 million pool of up to $5000 per company. We opened the application window for that this morning at 9:00 AM. We were expecting that to be oversubscribed. I don’t think even in our wildest imagination did we think it would go as quickly as it has.
But by 10:16 AM we had 10,000 applications for that grant program. As of 1:30 we had 16,500 applications for that grant program so we are way oversubscribed. We’ll begin, we’re reviewing them as we speak already. We will hopefully make awards as early as next week and have electronic transfers of money to the grant recipients by the end of next week. I want to give a shoutout to Beth Noveck and her team by the way, at the Office of Innovation, our technology partner and innovation partner in all this because that has so far at least, maybe it broke in the last 45 minutes but so far it’s gone well. It may have, it very well may have but so far so good through the first 16,500 or so applications.
The next program behind that is a zero-interest loan program. It’s a $10 million pool of up to $100,000 per company for companies under $5 million in revenue. So again, trying to focus, get a little bit larger in our area of focus with the loan resource but not large businesses buy any stretch of the imagination. We announced earlier today that we are going to publish the application for that on Monday the 6th and then take applications first thing in the morning on the 13th. We like the model of giving the application out in advance. They’re not overly-complicated but they’re not as simple as a grant application. Let folks get their ducks in a row, get their paperwork together and have that application be ready on April 13th.
There will be other programs to come as part of the package that the Governor announced last week, including direct support to the community development finance institutions. And they’ll be making their own programs available out through their channels. The additional good news is that there are significant federal resources on the way. The Paycheck Protection Program or PPP opened for business at I believe 9:00 AM as well this morning. I don’t have any real-time data on that but that’s a $350 billion program, so it dwarfs our $5 million quite a bit – that’s nationwide. That’s through the SBA; that’s through the private sector SBA partner banks.
That’s up and running, as well as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program that turned on as a result of the Governor seeking that declaration of disaster going back I think about two weeks. We know that all these programs can be challenging for folks to even make sense of – what do I qualify for? How do I apply? One thing we’ve done on the business portal that the Governor mentioned earlier at www.cv.business.nj.gov, there’s a wizard. You can enter your information about, “I’m a small business in XYZ industry with however many employees,” and “Here’s what you might be eligible for from either the state or the SBA programs.”
We’ve also wanted to make sure that, consistent with how we try to do things always in good times or in crisis, make sure that communities that have historically had the biggest challenge accessing these kinds of resources are a focus and a priority, particularly communities of color, our veterans and small and early-stage companies. So, we entered into technical assistance contracts with the African-American Chamber, the Statewide Hispanic Chamber, the Statewide Veteran’s Chamber and a group called Rising Tide Capital out of Jersey City to help make sure that folks can navigate particularly the SBA programs, the ordinary course ones and the CARES Act ones as well.
And so, we’re eager to see those programs up and running and be brought to bear because we know there is such significant pain in the marketplace. And so, we’re going to continue to do whatever we can do to be supportive and again, stabilize as many businesses as possible so that when we come out of this, whenever we come out of this, as many of them are ready to go and ready to get back in action, serving our communities and employing people again. Thank you, Governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: Tim, thank you and thanks for your leadership, and the Economic Development Authority, the whole team – thank you.
You know, I think we’re doing as much and I think we’re as proactive and as innovative as any American state through the Economic Development Authority but there’s no amount of money that we have that can come close to making folks whole and allowing them to get back on their feet again. So, the federal money is… Again, I think you’re leading the way unlike any authority like you in the country, but we’re nowhere without the feds.
And we’ve had countless conversations certainly since last Friday but also over the past several days about the need to have as much flexibility on the federal direct money to come into states to allow us… Because this is a great example. We’re at the point of attack, we’re trying to be there as best we can for somebody who’s lost their job, a small business that’s gone off the rails; somebody who’s sick, perhaps maybe critically ill and we’re going to continue to be there. But boy, do we need the federal government to come in, in a big way and back and fill essentially the enormity of both the expenditure as well as the lost revenues that we’re going through.
We’re not unique but as a hotspot state, second-highest cases in the country, we’re only behind New York in that regard. So, we need not only what was done last Friday and signed last Friday by the President but that can’t be a last step. There is still a way’s, a significant way’s to go in terms of federal support to states like ours to allow us to continue to react responsibly and aggressively for our people and our businesses. So, Tim, thank you.
Before we go to questions, I read a bunch of newspapers every day and I mentioned David Brooks before. I’m one of the last people in America who actually reads the physical newspaper. Judy, you too? Okay, we’re the last two in America. So, here’s the article I cut out. Charlie, you don’t do this – you’re on a tablet, I’m sure, your personal device. I’m sure you are. But the article is “Mental Health in the Age of Coronavirus,” and he makes two points, and one of which we’ve made consistently. The other, I want to thank Christine Norbut Beyer for giving us a window and Carole Johnson before her.
The point that we’ve made that is sort of the fulfilling one is that we’re finding extraordinary ways to come together up and down our state and across our country indeed, even as we’re isolating; even as we’re distancing ourselves from each other. Father Jim’s notion of social solidarity really is what’s happening as a reality just as much as social distancing. And there are examples of this up and down, the amount of viral communication – small V viral communication that we’ve had; sort of the feeling that we’ve all had that we’re in something together. This happens once every 50 or 100 years and we know this is a call to arms, this is a call to each of us that this is our moment, that we have to step up together, all of us in matters big and small.
I was wishing a guy named Michael Heinz from Burlington County whose mom is a very distinguished public servant a happy birthday today, 12th birthday. What’s he doing? He’ shaving a virtual lemonade stand sale. I’m not even sure I know how it’s working but he’s giving all the money, all the proceeds to a good cause. He raised $1600 by bringing together through a virtual lemonade stand.
But the other point in this article, the more sobering one that we cannot ignore, that we’ve not hit nearly as often and we need to – and that’s on me – is for folks who are subject to depression, for folks who are in a household where sadly child abuse or domestic abuse of any kind is more prevalent, for folks who have addictions, just to pick those categories, this is a really challenging time. So, while most of us maybe through this crazy paradox of social distancing and at the same time coming together in common cause, this is a world of hurt.
We heard from Christine yesterday that the amount of reported child abuse numbers for March was off dramatically. We’d like to think that’s because the reality has changed. Sadly, it’s more likely than not because kids weren’t around teachers or coaches or nurses as they would have been had school been in session. So, as we are coming together over here, let us also remember that there are brothers and sisters out there who are under enormous stress and enormous challenge. And we’ve got to be there more than ever before for them as well.
So, with that, we’re going to start with John. So Matt, you don’t have to pull a hamstring today getting across to the first. We’re going to sweep across once; I may, given the clock, give a quick buzzer round opportunity but we’re not going to sweep back. So, let’s do that once if we could just in the interest of time. John, fire away.
John Mooney, NJ Spotlight: I have a couple of quick ones and then several on modeling. We’re getting a lot of calls from people with family members in long-term care facilities. They’re frustrated with the lack of information from local health departments, from the administrators of the facilities, and they’re wondering what you can do to make information about which facilities public. They’re really struggling to find out about their family members in these homes. Can you talk a little bit about the use of the anti-malarial drugs at all in treating COVID patients? Are there protocols for private ambulance companies for taking patients out of state to hospitals of their choice? Is there anything about what’s going on? You’ve talked a lot about triaging and where to do in terms of tiered facilities. There are four counties in New Jersey that are not giving town-by-town breakdowns of cases. Should they be doing that or is that a good thing for them to be doing?
Governor Phil Murphy: Which counties out of curiosity?
John Mooney, NJ Spotlight: Mercer, Union, and I’ve lost track.
Governor Phil Murphy: When you can.
John Mooney, NJ Spotlight: Okay. On the modeling, the CHIME model you’ve called the snapshot in time. You’ve said it all depends on the data you’ve given. Nearly two weeks into the social distancing, have the variables in the CHIME modeling changed for you? Can you update us, will we see a new curve model at some point? You mentioned today the number of people on ventilators which seems somewhat high. Ventilators is a factor in the CHIME model. Is that helping you change the projections at all? And just, will we see new curves at some point based on the data you’ve gotten so far?
Governor Phil Murphy: Is that it? I’m sure you could go on. But Judy, a couple of general comments from me and then I’ll turn it to you and Ed for most of this.
Again, Judy said this and I want to just… Two things that have been said about long-term care facilities, I guess three things. Number one, we appreciate the concern people have. There’s no question about that; we have similar concerns. Secondly, these are, in an overwhelming amount of cases this is a residence for these individuals, so that information coming from the government side, you know, there’s a certain amount of I think quite rightfully discomfort with that.
But thirdly, I think as recently as yesterday, there are obligations that these facilities have for reporting any outbreaks that may happen, not just COVID-19 but any outbreaks that may happen. And Judy reiterated, I believe as recently as yesterday that requirement – that obligation that these facilities have. It is first and foremost their job to do that.
And I just wanted to go right to the end, ‘cause most of this is going to be completely in Judy’s and Ed’s hands. I mentioned we’re going to be more data-heavy early week, and I would just say as a general matter, speak for me – a non-medical expert. Bear with us because I think we’re going to be talking much more to the data early next week, not just because we want to make sure we’re comfortable with it as we have said, and the curves we’ve shown are based on historic compliance as opposed to specific realities. The maps we showed today of America is real; the county map that I’d love to show perhaps as early as tomorrow is real in terms of how often cases are doubling, etc. But it’s also not a coincidence, because as you rightfully point out, John, we’re now going to be tomorrow a couple of weeks hence from the most aggressive steps we’ve taken.
With that, Judy, over to you.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure. Just a couple things on the CHIME model. The CHIME model is just one of the models that’s out there. We’re actually, through the Innovations Center looking at the model that they are using in New York and kind of trying to bring them together. But in the CHIME model, that changes every day as we get more information. So, I want to talk about the vents.
41% of our hospitalized individuals right now are on ventilators. I thought that was lower than expected. I think I heard you say, “It’s high.” I thought it was lower. So, that tells me that patients are coming probably into the hospital sooner than later, so they’re being supported in different ways that are perhaps helping them more. 41%, I had thought in the beginning it would be 50%. We are planning actually for every critical care bed a ventilator. So, we had to break down how many in critical care, how many are not, but 41% is to me a number that we can work with.
And what was it about the counties?
John Mooney, NJ Spotlight: There are four that are not providing town-by-town breakdowns of cases.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Oh okay, we don’t… We let the counties do what they want to do.
Governor Phil Murphy: That’s really a county call. But can we run that down, Mahen? What about anti-malarial?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I’ll let the chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine – Ed, Dr. Ed.
DOH Medical Director, Communicable Disease Service, Dr. Ed Lifshitz: Thank you. The anti-malarials, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are certainly being studied with great interest at this point. You know, we’re still very early in this process. There are some very small studies that have come out of France and China that are somewhat conflicting as to how effective they are or may be. And unfortunately, the answer still is it is too early to tell for sure. They are not likely to be miracle drugs, meaning it’s not like you’re going to give this to somebody who is deathly ill and they’re going to be cured in a couple of days. But anything that can help at this point certainly would be welcome.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, we’re supporting the studies that are going on in New Jersey right now. We feel the use of these drugs within a clinical study, if that can give us the specificity that we need it’s a good thing.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, how about any protocols regarding private ambulance companies, I believe you asked, John, about taking people in or out of state?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: No, we do not have protocols that supersede the request of the person in the ambulance. But it would be under consideration if we wanted to decrease movement more.
Governor Phil Murphy: May I add a little bit more color to the conversation that I think is somewhat relevant for the general discussion, the general questions that John has asked; and then we’ll go to Elise and then we’ll go back.
A little bit more color on the conversation with Dr. Fauci. A couple of questions, and I’m sure this is something he would feel as comfortable saying privately as he would publicly – are we collectively right to say a vaccine that’s safe and scalable in the next year to year and a half is a window that is reasonable? Yes. Secondly, is it fair to say that there will be therapeutics that are affirmatively applicable, Ed, I don’t know if that’s the right word but by say the fall into winter? Yes, affirmatively yes there will be, and that’s consistent I think with a fair amount of what we’ve heard.
And Matt was particularly interested in this because Matt reminds me of this it’s very constitutionally difficult to put State Troopers, Pat, or National Guardsmen at our borders and not let people in from other states. I’ve mentioned this over the past week that I’ll be damned if we’re going to put our state through hell and then have folks coming in from states that have lax and lower protocols that come in. And his answer to that is aggressive, you know, God willing, again, the order of events – crack the back of the virus through staying at home; begin to slowly, responsibly open back up again both economy and society.
And he made the point which Judy has made before and we’ve discussed publicly and privately, at that point contact tracing becomes hugely important – contact tracing, isolating, quarantining. That’s the way you solve the riddle of folks who are somehow, if you start to see something pop up again which we’ve discussed before.
John, thank you. Elise?
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Thank you for those hospital and vent numbers, they were very helpful. How are you verifying that the supplies you’re ordering exist? You’re dealing with far-away suppliers. If you do acquire supplies from say, China, how long does the supply take to get here? Is it requiring a little bit of detective work to know who you’re dealing with and have you backed off any purchases because you were suspicious of anybody offering it? Also, are masks and gloves from the federal stockpile arriving in good shape? I know elsewhere in the country there were issues. Governor, you’ve said that New Jersey has spent tens and tens of millions of dollars on PPE; I’m wondering whether you have a more precise figure. Also, have you started to collect the vents and other supplies from the ambulatory centers and elsewhere? That’s it.
Governor Phil Murphy: Let me start and maybe Pat, you should come in behind me; and then Judy, anything you want to add to that. We have a very arduous, nimble, quick – and Matt Platkin may want to come in here if he sees this differently – but we trust but verify. So, we verify aggressively upfront, and I would say sadly, the overwhelming amount of leads we’ve gotten, and I get them personally… Even today X weeks, months into this I get multiples a day. Sadly, more often than not these don’t pan out. Is that fair to say?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: That’s true, Governor. We have a whole procurement team and to the Governor’s point, it is daily that it’s the, “I know a guy,” “I got a million ventilators,” “I’ve got 1000,000 masks.” And that vetting process, although sometimes valid, sometimes they overpromise and I think would underdeliver had we gone down that road. Can I speak to the cost of the PPE?
Governor Phil Murphy: 100% and then I’m going to, when you finish I’m going to…
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Actually on our Taskforce call last night led by the Commissioner, we directed, again, thinking about the recovery at the end of this process that just about all of those purchases come through the Office of Emergency Management. At this juncture, we’re in the middle of doing 25% of the $27 million that we’ve spent so far, Elise, that FEMA has been so gracious to advance us – the 25% cost share which is unprecedented. So, I think I’d take a moment to thank FEMA for that which will keep certainly our cashflow and budget authority up so we can continue to make purchases. That’s where that is, Elise, and we’re weekly from both OMB and each individual department so that we can make sure we reconcile and that we can get every single dollar that is eligible to us. Gov?
Governor Phil Murphy: I would add yes, it does take some amount of detective work. I think virtually everybody in our front office is, in one form or another right now, not to mention obviously people in health and State Police and others, we’re fulltime on this. So, for instance, the entire Economic team that Tim deals with, Joe Kelly and all of his team are literally vetting. I was on just now, I was checking my phone with something in terms of timing – this is not China; this is Japan. These are largely masks; they are estimated to be mid-month, so April 15.
We find ourselves increasingly I think dealing with people that we know and we have had some amount of confidence in, and I think we’re much more quickly able, now that we’ve been in this for some number of weeks – I don’t know if you all agree with me, that we’re more easily able to sus out the real from the fake. And there are a lot of folks out there who either literally don’t have it and just want, “Advance me $1 million and we’ll give you the details,” or ones who are just jacking prices up through the roof. But there are legitimate players out there.
And you asked masks and gloves, have they been in good shape? We think they have, right?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: They’re on constant order and different dates of delivery, four to six weeks is generally.
Governor Phil Murphy: But the shape they’re in when they get here?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Oh yeah, we’ve had no issues as far as any PPE that’s been received.
Governor Phil Murphy: And your question on ventilators, I’m sorry?
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Have you started to take any ventilators or other PPE from the ambulatory centers and elsewhere?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: We have not done that yet, Elise, but that process through administrative order is in place. We do have a protocol as to how that would actually, not only from the paperwork side but from the operational side take place.
Governor Phil Murphy: But I did mention, Sam Stein was my example today. There are folks who have voluntarily given us or given to health systems. But I think you mean have we had to commandeer it, and the answer is not yet, right?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Not yet.
Governor Phil Murphy: Anything you want to add to that or are you good? Matt Platkin.
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Just in addition to what the Colonel said, the Attorney General and the US Attorneys have announced a joint taskforce, and one of the things they’re looking at is procurement fraud. And we are actively cooperating with that effort.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. Sir, do you have a question?
Oscar Quintana, Americano: I am Oscar Quintana from Americano. I was wondering if there will be rental relief for New Jersey?
Governor Phil Murphy: Which relief?
Oscar Quintana, Americano: Rental, for rent, for the people who rent.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, so we’re asked this a lot and renting is not as straightforward as, “I have a mortgage and I have a mortgage payment due.” So, let me just remind folks what we’ve put in place and then I’ll ask Matt to give any more color. So, number one, most people rent from someone who has a mortgage. Virtually every mortgage player that we could think of, nationally as well as state-chartered, have granted a 90-day holiday. It’s up to the person who’s got the mortgage to work out what that looks like with the mortgage bank and mortgage provider.
And the overwhelming amount of cases, and we hope this is the case, and I want to make sure this is a call to arms here, that the three-month holiday is not due on the 91st day. We want that to be due, tacked onto the end of the mortgage ten, 20, 30 years out. We expect landlords who are getting relief over here from their mortgage lender to provide symmetric relief to the folks who are renting from them, and we expect that to happen.
Secondly, you may recall that we, I signed a law a couple of weeks ago – no one is allowed to be thrown out of their house, in fact for either foreclosure, eviction, including for not paying rent, am I right, Matt? Including for not paying rent.
And then thirdly, the Department of Community Affairs – big shoutout to Sheila Oliver and her team – are continuing to work on other programs, whether it’s federal money or state programs that can further help renters. Anything you want to add to that, Matt? You’re good, okay. Thank you.
We’re going to go here and then we’ll go to you, sir. Nikita?
Nikita Biryukov, New Jersey Globe: Hi, Governor, fewer questions today. We’re reporting that you told Democratic County Chairs on a call earlier today that you’re considering delaying the June primaries. I was just wondering if you’d mind repeating to us what you told to them? And then, do you have any more info on the skunkworks team, timeline, and then whether or not you’re considering Amy Mansue to head the team? And then, Dan Munoz from NJ Biz wanted me to ask Tim how many awards do you expect to give out for the program that opened today? I know the numbers look like it would be at least 1000 but I’m wondering if that’s changed? And then, has the application period changed at all?
Governor Phil Murphy: Is that for Tim?
Nikita Biryukov, New Jersey Globe: Yeah, that’s for Tim.
Governor Phil Murphy: On the first one, yeah, I mentioned an obvious point but I’m not making news with this. It’s just when the Democratic Party decided to move their Convention back to August 17th, we have a lot more flexibility than I thought we had two days ago. And we’re going to make a decision on that pretty soon but I’ll be stunned if we, just right here I’ll be stunned if we stay June 2nd. And I think that’s basically what I said. No decision yet.
But skunkworks, I love Amy, by the way. Let’s make sure Amy’s on our list. I have not made any decisions about that. However, I mentioned at least on social media that I spoke to Neera Tanden who’s a very close friend, who runs the Center for American Progress. And she said, “Bear with us. As you think about putting in place your team and your way forward in terms of responsibly reopening the state,” she said, “We’ve got a report that’s about to come out.” And literally as I was sitting here, ten minutes ago it came out. But no more detail on that yet. I appreciate your asking.
Tim Sullivan, any sense of the amount of awards?
New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan: Not yet on the awards. Not everyone who applied is going to be eligible so we’re going to have to go through separating folks who are eligible and who are not. Not everyone’s going to come in for the full award size as well, so we’re tabulating that data. We’re going to be oversubscribed. We’re going to have to… It’s first-come, first-served. We are letting people take essentially a deli ticket. If there are further rounds and further funding at any point they’ll be already in line if they’ve got a complete application. No representations that there will be but if there would be further funding that’s how we would approach it.
The application’s going to stay open. If it gets incredibly, insanely oversubscribed we’ll probably close it at some point prior to Friday which is when we said we’d keep it open. But as of right now it’s still open.
Governor Phil Murphy: When do you make the decision on the awards?
New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan: We’ll start doing that rolling first in, first out, award notifications as early as the first couple days of next week. And first checks, electronic checks potentially late next week.
Governor Phil Murphy: That’s fabulous.
Nikita Biryukov, New Jersey Globe: Gotcha. Just do you have a ballpark figure for the number of awards, like a couple thousand, a few thousand, ten thousand?
New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan: 1000 to 2000 is probably a best guess. Again, if lots of people came in with one employee that’s $1000. If lots came in with five to ten that’s $5000. We don’t know that data yet.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, sir.
Reporter: Yeah, I just have one. Cities like Newark, Lakewood, people that aren’t abiding by the executive order, are you predicting maybe stricter lockdown laws for those that continue to not obey more or less?
Governor Phil Murphy: Listen, I think what we’ve decided to do so far, and Pat should come in behind me, is to – and by the way, Director Ambrose and Mayor Baraka who are doing great work with our blessing have been upping their patrols and activities as an enforcement matter in other communities, including Lakewood apparently. Where was the bar that we had to shut down the second time?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Blairstown, my home county.
Governor Phil Murphy: Apparently in places like Blairstown where you don’t live too far from there. It’s been with the aid of the State Police. But I think the big thing, so there’s further enforcement and law enforcement presence but, and I believe I said this the other day, the eligible penalties have gone up dramatically. And that was the Attorney General’s decision which we endorsed completely. So, I believe the fines are now up to $10,000 depending on the conviction and the amount of time in jail is up to 18 months. We believe that’s a very significant deterrent.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: I’ll just add that yesterday afternoon the Attorney General and I got on with the Prosecutors of the larger cities in New Jersey, understanding that each city is unique and has its own challenges. And I know the Attorney General doesn’t want to demand that every large police department does things exactly the same way that Newark does, but that we try to get to some level of understanding of what does enforcement look like, letting discretion play a part. So, we’re trying to come to some even playing field with regards to how that enforcement looks throughout all 21 counties.
Governor Phil Murphy: We need enforcement; we need 100% compliance. But Judy said this particularly with two of the biggest religious holidays of any faith about to come upon us, we’ve got Ramadan not far on the heels of both Easter and Holy Week and Passover. We have got to make sure people comply. Please?
Reporter: So, following up on that I’ve got a question from Brenda Flanagan at NJTV News. You’ve called those that continue to hold gatherings ‘knuckleheads,’ a term usually used to describe disorderly teenagers. But some of these violations are larger social gatherings like weddings and funerals with dozens in attendance. Would you use the same language to describe people who gather for these events and can you address this larger-scale disregard for your executive order? And also, Governor Cuomo said he’s converting the Javits Center pop-up hospital to a COVID-only hospital despite the original plan to make it non-COVID patients. He says there just aren’t enough non-COVID cases to move over and they need the space for COVID patients. Is New Jersey prepared to do the same with its popup hospital at The Meadowlands? Is there any consideration to making it only COVID patients?
Governor Phil Murphy: I’ll answer the first. Judy, do you want to take the second?
A knucklehead is a knucklehead. I don’t discriminate based on age. We need everybody to get with the program, to comply, to get us to 100% compliance. Period, full stop. Judy?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yes, we’re originally going to have the popup as a non-COVID popup. We’ve been in communication, by the way, with New York. We’re going to see if there is the number of patients necessary to fill the hospital. But as our amount of COVID cases increase overall it may be that we’ll have to change our original projection and have it be a mix of COVID and non-COVID, which would require us to cohort the COVID patients in a certain way. We had a discussion this morning on that to plan for it because we do believe it’s going to happen.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. Brent?
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Four quick things. How many ventilators are currently in, like how many do we have and how many more do we need? I know this has been mentioned before but I just wanted to double-check that I got the numbers right. Two, what can be done for people who’ve lost their health insurance because they’ve also lost their jobs, anything that works with that? Where can people report if landlords are telling them, “You’ve got to pay me?” And do fertility centers also have to be closed? Is there any guidelines for IVF during this because you know, you’ve already closed elective surgeries?
Governor Phil Murphy: I know on the ventilators, Judy, the standing ask, Pat, is 1650 from the federal stockpile. And so, that continues to be the case. I do not know, Judy can tell you how we look at how many vents are used. Fertility centers I believe have been deemed essential, have they not, Matt? I’ve not been asked this question.
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Well, I think there’s two questions. The Executive Order 107 has a blanket carveout for healthcare facilities so it wouldn’t be covered there. And then, are you referring to the executive order about elective surgery?
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Yeah, the question’s from Sue Livio. Her direct question is, “Since the state has shut down nonurgent elective procedures and closed surgery centers, what about fertility centers? Are you issuing separate guidance for them or was it already assumed they would be closed too? What would your directive be if a fertility clinic is not only still doing IVF but also nonurgent patients from out of state?”
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: We haven’t closed fertility centers by executive order but I’d let Judy weigh in on whether any of those procedures… We’d have to know the specific procedures to know whether they qualify as nonessential.
Governor Phil Murphy: Before we go to Judy, any comment on health insurance? Your question was…
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Because people, when they lose their jobs they also lose health insurance and this seems like a time when that would suck.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, the value statement is we’ve got to make sure we’re dealing with everybody here, whether they have health insurance or not. It’s a right not a privilege, I’ll put that speech aside for another day but we’ve got to bring everybody along in this state, regardless of what their status may be. Matt?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: We’ve petitioned the feds for approval for a special enrollment period on the Exchange and we’re also actively looking at options for what we can do for folks who have lost their job.
Governor Phil Murphy: And before we go to Judy on fertility, I think if you’ve got a landlord who’s screwing you, my advice is to go on www.covid19.nj.gov, and I think there’s a complaint page. And if there isn’t, somebody ask Beth to make sure that we drop one in soon enough. That’s a very good question. Any comment further on fertility, Judy?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I think we put forth guidance that if you have a situation where you have a series of things that have to be done, whether it’s cancer treatment or fertility treatment, that that certainly would be acceptable.
Governor Phil Murphy: And how about the question, I’ve answered what the ask is in terms of more ventilators at the moment. Listen, again, I’d like to say otherwise. We don’t have enough ventilators, personal protective equipment, beds, or healthcare workers. We’ve got a plan to do our very best to get out ahead of that. We need the feds on most of those lanes, but any sense on how many are being used at the moment?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: The latest report that we have, and again, you know, we don’t want our hospitals to spend all their time reporting so we give a little flexibility in this. But today, and that would be early this morning they were reporting that there were about 2400 ventilators available; but 1500, 1600 were in use. So, there were about 800 that would be available throughout the whole state to be used. But in the last two days, nine hospitals have reported that they were at max for ventilators. So, I think I reported two days ago we got calls in the middle of the night; we were able to move ventilators around. We did not get any calls last night. So, hospitals are starting to understand that movement of equipment to take care of patients appropriately.
Governor Phil Murphy: Again, in the larger scheme of things, we’re short. And we have to not only look at what, and Judy and her team do this brilliantly, where we are today but where we think we’re going to be in three, five, seven, ten, 14 days.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, our estimated gap, Governor, is that we need 6000 more.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, so the gap is serious. I want to go back here first and then go to Charlie. Sir, do you have a question? I can’t see.
Carlos Ramirez, New Brunswick Today: Hi Governor, Carlos Ramirez of New Brunswick Today. Governor, can you tell us about which inmates are being released from jails and prisons? Are ICE detainees going to be released from Bergen County and/or Essex County jails? Do you know which jails have had confirmed cases?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, Judy can answer the question on Department of Corrections and cases. The judgement that was made by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was directed at county jails and that process has been ongoing. Secondly, I don’t know how much – the total number was up to 1000, I believe, Matt? I believe.
Secondly, I do not have jurisdiction. I know how I feel. I won’t make a big, pound-my-shoe-on-the-table speech about ICE, etc., but I don’t have jurisdiction over the ICE incarcerated. I wish I did but I don’t. And I’ll repeat something that I said a few minutes ago, that we need… Brent asked about folks who have lost health insurance. We’ve got to break the back of this virus by looking at the entirety of our state, not just some of us.
And so therefore, the Department of Corrections, Judy’s talked about that, about psychiatric hospitals, long-term care facilities, homes for developmentally disabled, whatever it might be – incarcerated obviously. We’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of everybody.
Have I got the number right, Matt, in terms of the county jail number and any other comment on ICE?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: There were federal decisions on ICE but again, we don’t have jurisdiction in terms of releasing someone in custody there. I don’t have the specifics. With the number, yeah, you were right on the estimation. I don’t have the exact numbers of how many have been released.
Governor Phil Murphy: It was up to 1000 from the county jails. Judy, in terms of any color on the cases in the corrections?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: We certainly monitor that. I’m in communication with Commissioner Hicks. The state prisons, although we have some positive cases, were able to quarantine the contacts. I don’t want to give out the numbers because I don’t have them at the top of my head. We had four or five employees. Our bigger concern frankly is the monitoring of the county jails. They seem to have more incidents of individuals with respiratory illness so we’re keeping a close eye on the county jails as well. But I just don’t have the numbers for you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. Charlie?
Charlie Kratovil, New Brunswick Today: Yes, thank you, Governor, for the opportunity to ask you questions. I have four. Approximately how many of the 565 municipalities have declared a local emergency? I asked a week ago about EO 111 with the healthcare data and whether that’ll be made public or not. I haven’t seen it on the COVID-19 site. Is that something that we’ll have to OPRA to get or will that be made public? Another item I asked previously about, any progress on online voter registration, making it easier to register to vote especially with May 12th coming up? And finally on the landlords and tenants issue, you said that you expect landlords to provide symmetric relief but how will that be enforced? Realistically, a tenant’s not going to have access to that information on whether their landlord’s been provided any relief or not. Is there any way to enforce that symmetry that you’re expecting?
Governor Phil Murphy: I don’t know on the answer on how many have declared local emergencies. Matt, do you know?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Off the top of my head I don’t know.
Governor Phil Murphy: Do not know. Mahen, can you help us follow up with Charlie? Healthcare data, to what extent… I’m previewing a more data-intensive action as early as I hope early next week. But in terms of any color on that, Judy? You want to…
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, I think at this point we’re at, we have enough data that we want to work through our local counties and local health departments on how much data is put out and how they access it. The local health departments, as you know, have all of the data. We get our data from them on positive cases, so we really ask them to work locally.
Governor Phil Murphy: I think you’ll be seeing more, not to punt until next week but I’d love you to see what we’re saying over the next number of days and react to that. Online voter registration, I love it. I want it. I don’t know that there’s anything new on it though, is there?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Not yet.
Governor Phil Murphy: Don’t we need a law?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: We signed the law but the effective date was very far out.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, so we don’t have the… It’s a good question on landlords and tenants, and I’m going to have Matt answer it from a legal standpoint. A fair amount of what you hear us talk about every day is in the category of moral suasion, the notion that there’s something bigger than all of us and that this is the moment, as we’ve said in the past but not recently, the true test of whether or not folks are doing the right thing is when the lights are out and nobody’s looking, are they doing the right things? As opposed to when you’re sitting up here as I am right now. And there’s an enormous amount and I can’t overstate this – there’s an enormous need for moral suasion here, for community action that is bigger than any one of us. Is there anything that you want to add as a legal matter to that?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: No. I think that’s right. It’s a challenge because you have many, many thousands of private actors who have contracted and they have their own private contracts. So, we’re trying to find out ways that we can get out and encourage them or enforce them to be good actors. But it’s more challenging as you said than mortgages. And Gov, if I could just correct one thing, I need to confirm, Brent, we may have not formally sent the submission in yet – the special enrollment period, but it’s something we’re actively considering if we haven’t done it yet.
Governor Phil Murphy: And again, I think on renters, you probably got a sense of this – you asked it and you asked it, Charlie. We’re trying to get… As Matt said, these are a gazillion private contracts, so we’re trying to sort of narrow the scope of the reality and the behavior. And it’s not as straightforward as nobody can be foreclosed, nobody can be evicted. You get two more months to get your driver’s license renewed. Real ID is pushed off for a year. If you’re paying a mortgage you get three months assuming your banker’s on the list and most of them are – you get a three-month holiday. This is a harder one to get our arms around.
Real quick, please.
Charlie Kratovil, New Brunswick Today: Yeah, I just wanted to clarify on my question, it’s not so much the cases but rather the supplies, right, or the beds available. Under EO 111 you’re requiring hospitals to provide that, but I for one would like to be able to get my hands on that information.
Governor Phil Murphy: So, this is less a question of whether we have the data but when we get it, is this going to be data that everybody has access to?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah.
Governor Phil Murphy: There’s no reason not to.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: There’s no reason not to.
Governor Phil Murphy: We’re trying to get our arms around it ourselves.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I think it’s important to know what data people need to see to make good public health and their own health decisions. Whenever we release data, that’s what we think about – does it fulfill our public health mission? Does it promote the health of the state overall? And what will people do with the data? Will it help inform them so that they behave differently, improve their own health, improve the health of the community?
Governor Phil Murphy: Anyone have anything urgent? Okay, real quick, Elise, and then we’ll go to the back. Hang on one second. Come on, Matt. Matt, you should consider track shoes next time we have a gathering. Elise.
Elise Young, Bloomberg: For the Commissioner, I would be surprised if you had this data right in front of you but do you have a running total of how many nursing home residents have tested positive, and among them how many fatalities there have been?
Governor Phil Murphy: Fatalities in nursing homes, do you happen to know how many individuals?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: …have tested positive, how many employees are in quarantine, how many employees have tested positive, how many individuals from nursing homes have been hospitalized, and then how many individuals from nursing homes have died. So, we keep that for all nursing homes.
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Okay, so can I get that information? I’ll email somebody and ask for that?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Well, we keep asking for specific information from nursing homes and our Privacy Officer for various reasons has suggested that putting out the individual nursing home data is not in keeping with our statutory obligations.
Governor Phil Murphy: I think you’re asking about gross numbers?
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Yes.
Governor Phil Murphy: Okay.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Gross numbers from those broad categories? Sure.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, that’s something we can follow up.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure. Oh, I’m sorry. I misunderstood that. Sure.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Elise. Please?
Reporter: Thank you, Governor, last question I promise. The cities of Newark and East Orange are closing their takeout and drive-through only restaurants by 8:00 PM but your executive order said they could resume normal business hours, and that local governments can’t alter your order. Is there any comment you want to give on that?
Governor Phil Murphy: I thought there was some confusion on that, even as much as ten days or so ago. Matt, you can follow up here. And listen, by the way, there’s an enormous amount of good being done at the community levels here. We can’t do all of this ourselves, whether it’s enforcement, whether it’s moral suasion, behavior, etc. But it also is a good opportunity to say the last word on stuff like this resides with me and with us. We can come back to the details. I hadn’t heard that. Anything you want to add to that, Matt?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: No, I don’t know if that’s happening or not but it would conflict with EO 107 and it wouldn’t be permissible.
Governor Phil Murphy: We’ll come back to you, the first I’ve heard of it. I know someone had raised it with Newark a couple of weeks ago but I hadn’t heard it since then.
I want to thank Judy Persichilli, our Commissioner Extraordinaire. Ed Lifshitz, thank you so much, to you, too, and to your extraordinary colleagues. Pat Callahan, thank you to everything you and your team are doing. Jared, thank you for being here and all that you’re doing, and Tim Sullivan. Again, we said this is a health crisis. It’s also an economic crisis felt by many individuals who have lost their jobs and certainly felt by our small business community.
Again, everybody, we’ll be here at 1:00 tomorrow, likely not together on Sunday but if that changes we’ll let you know. We’ll be back here at 2:00 PM on Monday just because of a video call with the White House.
I’ll repeat what we’ve said so often. This is a war. We don’t win this war by panicking. We don’t win it by business as usual. We win it by being smart, aggressive, proactive; being straight with each other; acknowledging sadly the numbers of both God bless them fatalities as well as folks who have the virus are going to go up before they go down, that we’re not going to get out of this tomorrow or next week or the week after – this is a marathon. We have to be straight with each other.
We have to come together, and the last thing we need is to turn on each other. And New Jersey does this better than any other state in America. We rise and fall as one family and we always will, and we’ve never needed that more than now. And if each one of the 9 million of us does our share, does our part, from the little things to the big ones – and please God, stay at home. That’s the most important thing any of us can do. If we all do that it won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be unscathed but we will come out of this.
We will win this war and we will be stronger and closer, and more united as one New Jersey family than ever before. Thank you.