Governor Phil Murphy: Good afternoon everyone. With me today, the woman on my right who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli. To her right, a guy who's rapidly getting into that same category of not needing an introduction, Communicable Disease Service Medical Director, Dr. Ed Lifshitz. Ed, it's good to have you with us. And to my left the guy, again, who needs no introduction, the Superintendent of the State Police, Colonel Patrick Callahan. We've got Jared Maples, Director the Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Deputy Counsel Parimal Garg here to help us answer your questions.
We're going to do the daily numbers a little bit differently today and see what you think, if this is helpful. We think it might be. And if so, we'll carry it forward. Typically, we give the raw data of the overnight numbers, all of which, again, are reported on our data dashboard at covid19.nj.gov. And we'll continue to do this, by the way, but we'll now be plotting these numbers over sort of a rolling three-week historical timeframe to show you some trend lines. We believe and hope that this will put some of the daily numbers into a broader and better context.
First up, here we go. Here are the raw numbers. Today were reporting 3,026 new confirmed test results and the statewide total, as you can see, is now 81,420. In our hospitals, as of 10:00 p.m. last evening, 7,718 residents were reported hospitalized, of whom 2,024 were listed in critical or intensive care, and 1,641 ventilators were in use. Additionally, 90 patients are at one of our field medical stations. And happily, for the 24-hour period ending at 10:00 p.m. last evening, 814 residents were discharged from our hospitals.
Now, again, let's do this a little bit differently. Let's put these numbers into proper context. The first graph that we're showing you right now plots the rate of growth of new cases over the past 21 days, and as you could see, we are flattening the curve. This is a credit to each and every one of you who has taken to heart our aggressive social distancing measures and who continue to do your part. Again, these are dailies. The bars are the amounts per day of positive test results and the curve is the one that fits through that set of bars over three weeks.
The second chart we'll pull up, this one plots since April 1 the daily rates of new hospitalizations. As you could see, we've been able to create some stability here as well. There is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the first graph and this graph. The slower the rate of new cases, the slower the rate of infections, the slower the rate of new hospitalizations, ICU beds required, ventilators required, and please God, fatalities that result. It is literally almost a mathematical derivation exercise, as personal as each one of these cases are. They have a name, they have a face. They are human beings in our blessed, beloved New Jersey community. And at the same time, we can derive from formulas and models mathematically some of what the reality is.
Let's go to the next one, if we could. This chart plots the number of new hospitalizations against the number of daily discharges. As you can see, over the past three weeks, we have been able to move these lines closer together to the point we're now reporting more people leaving the hospital than entering. Please, God, it stays that way. I think you can see that.
Finally, one more. Here are the daily numbers of patients in intensive and critical care over the past 21 days. Throughout the past week, as you can see, we've seen these numbers begin -- and I say begin, Judy -- to stabilize. These graphs are what we need to see and they are why we must keep up our aggressive social distancing. Again, so far, so good, we just can't let up.
This map, let's pull that up, which we've been seeing now for the past number of days, this further adds some proof as to why what we're doing is working. This is the time it is taking in each county for the cases to double across the state. You could see, I think, the data, the numbers are a little bit small, but you'll see numbers ranging from nine days to double, all the way up right now in Bergen County, at 19 days to double. The higher that number is, Judy and Ed, the better it is. So let's keep that map as light as possible and let's see those numbers continue to go up, up and up. Again, that is thanks, literally to everybody out there. It is your efforts that are leading to these results. We just have to stay at it. Not forever, but we have to stay at it for now.
Sadly, with the heaviest hearts, this is data that we also have to report. We continue to lose residents to COVID-19. Today we're reporting another 231 precious lives loss from among our New Jersey family and we now have lost a total of 4,070 blessed souls. It's a number that takes your breath away.
One of these, who we have lost was Edison Fire Captain, let's see him, Richard Campbell. God bless him. He was a 28-year veteran firefighter. Firefighting and public service ran in his blood as he followed his father into the line of service, as did his brother who sadly passed last year. Mayor Tom Lanky of Edison said that Captain Campbell's death, "leaves us short a hero." I don't think there could ever be better words by which to remember him. We send our deepest condolences to his wife Kimberly, who I had the honor of speaking with this morning, and their four children who range in age from 27 down to 11. Caitlin, Kevin, Christopher and Ariana, and I want you to keep Ariana in a special place in your heart as you pray for this family. May Richard rest in peace and may his memory bring comfort to his family and to all who knew him. God bless him.
Here's another member of our family, Herbert "Bert" Heaney, of Maywood. He was 77 years old when he passed on Monday. For 36 years, he was a forensic scientist at New Jersey State Police's North Regional Laboratory in Little Falls, and Pat and team knew him well. He is being remembered by many for his dry sense of humor. He was a Vietnam veteran and his wife Mary Beth reminded me today, as a result of that, all of the comorbidity, Judy, that you and Ed have been warning us about that made him unfortunately a direct target of this awful virus. He continued his service to our nation in the US Army Reserves, retiring after 29 years at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. A proud member of the American Legion Post 42, Bert was dedicated to the community in Maywood. He served on the Maywood Board of Education, on the Maywood Recreation Commission, and as an Assistant Boy Scout Leader to Troop 12. What a servant. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Mary Beth. I mentioned I spoke with her this morning, a giant in her own right. And he's also survived by their children, daughter, Kathleen Heaney Schulman and his son, US Navy Lieutenant Bert Heaney, who is deployed at the moment. Keep them in your prayers, and extended families, may God bless them all. Mary Beth said one of the great memories of Bert and honors of his life when he was on the Board of Education, he got to hand each his daughter and son their high school diplomas. God bless you, Bert.
Union City lost one of its finest. There he is. Look at that guy, Detective Alex Ruperto. Alex grew up in Union City and even though he lived in Glen Ridge, he remained committed to his first hometown in a big way. After joining the Union City Police in 1999, so that's 21 years ago, Alex was one of the original members of the Emergency Services Unit, and at the time of his passing, was serving as a detective in the training division. He leaves behind two adult children, Juliana with whom I had the honor of speaking this morning, and as you can imagine, she and her brother are incredibly busted up. By the way, Juliana also works for the Union City Police Department, and his son Alex, who is in Philadelphia, Alex Jr. He is remembered by his colleagues as, and I quote, "kind, patient, soft-spoken and genuine." He was only 52 years old. God bless you, Alex and we have your memory and your children in our deepest prayers.
Each of these lives epitomize service. However, we know that every single person we have lost in this pandemic has been a cherished and invaluable member of their communities as well. They all gave back, in ways both large and small. And for that we thank them, and we honor them. And we commit to them that we will do everything in our power to stop the spread of this disease and lose fewer and fewer, please God, fewer residents to it.
Throughout this emergency, I have been in constant contact with mayors and elected officials of all shapes and sizes, but mayors up and down our state, and they have all reported to me that the overwhelming majority of their residents recognize the vital importance of doing the right thing and staying home, even when it stopped being fun. For that, we are deeply appreciative, thankful and respectful.
But as former Evesham Mayor and a friend, and Baltimore Ravens Special Teams Coach, I might add, Randy Brown reminded me, that he's still hearing from too many people who continue to think, as we've discussed, that it's just the flu, and that they don't have to change their habits one bit. He suggested, I think it was a good suggestion, for us to remind you why that's not the case. So here it goes.
Let me speak in particular directly to anyone who is sticking to this way of thinking, and I can't put it more bluntly, Judy and Ed can back me up. Based on everything we know at this time, that point of view is wrong. Surely we see flu outbreaks every year and yes, New Jerseyans die of the flu every year. But the flu has not caused the devastation that we are seeing, especially among our most vulnerable populations. Look at the long-term care facilities, look at our veterans homes if you need any proof to this. The data we are seeing, the numbers and the science prove how this is a different enemy.
Take a couple of numbers to heart, if I can. In just six weeks, as we mentioned a minute ago, we have lost 4,070 blessed New Jerseyans to COVID-19. That's more than the CDC statistics show that we have lost over the past three flu seasons in their entirety combined. We know that the COVID-19 is more virulent than the flu and one person with COVID-19 can infect many, many more without showing any symptoms. And once someone is exposed, it can take a long time, as much as I believe 14 days to develop this illness. The hospitalization rate for COVID-19, as we've shown you, is far greater than what it is for the flu. The general hospitalization rate for the flu is about one-tenth of 1% of cases. Already look at the numbers we present here for COVID-19. It's roughly 10%, I believe, Judy. You are therefore 100 more times likely to end up in the hospital, again, based on what we now know.
And finally, and I guess this is probably the most obvious point, we have vaccines that could protect against the flu. We have proven anti-flu therapies. We're at least a year away, if not longer, from a vaccine for COVID-19. Currently, while there's some good promising early-stage trials underway, there currently are no proven therapeutics. This is a pandemic, the likes of which we haven't seen in a century. If you've been keeping your eyes and your mind closed to the facts and to science, please, I beg you to open them. Open them wide, before you, God forbid, become one of the numbers that I report here every day. I know Judy and Ed would want me to remind you, will we learn more? The answer is yes. Could it potentially change some of what I've just said? Yes. Over time, the contrast between COVID-19 and coronavirus and the day in and year in and year out flu may change. We clearly, God willing, will get a vaccine. Before that, God willing, we'll get therapeutics. Perhaps the denominator changes. There's some studies out now that claim that a lot more folks have been infected, unwittingly, are asymptomatic, but have been touched by this already.
There's a big debate right now, I think it's fair to say, about will warm weather impact this? It's an open question. No expert will give you a definitive answer and say yes or no to that effect. But in the meantime, please trust us. Based on what we now know, the everyday, run-of-the-mill flu, which itself can be a big challenge and virulent, is in a completely different category than what we're talking about here.
So with that, now that I got that off my chest, a couple of other items I wanted to quickly, brief you on. I had a concerning call from Chuck Schumer last night that there is not momentum right now in Congress to put significant amounts, or any amount of money, into direct state aid. That would lead unequivocally to a national disaster. As I mentioned, we are looking at what the Federal Reserve has presented to us in terms of a potential municipal bond program. I was very happy to see Speaker Coughlin yesterday say that he was looking forward to working toward a responsible plan. I think that's a good word to use. We need that now, more than I thought we did 24 hours ago, when you hear that Congress isn't finding -- and I'm not going to get political here, but there's one part of Congress in particular that doesn't see the wisdom to put direct money into states.
Let me just tell you what the alternative will be, particularly if we can't borrow money. We will have layoffs that will be historic in the history of our state, at the state level, at the county level, and at the local level. That's what's at stake. I don't know how many, but it is big, big numbers. So I plead, this is Not either/or. We need both direct financial assistance to states from a bill passed by Congress and signed by the President and we will need bonding flexibility in either case. I would just plead with folks on both sides of the aisle to please get to that reality sooner than later and make that happen.
I've been back and forth, and I want to give him a shout out. He's been a very good partner, Secretary Robert Wilkie of the Veterans Affairs of the VA. He and his team have been back and forth with myself and our team and helping us work through the veterans homes, in particular. More on that over the coming days, but I want to give him a big shout out.
As angry as we are, and I can speak on behalf of all of us at the bad apple long-term care facilities operators, as angry and frustrated as we are and I know you are about the completely inconsistent and unacceptable level of communication, it must be said, like any community there are good apples and good actors. I want to make sure that folks realize that. With time, we will find ways to shout them out. Regardless of who the operator is, there are heroic healthcare workers, not just in our hospitals, but in long-term care facilities who are going in day after day after day to do the Lord's work for folks, in particular, our most vulnerable. I want to make sure we say that.
I mentioned the other day that life goes on, away from this awful virus. That includes births, deaths, youth, the aged, again, life goes on. I had, back to back, two striking calls yesterday. One with a very good friend Sheriff Gilbert, otherwise known to everybody as Whip Wilson of Camden County, whose wife Martha ,in her own right a giant, President of the Camden Board of Education passed, not due to corona but due to a heart attack. I spoke to Whip, I spoke to his daughter. She was a giant. It was a tough, stark reminder that life and death go on, even away from this virus. So God bless Martha and God bless and keep Whip and his daughter and their family in your hearts.
By the way, literally, the next call was to Olivia Eggers, who's seven years old, who wrote me an incredible nice note. It reminded me that young kids are watching. I spoke to her and her mom, and by the way, Olivia's twin Will and her big sister, Mary, they're up in Mahwah. It's a good reminder that folks of all ages are paying attention. They're following this and she wanted to reach out and she sent me an incredible note to say that we're with you on this and hang in there. And it was an incredible conversation, and it was even starker coming on the back of having just gotten off the phone with Whip. So God bless the young, the old, the here, the now, the Alpha, the Omegas in our society who are swept up by this virus and those who are swept up just by life.
I've got no new announcements beyond that to make, so instead I want to remind everybody now just on testing, there are roughly 70 testing sites up and running across our state, both privately and publicly accessible. A complete list, as you can see, of the publicly accessible sites can be found at covid19.nj.gov/testing. Additionally, Rite Aid is beginning an appointment-only testing program at three of its New Jersey locations. The store in Warwick in Bergen County, I believe, opened its program today. And Barrington in Camden County is set to open on Monday, and Toms River and Ocean County to follow on Wednesday. These sites will be added to our online list and you could go to riteaid.com for more information and to make an appointment. We thank our friends at Rite Aid. Your primary care practitioner could direct you to one of the many other sites should you meet the requirements for COVID-19 testing.
We continue to work aggressively to ramp up testing capabilities, as we know having a strong testing regime in place is critical for us moving forward as we begin to plan at some point, whenever that is, to reopen our state. Again, remember, the order of events here is crack the back of this virus, bring the cases, the new cases down, and please God, illnesses and fatalities to a much lower number. And then make sure that we've got in place the proper healthcare infrastructure, rapid, scaled testing, contact tracing, means to quarantine and isolate. Those elements must be in place. And with that, we can have the confidence, you can have the confidence, that we can begin to open up again.
Also, we continue to ask for volunteers with medical experience to join our army against COVID-19. Specifically, we need respiratory therapists, I believe, physicians, nurses and paramedics. If you have experience in these positions, please visit covid19.nj.gov/volunteers, as you can see, to sign up. And in doing so you'll be adding your name to the more than 22,000 healthcare workers who have volunteered with us. For those of you who simply want to start giving back to your community, not necessarily because you're a healthcare worker, but just generally you want to give back, please visit covid19.nj.gov/help and we will help match you with opportunities near you. Whether it be delivering meals to older residents, or those with special needs, or helping to stock a local food pantry, these and others are critical needs.
Now, before I turn things over to Judy, I want to mention a young man in Vineland, Cumberland County, who we should all be celebrating today. This is Dominic Mercado. It's his 12th birthday. Happy birthday, pal. He's a sixth grader at Sergeant Pilla Middle School. He had an unusual request for birthday presents. He asked for his neighbors and community to bring him boxes of pasta, and cans and jars of tomato sauce, that he will donate to the Vineland soup kitchen. Former Assemblyman, I want to give a shout out to Matt Milam, the guy who sent this my way. Matt is the President of the Board of Trustees of the soup kitchen.
I should note that since the emergency started, the Vineland soup kitchen has gone from serving approximately 120 meals a day to almost double that, if not more. Dominic set up his table outside his house and yesterday alone more than 100 people drove past and dropped off with social distancing, Judy, some birthday presents for him. He's back at it again today. So if you're in South Jersey, go wish Dominic a Happy Birthday, from a distance please. Make sure you've got your face covered. He's on East Grand Avenue by the intersection with South Main Road. Dominic's dad, another friend of mine, Carlos Mercado, is a Vineland firefighter. Obviously the apple of service does not fall far from the tree. Dominic, we wish you the very happiest of birthdays and we thank you.
And if you know someone like Dominic making a difference, tell us their story on social media by using the hashtag #NJThanksYou. It's these stories of hope and optimism and of service and community that are drawing us together, even as we have to stay apart. To everyone doing the right thing, to help us flatten and eventually break the back of this curve, thank you. Your efforts are making a real difference. It's how we're going to defeat COVID-19 and come out strong and ready to get our state back on its feet, back to where it was, and back to where we know it can be again.
With that, 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, and good afternoon. Each day I read race and ethnicity statistics that demonstrate the disproportionate impact that the coronavirus is having on communities of color. I'd like to put that in a little more context this afternoon. Studies have shown for years that the social conditions in which people are born, learn, live, work and age affect their health. In other words, your zip code sometimes matters more than your genetic code. These social determinants of health, economic stability, education, healthcare, social supports, and environmental issues like air pollution in cities that contribute to high asthma rates, place an additional layer of health concern on top of this pandemic for New Jersey's communities of color.
Last week, First Lady Tammy Murphy and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, Human Services Commissioner Carol Johnson and I discussed these issues Tuesday night with Senator Ron Rice, Assemblywoman Sumter and the New Jersey Medical Association. The New Jersey Medical Association is a chapter of the National Medical Association, the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. We were joined by their president, Dr. Damali Campbell, and the following physicians, Dr. Omar Bay, Dr. Monterey Thomas, Dr. Jacqueline Cook, Dr. James Lee, Jr, Dr. Cynthia Paige, Dr. Karma Warren, Dr. Patricia Whitney-Williams. Dr. Natalie Roche, Dr. Pamela Brugge, Dr. Cathy Duncan, and Dr. Tawana Hutchinson-Colas. These legislators and physician leaders raised important issues, and we share their concerns, and we'll be working on their suggestions.
The members of the association are basically trying to rely on telehealth in their urban environments and shared with us how difficult that is. They support more testing in community clinics. They called out the FQHCs as areas that we should be focusing. And they talked about the importance of staying at home and social distancing, but that in some domiciles, that's very difficult to do. We will continue to work with Senator Rice and the New Jersey Medical Association to do everything in our power to reduce the disproportionate impact that the coronavirus is having on communities of color. We must ensure that all of our communities stay safe and healthy during these difficult times.
As the Governor shared, for today's report, our hospitals reported 7,718 hospitalizations last evening. This is a 3% decrease on the daily growth rate for the past two days. There are 2,024 patients in critical care, 1,641 of those patients are on ventilators. A total of 814 COVID-positive patients were discharged yesterday, bringing our total discharges to 9,692.
Today we are reporting 3,026 new cases for a total of 81,420 cases in our state. And sadly, 231 new deaths have been reported to the department. There are 125 new deaths reported and associated with long-term care facilities. We share our condolences with the families who have lost someone they love.
According to data from this morning, of the seven laboratories sending us COVID-19 results, 147,850 tests were performed; 66,734 returned positive. Our positivity rate is 45.14%. Our state psychiatric hospitals are reporting 119 patients testing positive and as I reported yesterday, they sadly report seven of their population have passed away. The New Jersey veterans homes census right now is 787, 151 have tested positive and they have reported 59 deaths. There are no cases at the Vineland location. The breakdown on race and ethnicity is as follows: 50.9% White non-Hispanic; 22% black non-Hispanic; 16.7% Hispanic; 5.4% Asian; and 4.8% other. The underlying conditions of our fatalities remained the same. Thank you again for staying home and maintaining social distancing. It surely is making a difference. Stay connected, stay safe and stay healthy. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you to you and Ed and the whole team for extraordinary leadership. Just a couple of things. Counties, positive tests, it's the same list of the top six that have been the most impacted in terms of positives and sadly, fatalities, but it's Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Union, Passaic and Middlesex.
Secondly, again to repeat something we've said many times and deep appreciation, particularly for your opening remarks about the discussion with Senator Rice and other elected and physicians, the African American incidents and fatalities is running about 50% higher than the overall representation in our state. That led, among other things, to the calls that you have referred to and that's something we're going to stay on. The Hispanic number is a little shy of the overall representation, and as I've mentioned already in prior sessions, quite at odds with, as I understand from Mayor de Blasio and the New York City numbers. That's something I think we're going to, just to reiterate, that we're looking at carefully and closely. Thank you for that.
With that, for compliance, PPE, infrastructure and other matters, please help me welcome Colonel Pat Callahan.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone. The overnight from last night, Newark issued 88 EO violations and shut down four non-essential businesses. In Passaic, four subjects were cited, had been involved in an altercation at a party which should not have been gathered. In Toms River, specifically at Normandy Beach, a subject was found kite surfing off the beach and found himself in distress. Multiple lifesaving units responded and he was recovered without incident and subsequently, appropriately, cited for the EO violation. In Port Norris, a subject involved in a motor vehicle accident was unresponsive. The officers had to utilize Narcan to revive him. He was found in possession of heroin and had no lawful purpose to be out. He too was cited with an EO violation. Point Pleasant Beach, subject in the lobby became unruly, claiming to have COVID symptoms, coughing on EMS workers and officers. In Hazlit, responding to an altercation, a subject was cited for the EO violation. In Sparta, a few days ago, a subject had been in a convenience store without a mask, was disorderly, was reported to the police yesterday. When the police finally found the subject to question him, he became resistant, spit at them, bit them, physically resisted, and while being processed, ultimately spit all over the holding cell and urinated in same, which had to obviously be sanitized. He was obviously cited for the EO violation, among other charges.
Governor Phil Murphy: Where was he again, Pat?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: That was up in, I want to say it was in Sparta, Sussex. In Irvington, officers had just asked a subject to disperse. That subject became unruly and spat on the police officer, shouting that he had corona. He was obviously charged. In Jersey City, at an Airbnb party, 15 people were having a party and I think they ultimately cited four subjects for being in violation. In Elizabeth, eight were cited who had been previously warned to disperse days before. And in Trenton, the subject who organized the protest from yesterday is pending charges. Not so much for the protest itself, but for not having the social distance involved with being in a large gathering. The last one in Southampton, a subject, a woman subject for driving under the influence was uncooperative, spit, coughed, vomited at the station. While the trooper was escorting her to the vehicle, she subsequently punched the trooper in the face. Although not many incidents, some of them were fairly egregious last night.
On the long-term care front, just because that is such a challenging issue for us across the state, I just wanted to let everybody know that out of our PPE allocation today, at this very minute, all 21 county Offices of Emergency Management who serve as the point of distribution, all of them are receiving face shields, gowns, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer in our efforts to keep everybody safe in our long-term care facilities. That's all I have, Gov.
Governor Phil Murphy: Pat, thank you. Those are going specifically to long-term care?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Yes, sir.
Governor Phil Murphy: Great. Again, maybe repeat a couple things that you're sick of hearing, but just to say this. On a very positive note, notwithstanding some of those extraordinary lack of compliance stories, particularly the aggressive behavior and trying to infect others, the compliance overall in this state is extraordinary. You wouldn't get the map that we showed earlier, you wouldn't see the flattening in those charts. Judy and I were just looking at another one, there's clear progress that's being made here. Let there be no doubt about it. Don't ever say that we didn't say that.
Here's the problem. And again, to repeat, the short connection between an abrupt change in human behavior and all those charts, graphs and progress is shocking. In other words, if we all let our hair down right now, if we let our guard down right now, we would literally see it tomorrow. We're not out of the woods. We have not yet plateaued. We're still memorializing hundreds of people dying a day. And again, admittedly, these are folks who were most likely infected some two or three weeks ago, and we accept that and we know that, but we're not out of the woods yet.
The progress is undeniable, and that is thanks to each and every one of you. But there is a grave responsibility which remains in all of our hands to continue that progress and to not backslide. Please stay with us. I know it's not fun. I know it's frustrating. Today the weather's not so hot, tomorrow is going to be better. Inevitably we'll get better weather and you're going to want to, you're chomping at the bit, you want to get out. Who could blame you? We get it. Please just stay home, stay away from each other, find ways to get fresh air that's responsible and we're going to get through this together.
Unequivocally, we will get through this together. But again, notwithstanding those rather sobering reports, to say the least, the compliance is overwhelming and that report on PPE in particular, to the long-term care facilities, again, we've had very good discussions with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and his teams. There's a lot in motion, notwithstanding that we're in a world of hurt, let there be no doubt about it.
I'm going to go right to left. Let me say before we start, Matt, Matt's got the mic today. Tomorrow, again, unless you hear from Mahen or myself, we're going to be electronic, paper. And again, if there's a reason to get together on the phone or in person, we'll get to you immediately.
Secondly, we've got a VTC with the White House on Monday, so our gathering here, we'll be together for that, folks, but we'll be here at two o'clock on Monday, not one o'clock. Then Tuesday and Wednesday, bear with us, we'll let you know latest on Monday. We have a little bit of travel in each of those days tentatively scheduled to go visit some of the work that's being done to build out our capacity. More details on that, including how that impacts the time that we gather for this daily event. Is that fair? Mahen will get to everybody. With that, John, good afternoon.
John McAlpin, Bergen Record: Hi. On the racial disparity, are you compiling data, particularly death and positive cases, by zip code? And if so, can we get that at some point, to see where things are, to break down town by town that way? Any update or detailing on the inspections and teams sent to the nursing homes? Governor, any chance you would ID those bad apple nursing home operators that we don't know about?
The Philadelphia Inquirer, we have some other questions on the total number of deaths at nursing homes. Today you mentioned 125. I'm sorry, was that new deaths or total deaths? There are inquires also asking about reports that 80% of deaths in Camden County were from residents at nursing homes. Is that accurate?
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, I'll start and ask you to come in. On that last question, I don't know the answer to that, but Judy, there are 73 fatalities as we sit here in Camden County, of our total, just to put a total number on it. Judy I do not know, I can't verify the 80%. Perhaps Judy can. I will say this on racial data. We're going to endeavor to get as granular as we can. I can't promise you when that is going to be public, but that's not something we're going to hold back. John, bear with us on that. I would think we will be able to ultimately do this by zip code and we will be as hyper transparent on everything, but particularly on that, as we can. But I can't promise you when.
Judy can update you on inspections and teams and I'm going to make this a general comment, and Judy and I will both keep it that way. On the veterans homes, it's still taking form in exactly what the help will look like, but at a minimum, there will be a significant amount of help in both Menlo Park and Paramus. Vineland is to be determined, but thank God for the time being, the need is a lot less there. But as a general matter, Judy can talk about the broader inspections.
I won't get into the bad apples today but I promise you, I was actually saying the opposite. I hope at some point we could celebrate the good apples, because not everybody is ignoring their responsibilities right now. And again, my particular plea for folks to remember the healthcare workers are heroes, whether they're in a hospital, a long-term care facility, a home for developmentally disabled, a veterans home, etc. Judy, did you want to jump in on some of those?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure, let me start with the teams. The survey team went out to five long-term care facilities in the north yesterday, and they are visiting an additional 11 over the weekend, today and tomorrow. The survey of the Andover facility, which was a CMS survey, along with the state surveyor, is completed. A conference call was held with the owner and the nursing consultant yesterday. He received several citations, and he's required to submit a plan of correction on Monday. The plan of correction includes an on-site infection prevention specialist, a Chief Nurse Officer and leadership, an administrative manager.
On Camden, I don't have the exact percentage. I can tell you overall in New Jersey 40% of our deaths are related in some way to long-term care. I don't have Camden's specifics. And yes, we will be looking at all deaths, particularly individuals from our urban centers, by zip code. I don't have that with me, but it's certainly information that we need.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, John. Thank you, Judy. Let me also remind folks that in addition to the CMS, you've had your own people at Andover and the Attorney General is conducting an investigation as well. So thank you, John. Elise, good afternoon.
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Good afternoon. The first questions here are from Maria Kramer from the New York Times. She asks, are the fatality numbers provided every day suspected cases plus confirmed cases? Or, are they just confirmed cases? And she also asks whether the total number of nursing home deaths released yesterday and those today add up to 1,655?
My own questions, is New Jersey relying solely on the federal government for test kits, or is it making any testing kit purchases itself? If so, from what sources and in what quantities? Down the road, what would a wide-scale testing program look like? For instance, are you talking about all 9 million residents? What's a realistic timetable to start? And most important, what do you do with those testing data?
Governor Phil Murphy: Elise, Judy and Pat, with your blessing, I'll say a couple things here. On Maria's questions, I believe, let me just say one thing that we've said before. I mentioned earlier that a fatality could be someone, and Ed, you correct me if I'm wrong. It could be somebody who was infected some two or three weeks ago, but they didn't all necessarily pass between two o'clock yesterday and one o'clock today. I believe the reason is that you're confirming these, are you not?
DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: We aim to count every death out there that we think is related to COVID at all. You've talked about confirmed deaths. The numbers that we report every day in our daily numbers are what we've called confirmed deaths. These are people that have had lab tests that have tested positive for COVID. In addition, we then attempt to link those deaths back to people who died in long-term care facilities, that's sometimes a slower process. One of the things that can happen is we might report a death, let's say today, but we may not connect it to a nursing home as long as four or five or even a week later. Those numbers, you can't look at them day to day as far as that goes.
And the last thing is in an attempt to get as accurate a picture, as fast as we can out about what's going into the long-term care facilities, since we know that a lot of people who have died there haven't been tested and or we don't have the results yet. When we release results related to long term care facilities, then in those numbers sometimes we're including those people who may not yet have been confirmed, but are associated with an outbreak which has been confirmed.
Governor Phil Murphy: I don't know, I don't have the math in front of me, Elise, to your question. The question, her second one, is that all the long-term care numbers add up to 1,655 fatalities? Can we come back to you on that? We'll check that.
Test kits, we have absolutely more sources than the feds at the moment. Rutgers University is one good example of that. I can't give you a particular detailed rundown of the variety of sources. We can come back to you, Mahen, on that. Do you have that Pat?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: No, sir.
Governor Phil Murphy: Can we come back to you with at least some broad sense of that? Ed, what's the sort of testing regime going to look like, in your opinion, to be able to give us the confidence to be able to begin to reopen the economy? Is it a statistically significant percentage? What would you look at as a satisfactory level?
DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: In an absolutely ideal world, which we will never be at, you'd want to test almost everybody almost every single day to see whether they were exposed and possibly infected. That's just not going to be possible. So basically, what we need to do is we need to prioritize, and at the very least, we need to have enough testing that those people who are ill can be tested easily and quickly and reliably and get results back fast, as well as enough testing to ensure that certain populations such as our healthcare workers and so forth, who are coming into regular contact with ill people, are reliably known to be not infected.
In addition, you do need to have some testing just to do as background surveillance. You need to have a sense of what's happening in the general community. But as to an exact number that we would need, no, I don't have an exact number or the types of tests, because this is almost for sure going to be a combination of a variety of different types of tests. You hear a lot of different things that are out there. More tests are coming online as well. This is going to be an all-of-the-above option when it comes to testing.
Governor Phil Murphy: I think we said the other day, Elise, that we're currently doing, I think Ed, you said between 7,000 and 9,000 a day. Rutgers has said that they've got the ability to do up to 10,000 with their current configuration. I'm not going to be the one, I'm not a medical expert to tell you what the lower baseline is. I would say this tough. A rapid response on those tests is going to be as important, I believe, as how many we have. We need to know quickly. I don't have to tell folks out there who got tested a week or 10 days ago, who are still waiting, it's gotten better but it's not just the scale, it's also the rapidity.
And timetable, it's going to have to be before we could confidently reopen. I hope that's sooner than later. I think we've said this before and again, on the list of unknowns, I mentioned warm weather is one that gets actively debated. Judy and Ed, it's fair to say that something like the H1N1 story told us also that you've got the potential for a reboot. You could have, if you follow that path, you had a fairly benign summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, but then we got whacked again badly in the fall. We just want to repeat that for folks, even if we play our hand perfectly, that is a potential. Is that fair to say, folks? So, Judy, anything to add generally on the nursing home question?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure, is one 1,655. I just confirmed that, but it includes COVID-positive deaths, deaths in persons with pending test results, and respiratory illness deaths for which COVID testing was not performed. The assumption is that there's a possibility that they were COVID so they're in that number as well.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. Sir, do you have anything?
Matt Arco, Star-Ledger: With all that's going on around the country, and there's lots of, the governors and the President, everyone's being positive, they opened the beaches in Jacksonville. How do you get people to understand that's different there than here, and appreciate that difference?
Governor Phil Murphy: I mean, I don't know. I've been to Jacksonville a lot over the years, and I've been to Florida a bunch over the years, but I can't say with great granularity that I personally or that we have deep insights into what's going on there. There's an absolute evident and natural pent-up desire to begin to get back to normal. That's shared by everybody, including us. This is not like we don't see that. But we have to continue to make our decisions based on the facts and based on data and based on science. We have to have a plan. You know, if you saw our lives behind the curtain, you'd see a number of parallel tracks that are being run at the same time, the most important of which is to put the house fire out.
But you would also see, I was on a call earlier today on what elements we need to have in place for our economy. I'm on, I mentioned with Leader Schumer last night and with other members of the federal side of the ledger, talking about the urgent need for financial support. You heard Ed and Judy both, and me to some extent, talk about what a healthcare infrastructure needs to look like, to be in place in New Jersey, to give us the confidence that we can begin to open that up. And so that's the reality that we see things in New Jersey. We want to get back to some kind of a normal. Who wouldn't? We want to do that. But we cannot do that if it means we put lives at risk. We just can't do that. We will continue to call the shots based on the facts. I can't speak for the decisions that get made or don't get made in Florida. But I do know, if you stick to the facts and you stick to the data, I think you get something that looks like what we're doing.
We can't predict on timing either. I mean, in other words, I think it's fair to say we know what the program needs to look like, I think. We just don't know, I can't give you a date because there is a fair amount of the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone. The success of putting the house fire out, and the faster we can do that together – and again, thanks to everybody out there who's helping us do that, because you are the ones who are doing that – the faster we can get to the other steps we'll need to take. So thank you. We'll go over to Brent here.
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Bear with me. I have a few from other outlets and stuff. How can you say the curve is flattening if you aren't testing more people each day and the percentage of positives is so high? Is there data you're not sharing with the public?
Families are telling us testing in nursing homes is very limited. Should they be a priority? Will you deploy the National Guard to nursing homes, as a top doctor suggested yesterday? Does the total number of reported deaths at long-term care facilities include deaths that happened if a patient was transferred to a hospital or just if they died there? Do the numbers reflect only patients or staff in long-term care facilities or did they all test positive? You addressed that part.
Do the numbers reflect just patients or staff and patients? Are you aware there are empty beds inside University Hospital and the ER is backed up every day because of staffing shortage?
Anything new on the May 1 property tax deadline. I know Paul Sarla said something about how that will remain in place.
What do you say to protesters, especially after a woman was arrested here yesterday for doing her thing?
Governor Phil Murphy: Should we address these by alphabetical or by height? Okay, bless you. We're in a particularly charitable mood today, so we'll try to get to… Curve flattening, yeah, I mentioned this earlier. I gave you two curves, one of which I mentioned, it's to be determined what the denominator is. There's lots of different studies that are out. What's the denominator? How many people actually have been exposed to this? That's going to be one of the big pursuits, not just in New Jersey, but in America. But one curve, there are a couple of curves we do know. Sadly, we know people who pass. Judy reminds me, we know hospitalizations. We know ICU beds. We know that for sure. And that curve, those curves are also flattening. Those are ones that we would far more hang our hats on than, admittedly, the positive test curve is flattening. Remember, it's flattening and I think every day I've said it, the amount of testing sites has either held or it's gone up. While I would still say we don't know what the denominator is, we are getting more testing in more places in the state, and the curve is still flattening.
Testing in nursing home, Judy, I'll let you come back to that one. National Guard we've been asked this, that continues to be an option on the table. Long-term care details in terms of both, where they passed, whether it's in the home or in a hospital, I'll defer to Judy. Patients as well as staff, we can, I think, give you that as well. Empty beds at University Hospital, Judy ran University Hospital so she's far more qualified to talk to that. But we've said all along, you've got a number of capacities that we are desperately, Judy, Ed, Pat, the team, to stay out ahead of it. We've said these, I think, pretty doggedly. Beds, ventilators, medicines, PPE, healthcare workers, they are the heroes here. But those are all capacities if you want to put it that way, that we're desperately trying to stay out in front. I don't have any color specifically on the empty beds, but healthcare workers are not only heroes, but they're beat up right now. A lot of them, many sadly, are infected. Most of them are doing better and you've got a lot who are quarantined, and they are literally our heroes.
Nothing new on the property tax deadline. Sorry to disappoint. And on the protesters, I would just say listen, with all due respect, I think anybody who thinks we're doing this just to take away people's liberties and rights isn't looking at the data that we're looking at. We're doing what we're doing to try to save lives and keep as few people infected and hospitalized as possible. We're trying at every step of the way to make the right calls based on those facts and we will continue to do that. The minute we think we can begin to tweak this, open things up based on data and facts and science, we're going to be out there doing just that. But in the meantime, I would just ask those folks, I respect your right to protest. But trust us on this, we're basing this on the facts, please stay home.
Judy, with that, testing in nursing homes, where folks pass, does that impact the numbers? Patients versus staff, as well as empty beds at University Hospital.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Let me start with University Hospital, but it's all of our hospitals. At 10:30 every night, we know exactly how many ICU beds they have, how many are filled, how many are empty, and we have that on the full hospital capacity as well. We are seeing open beds in some of our hospitals, because you will recall, no elective surgeries are being done. Surgical units that are not filled at this point with patients that are COVID positive or pending, are empty. We want it that way. I think the Governor mentioned, healthcare workers need a break as well, and this perhaps gives it to them. We look at beds, hospital healthcare workers, critical care beds and ventilators. At 10:30 every night, we know exactly what's going on throughout the whole 71 acute care hospitals in the state. I can actually show you our graphs on that. We can see the dark lines are the cases, the beds that are full. The gray lines are those that are empty. We have this for all of the hospitals.
On the total deaths, Ed is our watchdog on these statistics, so I'll let him explain the cross-checking with the death certificate, and I believe that's regardless of location. Go ahead.
DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: Yes, the Commissioner is correct. If we associate the death with a long-term care facility outbreak, it's counted as being part of that outbreak, not as being part of the hospital.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: And as far as testing, actually today we have a conference call, developing our strategy for testing in long-term care facilities, so more to come on that. But it is a priority.
Governor Phil Murphy: Needless to say, it's happening. We just want to make that more robust than it is.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Exactly.
Governor Phil Murphy: Did we get most of those, I think? Okay, Charlie, how are you?
Charlie Kratovil, New Brunswick Today: I'm well, thanks, Governor. I have to ask about an inconsistency. I know you characterize your administration as hyper-transparent today. You of course did sign an emergency bill to relax the Open Public Records Act, and now your administration has denied at least one request for the daily data being collected under EO 111. I of course asked you about this before you'd even put pen to paper on that EO, asking will that data be made public? Your response was that your default position, "Is to give you as much as we can, but for privacy considerations." You asked for more time to maybe put some of that information out there on your own. I gave you more time. I followed up on April 3rd at your briefing and you asked a clarifying question, "So this is less a question of where we have the data and when we get it, is this going to be data? But when we get it, is this going to be data that everybody has access to?" And your quote was, "There's no reason not to." Your Commissioner of Health, "There's no reason not to."
So I followed up after the meeting, I asked how to –
Governor Phil Murphy: Let's get to the point. What's your question?
Charlie Kratovil, New Brunswick Today: Yeah, so I filed an open request to try to get the data, a modest open request and I was surprised to get a rejection letter yesterday. I wanted to ask what changed since April 3rd?
Governor Phil Murphy: No idea. I wish you better luck next time. What's your next question?
Charlie Kratovil, New Brunswick Today: This is the only issue I wanted to address today. I just wanted to ask if your Health Commissioner doesn't see a reason not to, you don't see a reason not to, and I also spoke to your Superintendent of the State Police, if you all don't see a reason not to, why is your administration rejecting requests for that? Will your administration reverse its position on this and release the important information about healthcare?
Governor Phil Murphy: I have no idea. Thanks for the question. I just saw the following post by the Surrogate in Atlantic County. Let me just say, folks, let's be very careful with statements like this. "Atlantic County officials need to sound the alarm, reopen New Jersey immediately without restrictions, trust American freedom, ingenuity, and the US Constitution, untie the hands of the private sector so it can rescue New Jersey from this nightmare."
By the way, 19 persons have died from COVID-19 in Atlantic County. I would just say this folks. That is irresponsible. We quote-unquote "untie the system right now" there will be blood on our hands. I want to make sure folks understand that. This is literally life and death. What we need now is responsible leadership. We do not need irresponsible leadership. We need responsible leadership.
Now I'm open minded, hey have you thought about this? I've had a lot of very constructive, and I will say, polite back and forth with, why are we keeping our parks closed? A lot of golfers out there want to golf. And again, I'm just picking those two as examples. Those have been good back and forth. We believe strongly that what we're doing on both of those fronts is what we need to do to keep people safe, keep them out of hospitals and ultimately keep them alive. We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't do otherwise. Think about that for a second. Why the heck would we make you not go to a park if we didn't think we weren't trying to protect the general public health of the state? It makes no sense. We didn't run on an anti-park platform. This is doing the right thing to keep people safe, keep them out of hospitals and keep them alive.
So anybody out there who thinks that "let's just open the place up" will lead to lower infections, lower hospitalizations, and lower fatalities is being completely, utterly irresponsible. Trust me on this, trust us on this. Okay, folks? We are doing this to try to keep infections as low as we can, keep hospitalizations as low as we can, and please, God, keep fatalities as low as we can. And we will continue to do just that.
The minute we think, you have my word, and by the way, you're all doing an extraordinary job on this. For the irresponsible, reckless actors, there are thousands times more of responsible actions, including not just elected officials, although there are, but folks who are in their own living rooms right now watching this, everyday New Jerseyans doing the right thing. We need you to keep doing that.
I promise you, from the bottom of our hearts, the minute we see data, the minute we have that healthcare infrastructure that allows us that scaled, rapid testing to take place, to allow us to do that contact tracing. The minute we think we've got a window into that, I promise you, we will be telling you that the second we've got that confidence, and we will be tweaking and/or reopening parts of New Jersey the minute we do have that confidence.
Until then, we have to trust each other. For those of you as old as I am, I know I can speak for Pat, there's a scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they're looking down, 300 feet, water below? Judy, you don't remember this. Ed might. And one of them can't swim, and there's a profanity, which I won't use, but they basically say, you know what? We're going to hold hands and jump.
And so folks, I'm asking you, we are holding hands right now. We are doing everything we believe is the right thing to do to keep as many of us in this state safe, and we'll continue to do that. As I put my mask back on, Judy would be upset with me if I didn't before we leave, so I'm going to do that. Thank you again for coming out. Again, stay safe, keep doing what you're doing. You're doing a great job, everybody. We will be on electronic communication tomorrow unless there's a reason not to be, in which case we'll come back to you. We will be in person together in this room, unless you hear otherwise, at 2:00 p.m. God bless you all. Thank you folks, for everything you're doing. Keep it up. It's New Jersey. No state in America is doing what we're doing right now, and that's a tribute to all 9 million of you out there. God bless you all and thank you.