Governor Phil Murphy

TRANSCRIPT: April 28th, 2020 Coronavirus Briefing Media



Governor Phil Murphy:  It is Superintendent Colonel Pat Callahan's birthday, so God bless you, Pat.

State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you.

Governor Phil Murphy: We would normally, I think if we were in a happier, better place, we would be singing for you, but we'll put that on the back burner. You've got a better voice than any of us. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm honored to be joined by a cavalcade of leaders today. To my left, my partner in government, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver is back with us. The woman to my right, who I say always, and it's true, needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health Judy Persichilli. To her right likewise, State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan, and to the far left, the birthday boy, Superintendent Colonel Patrick Callahan. God bless you. Honored as well to be joined by the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Jared Maples. Jared, honored to have you.

I also wish to note that we are joined today. I welcome her back, the First Lady of the Great State of New Jersey, Tammy Murphy. I'm happy to say it's official that the concert last week for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, which is, raised $5.9 million in one hour. The total amount raised to date so far for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund is $26.6 million. So to you and all of your extraordinary board members and participants to the cavalcade of stars who joined you for that concert, and to each and every one of you out there who have supported it and continue to support it, we need it still, again, is where you go to sign up to help to continue to provide the necessary means, whether it's food, shelter, other requirements for folks who are really up against it right now, up and down our state. Congratulations.

Let's begin as we have of late with the numbers and updated charts. Today we are announcing, and again this is a Tuesday and Judy will join me in this warning, we're coming out of Sunday and Monday. It's a little bit uneven at this time of the week, so please keep that in mind. We're announcing an additional 2,887 positive tests results. That pushes our statewide total to just under 14,000. On this, in case you're doing math at home, there were duplicate test results that have been removed from yesterday, so that is how we reach our current total. The department is now using the 10:00 p.m. numbers to align with the data pulls from our hospitals so we have the same timeframe across all data.

As we discussed yesterday, our ability to put our state on the road back relies upon all of us continuing our social distancing to bend the curve down and keep it going down. You can see that bend is happening, but we need to see that just literally going down and nose diving. Let's go back to the map that we had been showing from time to time. This chart is by county statewide spread rates and again, this is the amount of days that it takes in each county for the virus to double. We see most of the state is now in that middle shade, meaning most counties have a rate of doubling between two to four weeks. We need to get every county to both the lightest shade and then get the New York Times to redo their color code so we can make even more progress.

In our healthcare system, as of last night's reporting, there were 6,476 patients hospitalized for COVID-19. This is relatively unchanged from Sunday night, but it's down roughly by about 1,000 from a week ago. And Judy, when she goes through her numbers, will add some context, including some regional context, to those numbers.

Our field medical stations reported 60 patients. There were 1,809 patients in either critical or intensive care and this number is virtually unchanged and still down significantly from last week. Ventilator use continues to trend downward to 1,262 currently in use, and may that continue to go down. There were 488 new hospitalizations yesterday and the trend line continues to point in the right direction. But by the way, folks, 488 people. I want to open this place up as much as the next guy, but that's a lot of folks going into hospitals still in this state, and that's as of yesterday.

For the 24 hours preceding 10:00 p.m. last night our hospitals reported 419 total discharges. On this, I would like to note that Hackensack University Medical Center will be discharging its 1,000th COVID-19 alive patient today and that's an incredible milestone. 1,000 discharges of folks who have left HUMC alive ,and God willing, most of them are on the road to recovery. I thank Bob Garrett, Kenny Esser and the entire team at Hackensack.

As we discussed at length yesterday, the data that we show you is critical not just in gauging our efforts against COVID-19, but also in gauging our readiness to put our state on the road back. They are an important measure of public health and before we can begin to look at restoring our economic health, we must secure our collective health. Again, our mantra continues to be, public health creates economic health. We must take the steps in that order.

And while we are seeing clear progress in some of these metrics, there is one number which always gives us enormous pause. Sadly, with the heaviest of hearts, we must report 402 additional fatalities, meaning that we now have lost a total of 6,442 residents to COVID-19 related complications. God bless each and every one of them. On this, we should note that this is not, and Judy would want me to say this, is not necessarily a one day total of 402. We expected that more deaths which occurred over the weekend just had yet to be counted. They now have and let this never, ever, ever be a math reality. The math matters, but what really matters are the precious lives we've lost. Let's remember a few of them.

This is Gary Walker, bless him, with his wife and daughter. In 1997, he became a firefighter in Oakland in Bergen County, eventually rising to be Assistant Fire Chief in Fire Company No. 2. But just fighting fires wasn't enough for Gary. He also served as a special police officer in Haledon and from there, joined the Bloomingdale Police Department in 2000. For the next 20 years, he would be a fixture in Bloomingdale serving as a patrol officer, and he was also a delegate to the Policemen's Benevolent Association. He epitomize the selflessness of our first responders. In addition to his brothers and sisters in public service, Gary also leaves behind his wife Danielle, with whom I had the honor of speaking over the weekend. God bless her. As you can imagine, this is awfully, awfully hard on her and on their daughter, Demi, who was 11 years old. Gary was only 53 years old.

Gary and Demi especially had big dreams together. Whether it was looking for celebrities for Demi to interview for her YouTube channel called Chasing The Dream and I signed up with Danielle, if Demi will have me, by the way, to be one of her interviewees, or visiting as you can see right here in front of you, an example of this, visiting every baseball and football stadium in America. Demi, I know your dad will be with you as you keep chasing your dreams. To them, to each of those gals and to everyone Gary touched through his life and career, we offer our deepest sympathies, our condolences, our prayers. And Gary, to you pal, we say thank you for making the safety of our communities your life's work. God bless you.

Ed Harris, look at him, was born in Holmdel, the sixth of seven brothers when all that was around him were farms. And even as the township changed, one thing remained constant, and that was Ed. He owned a landscaping business, Holmdel Farms, which is well-known by many locals, including Tammy and yours truly, as the place where they pick out their Christmas trees. But Ed also loved sports and was an AAU basketball and baseball coach. Community ran in his blood And again, Ed was just 55 years old. Ed leaves behind his wife of 25 years and I had the honor of speaking with her over the weekend, Dina, and their two grown sons, Jeff and Nick. They were also on the call, along with a strong extended family. To them, Dina, Jeff, Nick and the whole family, and to everyone who knew and loved Ed, I hope the memories of him help sustain you through this trying time. You're all in our thoughts and our deepest prayers today. God bless you, pal.

And finally, Thomas Leonard was only 60 when COVID-19 took him from us. Born in Queens, he was a longtime Montclairion, although I think they had recently just bought a home in Vernon. An attorney, Tom was partner in the New York based firm Barry McTiernan & Moore, but that was just his professional life. To his family and friends, he was a diehard Giants/Mets/Rangers fan, talk about burying a few crosses, who stuck with his teams through good times and bad. In fact, I said to his wife Patricia over the weekend, having heard about Tom and his lifelong fanship of the Giants, I was thinking of him as they played the draft out on Saturday. He loved to golf and ski. When he and his wife Patricia, and as I mentioned, I spoke with her and had the honor of speaking with her a couple of times this weekend, when they would open their home to friends and family, which was often, Tom would usually station himself at the stove, cooking or pulling a favorite bottle of wine to share. He loved to read, he loved cars and loved to play along with Jeopardy. He loved life. Aside from Patricia, with whom he shared 30 years of marriage, he also leaves their twin sons Brian and Gavin, his two sisters and brother, and an extended family of many nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind a lot of friends. May God bless him, his memory, and all in his family and beyond who he touched.

Three more members of our New Jersey family, three among the 6,442 lives that COVID-19 has claimed in our state. And as we remember each and every person we have lost, we find the reason we must keep with the policies and practices which are now becoming like a second nature. Maintaining our social distancing, wearing masks as we all do, isn't just about getting us to the point where we can begin or restart, which it is. It's about saving lives. That's our end goal, to save lives so that when we go out and get ourselves on that road back, we will do it with more members of our New Jersey family with us. We cannot do it any other way.

A couple of items, if I may. I had a good call with Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland this morning. Larry is the Chair of the National Governors Association. There has been a broadly bipartisan push to get direct federal cash assistance to states. That was the topic of my conversation with Governor Hogan. I thank him and the leadership at the NGA. Again, Larry is the Chair, Governor Andrew Cuomo is the Vice Chair. There's no other choice here. We need to not only get access to the Federal Reserve's municipal liquidity borrowing mechanism they announced a couple of weeks ago, we need direct cash assistance to states across this country, and I guarantee you we need it in New Jersey. I want to thank Governor Hogan for his leadership of the NGA and his leadership of that pursuit, in particular.

I want to recognize a colleague of ours who passed yesterday at two o'clock, Dr. Ranjana Madhusudhan. Ranjana, with whom I spoke as recently I believe, on Saturday with her, her husband and her two children. She did not die of COVID-19. Sadly, she died of cancer and she reached out to me when I was diagnosed with cancer, as she was in the fight of her life, which sadly she lost yesterday. She was an extraordinary individual and economist. She worked in our Department of Treasury for decades. I think she joined in 1993. She was a renowned, as I say, economist. She was a great colleague. She was a fan of mine and I was an even bigger fan of hers. I spoke to her husband this morning. Needless to say, he's devastated. She did have the great joy of welcoming her granddaughter, I believe Nora is her name, and greeting her before she had to stay home in her last stages in San Francisco. So God bless you, Ranjana. Thank you. You've got a ton of friends in government, in this state and around the country.

I also want to raise one other item that was raised indirectly to me today, and I thought it was a really good one, and it had to do with Memorial Day. My friend had the had the good judgment to come to me representing a Gold Star mother, who wanted me to remind everybody that when we talk about Memorial Day, and I'm as guilty as anybody here, and we talk about what it may look like, and the potential to have a shore that looks in some form or fashion, to bear some semblance to normalcy, the reminder is, let's never forget what Memorial Day is about. This is a salute, a solemn salute, to the veterans who have given their lives in service to our nation. Let us never forget that.

And sadly, as we've reported now, virtually every day, some of these men and women we are losing to COVID-19, whether they are in veterans homes, in long-term care facilities, in hospitals, or even passing at home. So let us never forget, for all the joy that summer brings us on the shore and our lakes and our mountains and we should embrace that and celebrate that, and please God, it's as normal as possible as soon as possible, let us never, ever forget the service of our veterans to our nation and the entire reason that we acknowledge, celebrate and commemorate Memorial Day. The real mark for me on whether there's some normalcy on Memorial Day is whether I can attend, as I have each year, one of the most solemn and most important things I do anytime throughout the year, the ceremony to honor our veterans at our veterans cemetery. That will be, to me, some sort of a litmus test as to whether or not we have some kind of normalcy. God bless our veterans, each and every single one of them.

A couple of other items, a quick but important announcement. Today I am signing an Executive Order permitting municipal governments to extend the grace period for property tax payments due this Friday, May 1 until June 1. Under existing law, municipalities are only allowed to allow grace periods of up to 10 days. I'm extending this for an entire month. Simply put, property taxpayers in municipalities who take this opportunity to extend their grace period under this order will now again have until June 1 to pay their May 1 payment without incurring interest or paying any penalty.

Now you all know that most property owners pay their taxes through their mortgage escrows, but for those who pay directly to their municipalities, this is an additional measure of relief. And again, that's an Executive Order that is being signed today.

I want to give out a shout out and acknowledge the first daughter, Ivanka Trump, who held a video conference this morning with the state and federal command staff at The Rock. Pat, you were a part of that. Tammy, you joined as well, to thank them and Judy's team and all the others, and through them everyone on the front lines for their hard work. I understand Ivanka and her children have also been supporting New Jersey's frontline healthcare workers with meals, and I know it was all very much appreciated. I thanked her privately a few moments ago and again, thank you.

Yesterday I announced the six principles that will guide New Jersey along the road back from COVID-19. This is a road we must travel together, while following clear markers for our progress. Obviously, our first order of business must be securing public health and restoring the confidence of residents that we are ready for the restart of our economy. Quite simply, people will not want to go out and be participating members in our economy if they are fearful we have not done all that we can to protect them from COVID-19.

But our economy is going to get a restart. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. And just as we began planning our response to COVID-19, literally weeks before our first positive test result ever came back from a lab, we similarly have already been laying the groundwork for what our economic recovery will look like, even though we know we are still weeks away from being able to announce the first business reopenings.

When I sought this job, one of the skills that I had hoped would benefit me, and more importantly, our state, was my more than 25 years in international business and diplomacy, learning how economies grow and create jobs. I have seen around the world what has worked and what has not worked. But even with that, I know I don't remotely – none of us have remotely all the all the answers – and that I will need and we will need a diverse and talented team of experts to advise my thinking, and our thinking, and that part of my team and our team as we move forward.

Quite simply, no one's seen how an advanced economy returns and recovers from a global pandemic. We are writing this set of rules for the first time, and together. There is no one size fits all solution. We can we can watch and we can absorb, and we do, what other places are trying, but we must restart our economy with purely New Jersey solutions. Our state is home to a rich and diverse economy, every bit as diverse as our people. And as I said yesterday, and I know Sheila and Judy and the whole team are passionate about this. One of our goals is to ensure that no one, no one, is left out of our recovery.

To guide me and us in this process, I've assembled a team that I believe is unrivaled in terms of its diversity of experiences, perspectives, and expertise. This will be the Governor's Restart and Recovery Commission. It is composed of experts in a multitude of fields from academia, to industry, to the arts, to labor, and so much more. They bring passion and vision to the table, and if there's anything we need right now, it is both.

Here's who they are. The co-chairs of the Commission are Merck Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Frazier, and Dr. Shirley Ann Tilghman, President Emeritus of Princeton University, and current Professor of Molecular Biology and Public Policy.

Sitting as members of the Commission are:

  • Dr. Ben Bernanke, former two time Chair of the Federal Reserve and Distinguished Fellow in Residence with Economic Studies Program at Brookings Institution.
  • Dr. Rich Besser, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and former Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Evelyn McGee Colbert, Founding Member and President of Montclair Film and Vice President of Spartina Productions.
  • Chairman of the Board of Directors of Amtrak, Partner and Executive Committee Member of Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, LLP, and Chairman of Suez North America Inc., Tony Coscia.
  • Jessica Gonzalez, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of InCharged and Founder of Experience VendX.
  • Former Provost of Northwestern University and incoming Rutgers President, Dr. Jonathan Holloway.
  • Lisa P. Jackson, Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives at Apple Inc., and former Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama. Many also remember Lisa as a former Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Former Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama, Jeh Johnson, who is a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton and Garrison, LLP.
  • Charlie Lowrey, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Prudential Financial Inc.
  • Founder of Denise Morrison & Associates, Senior Advisor for PSP Partners, and former President and Chief Executive Officer of Camden's Campbell Soup Company, Denise Morrison.
  • Dr. Bill Rodgers, Professor of Public Policy and Chief Economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, and Former Chief Economist at the US Department of Labor.
  • Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
  • Director of the Human Rights and Community Relations Department of the American Federation of Teachers and former New Jersey Secretary of State, Reverend Dr. Regena Thomas.
  • And Richard Trumka, National President of the AFL-CIO, and let this send a clear message to our brothers and sisters in labor, that you have a seat at the table.

Additionally, five members of the administration will sit as ex-officio members, two of them are with me today. The woman on my left, my partner in government, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, to my right Commissioner Judy Persichilli. In addition to them, Chief of Staff George Helmy, Chief Counsel Matt Platkin, and Chief Policy Advisor Kathleen Frangione.

I've asked the commission to immediately begin remote discussions, because the questions surrounding when and how we ensure a safe restart of our economy and society are also immediate. They will address core economic issues, but also issues which directly impact economic health, notably public health, workforce issues, and transportation. And they will seek ways to sustain our recovery by maximizing future federal support, especially for our small business sector.

However, their work will not just be in the weeks and months ahead as we restart our economy over the short term. I've asked the Commission to look at potential long-term investments that will speed our recovery and position or economy for overall success, while accounting for the incredible fiscal challenges we will face due to the impact of COVID-19 spread.

For the past two years, we have been focused on creating a new New Jersey economy, one built on reclaiming our place as the world's leader in innovation and discovery. That focus is not going to change. And to be sure, we will keep the focus that we've had over the past two years to change the way New Jersey handles its finances. We've had back-to-back record surpluses. We've put away more for a rainy day than any administration in over a decade. We are doing the necessary things to turn our state's finances around, because a stronger fiscal foundation ensures a stronger economic foundation.

Most of all, the Commission will be guided by the values that drive me and drive us every day: to build a new jersey that works for every family; a New Jersey where we build our economy from the middle out and the bottom up; and a New Jersey that is stronger and fairer. And at every step, the Commission will ensure equity among our communities. COVID-19 has an outsized impact on our communities of color, and among historically overlooked communities. Our recovery cannot and will not overlook them. Indeed, it will embrace them.

This team is uniquely qualified for this challenge. These are people who have spent their careers rising to the challenge and providing leadership on the global stage. Now they will be advocates and assets for New Jersey. I thank everyone who has stepped forward to be a part of this Restart and Recovery Commission. This is an extraordinary group of folks. Each and every one of them, including the women on either side of me, already have an overwhelmingly complex and over-scheduled life and schedule. You look at the folks that we've just gone through. These are folks who did not need another responsibility. But from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of all 9 million members of the New Jersey family, I say thank you for your willingness and your commitment to serve, and I can't wait for us to get to work.

From them, I want to transition before Sheila and Judy and Pat say a few words, I want to transition to thank several other New Jerseyans who are stepping up to help in their communities. And I ask each of you to keep sending us their stories by using the hashtag #NJThanksYou on social media.

This is Dr. Richard Watson. Dr. Watson is an internal medicine physician who has been volunteering as a provider at Dover's Zufall Health Center, a federally-qualified health center that services 40,000 underserved patients across six counties. He's been a Zufall volunteer for the past 20 years. Now right here, I should call a quick timeout and I should mention that Dr. Watson, behind that mask, is 87 years old. A member of Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons class of 1958, the year I turned one.

Even though the folks at Zufall advised him to slow down to protect himself, he has insisted on coming in regularly to see his patients. When they say all superheroes don't wear capes, what we're finding is that many in fact wear masks, and Dr. Watson is definitely a superhero. So to you, Dr. Watson, and the Zufall Health Center, New Jersey thanks you.

From Somerset County, here are Hillsboro high school students with some of their friends, Navleen and Raj Boparai. Navleen, a junior on the left, is also a volunteer at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset, and both she and Raj, who is standing with her on the right, wanted to do something to help support the frontline healthcare workers. They started a fundraiser, Meals For Heroes on Facebook, hoping to raise $2,000 to provide meals from local restaurants to thank Somerset's Heroes for risking their lives for their communities. They hit that goal, and then some. Navleen and Raj have enlisted friends in other towns, and you can see some of them with them, to expand the reach of Meals For Heroes. As of today, Meals For Heroes has raised more than $30,000 and working with local restaurants across the entire region, and even into New York, what Navleen and Raj started has now delivered more than 3,000 meals to hospitals, testing centers, fire departments, police stations, and nursing homes. To Navleen and Raj, and all of their friends who joined them to make Meals For Heroes a runaway success, New Jersey thanks you.

Finally, I've got to make sure I'm in time here. I must acknowledge the support we're getting today, and I believe they're going to be flying over in about 15 minutes. I want to thank the US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunderbirds who will be flying over our state, top and bottom, to salute our healthcare workers and first responders.

And finally, I must recognize and thank each and every one of you who are doing everything in your power to help us get through this pandemic so we can put our state on the road back. It's going to take each and every single one of us to keep our focus for the coming several weeks. And if we do, we will get on this road, we will secure our collective health, and we will see New Jersey's economy restart and recover.

So let's keep at it. Remember, remember, public health creates economic health. That's our mantra. That's our goal. That's the order of events. We need each and every one of you to keep doing what you're doing. You're doing an extraordinary job. With that, I would like to introduce the woman on my left, my partner in government, the singular, the one, the only, please help me welcome Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver.

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver: Thank you, Governor Murphy. You know, I just would like to share with the people of New Jersey that we understand that many property owners are coping with financial challenges they've never had to face before as a result of this pandemic, and we are considering every available option to answer your calls for help. You know that I also serve as the Department of Community Affairs. Part of our mission is to provide support to municipalities and other public entities. I just want to assure you that local government services and every other division within the department are working very hard to address the challenges before you.

Allowing municipalities to institute this grace period that the Governor has announced, it's going to allow New Jersey property owners who need extra time to get their finances in order so that they can submit their quarterly property tax payments by June 1. The Governor's Restart and Recovery Commission that he has announced today represents a diverse array of individuals from all parts of the state and from various industries. He is truly bringing all New Jersey voices to the table, as you've seen in the presentation, and it includes men and women from many races, many backgrounds and those with multiple business experience. I commend Governor Murphy for bringing this wealth of experience to our restart and recovery efforts in New Jersey and I look forward to contributing to the solutions, especially for our more disadvantaged communities through our work at the Department of Community Affairs. I think it's a testimony to Governor Murphy's introduction yesterday, the six elements of the road back. So thank you, Governor.

Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Sheila, for that and for everything. I say this frequently in your absence, but I'll say it in your presence, if I may. Not only as Lieutenant Governor, but you mentioned leading the Department of Community Affairs which literally touches every community in this state, up and down. Thank you for your extraordinary leadership. Bless you. With that, another person who needs no introduction, please help me welcome the woman to my right, the Commissioner of the Department of Health Judy Persichilli.

Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Thank you, Governor and good afternoon. Well, the CDC has updated their list of COVID-19 symptoms to include chills, shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and a recent lost loss of taste or smell. These six new symptoms are in addition to the previously stated fever, cough and shortness of breath. Many of these symptoms have been observed by healthcare providers when caring for their patients. Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe. Onset of symptoms usually occur between two and 14 days after an exposure. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to stay in contact with your healthcare provider.

While we speak frequently about the effects the virus has had on the public's physical health, the impact to mental health and wellbeing is also concerning. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 56% of American adults report that worry or stress related to the Coronavirus outbreak has caused them to experience at least one negative effect on their mental health, such as problems with sleeping or eating, increased alcohol use, or worsening chronic conditions. Essential workers, such as healthcare workers and first responders who are on the frontlines experience unbelievable traumas every day. This puts them at greater risk for mental health and emotional challenges.

To all of the frontline workers, know that you are our heroes and as difficult as this situation is, you are saving far more lives than we have lost. For everyone who is struggling right now, there are places to turn for help and support. Two resources include the mental health hotline 866-202-4357. You can also text 741741 and enter the message NJ to reach the crisis text line. This is a difficult time, but you are not alone. Please reach out for help. Take time to reach out to your loved ones. Check in with one another. We will get through this together. As the Governor reminds us, we are in social solidarity.

I will go through the daily report now. Last evening our hospitals reported 6,476 hospitalizations. There are 1,809 individuals in critical care, 70% of the critical care individuals are on ventilators. That is the lowest that we have seen since the beginning of April. The hospitalizations overall are flattening. However, hospitals in the central region reported last evening that their intensive care beds were totally full, and we are seeing increases now in the southern part of the state.

Last evening, we had six hospitals on divert, all but one from the Central region. Today were reporting 2,887 cases for a total of 113,856 cases in the state. And as the Governor shared, sadly, there have been 402 new deaths. The breakdown of deaths by race and ethnicity are as follows: White 52.4%, Black 20.3%, Hispanic 16.7%, Asian 5.2% and other 5.3%.

There are now 484 long-term care facilities in the state reporting at least one COVID-19 case. At the state veterans homes, there have been 268 residents that tested positive and five new deaths are being reported from residents in Paramus. At our state psychiatric hospitals, 152 patients have tested positive and there have been nine deaths among patients, as I have previously reported.

According to the lab data from this morning, 210,043 individuals have been tested; 89,540 have returned positive, for the lowest positivity rate that we have seen since we started counting of 42.6%. That ends my report. Stay connected, stay safe, and stay healthy. Thank you.

Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you for that and for everything. A couple items on follow up, and Christina may want to come in on this as well. The positivity rate is an important number that we look at, right? That you all look at, and in the fact that it has begun now, for about a week, it's begun to drift down. And so when we rightfully pointed out that the number of positive tests is not the denominator, not the full universe of folks who have been infected, we know that part of this is because we have done collectively, all of us, it takes a village here after all, a Herculean job to go from nowhere to where we are on testing. A lot of it has to do with increased access to testing. That positivity rate though is a number you can hang your hat on. Hospitalization numbers, we can hang our hat on that, on that trend.

I speak normally after you finish with the top five or six counties. This is cumulative. They continue to be Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Union, Passaic, Middlesex in that order. But if you look at new cases, to your point on the diverts in the Central region hospitals, just the top three counties in the overnights are 1. Passaic. 2. Middlesex. 3. Hudson. To give some more added heft to that notion of the virus sort of migrating here. Thank you for that and for all. Pat, again, Happy Birthday to you. We hope you got a minute to celebrate in some form with Linda and the family. Anything you've got on compliance, PPE, infrastructure, other matters?

State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Sure. Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone. Briefly on the overnight compliance report, Newark Police Department issued 33 EO violations. Patterson conducted a surge EO enforcement and issued 21 EO violations. In Bloomfield, three members were cited for being in a closed park. In Atlantic City, there was basically, it was still EO related, it was basically a burglary where ultimately, I believe, four subjects were charged. In Brigantine, a subject who was warned continued to sublet rooms in his property in violation of the Executive Order.

And just real briefly, this morning, the Attorney General and I, in concert with the Prosecutor John Lenahan of Salem County announced not only the five subjects that were charged in the home invasion, but ultimately the other three that were involved with the shooting of Detective Richard Hershey. We announced that this morning, and that investigation is ongoing and the detective is doing well.

Governor Phil Murphy: Pat, thank you again. God bless you and Happy Birthday. I mentioned yesterday, I had the honor to speak to his mom and his girlfriend, who I think I misidentified as a fiancé, I don't want to be accused of being Dolly Levi here. But secondly, I've now had the great honor of speaking with him since yesterday, and he seemed to be in good form, not surprisingly incredibly brave, and a little bit lucky as well, but mostly incredibly brave.

We're going to start over here today, Dante. Mahen, is it fair to say that tomorrow we are here at 1:00 p.m.? Is that definitive? Yeah, and then we'll give folks the schedule as the week, we may have a few, depending on White House VTC s and what not, that may shift a little bit as the week goes on. But unless you hear otherwise, 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, right? Okay, thank you. I'm also joined by Chief Counsel Matt Platkin has joined us as well here. Thank you.

Q&A Session

David Levinsky, Burlington County Times: Everyone, of course, is wearing masks and waiting in line to get into supermarkets, Walmarts, Home Depots, liquor stores etc. etc. Why not allow other retail like clothing stores and craft shops to do the same? We're used to this routine, we could do social distancing. If there's a good reason why not, how about curbside pickup? What's the difference between picking up food curbside and picking up a pair of shorts and a sports shirt?

Next question, some shore towns are announcing that they are intending to open their beaches and boardwalks. Municipal parks already can open, as you have described. By the end of this week, Pennsylvania is allowing their parks and golf courses to open. Delaware golf courses are already open. Why not allow a second chance for our parks? You could always give the park goers a second chance and then close it down if social distancing is not followed responsibly. Golf courses, of course, are much easier to social distance. This seems to be a very big mental health issue with a lot of people having the opportunity to go outside.

When the reopening starts, barbershops, nail salons, spas, tattoo parlors, I know you and the Colonel are very eager with regard to that, when they open, they can't social distance. Is the state going to assist them at all in getting masks, gloves, etc.? How are our efforts going to get more masks and PPE?

And finally, the Restart and Recovery Commission, could you talk a little bit about their role in deciding what types of businesses will begin to reopen first, second, third, how that will be looked at, etc.?

Governor Phil Murphy: I think these are largely on me and I may pull Matt in here and/or Pat. None of what you said in terms of craft or clothing or parks or golf is shocking to us. You rightfully point out that we have deliberately allowed certain decisions to be made at a municipal level like, for instance, city parks, town parks. You should assume that those are all considerations that we're looking at, and we have been looking at and we'll continue to look at.

I would just say this. You've got, on the one hand, you've got weeks and weeks and weeks of built up, pent up frustration and sort of cabin fever. You've got on top of that weather, which if today's an indication, is beginning to get better, we accept that. I also have to say it is true, if you look at that heat map and you look at the hospitalizations, we have some good trends right now. But equally true is we have not arrived at any end zone. I think all those issues that you raised, I can't attach a date or a promise to any of it. But there you go. And look, we're making an enormous amount of progress in those southern counties, in fairness, given the way this virus hit our state, those southern counties were hit later and they have fewer cases. While they're a little bit darker orange, for the most part, they are following a similar pattern as the other counties that have a longer doubling period.

Again, I don't think any of those ideas are crazy, but I'm not gonna sit here today and tell you on Day X we're going to do this or why. And that includes we hear a lot on mostly parks. We hear a lot on golf. We respect our golf and we also hear that other states are doing X or Y, can't you guys get in the same slipstream? I think barber shops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, thanks for the shout out, those are all more complicated, to be determined on PPE. I don't have a good answer for that. And the Restart and Recovery Commission, again, it's an extraordinary group of folks, including, I might add, a small business person. So not just big leading global lights, which it also includes, but it includes a whole range of perspectives. Faith is represented.

Their opening remit is a blank sheet of paper. I can't promise you that they'll make a tactical decision or recommendation on this or that. But it is such an extraordinary group with such an extraordinary diversity of perspectives, it would be foolish for me or for any of us to take any item off the table for consideration. It's a blank sheet of paper, and we'll go from there.

Let's go back and then we'll come back down front here. Thank you.

Reporter: In the six-step plan with the six principles, obviously, once those first four principles are met and things start to open up there, as you've been saying, there's a chance that things could resurge. Does this plan build in the idea that we would have to take a step back and close things down again, if cases were to spike? Is that being talked about?

Also in the first principle, in terms of cases and hospitalizations, I think it was a 14-day downward trend is what you're looking for, to kind of check that box. Are there any numbers associated with that? Or does it just have to be going in the right direction?

Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, can I say something and then throw it over to you, and maybe Christina as well? The answer to your first question is yes, but we're hoping not to. But we have to go into this – so again, let me just repeat as best I can.

There are six steps to this road to recovery, the first four of which are reduction in cases, testing in place that's scaled and rapid turnaround, contact tracing, combination of boots on the ground and technology, and fourthly, an isolation plan. And then you've got economic recovery and resiliency. So those are the six steps. Your first question focused on the first four. You rightfully ask, could you envision that we have to shut things down again?

Unfortunately, yes, but we hope not to. But as the folks to my right will remind me and Christina, in particular, and Judy, these sorts of viruses have shown in the past, unfortunately, a resiliency and they sort of go dormant and no one knows this, right? Again, I'm not a medical expert, as if I have to remind you, but you go from some rage, such as the one that we've been in, into some dormancy and then a return. Even if you get every step of our road to recovery right, you've got something which may well come back on you.

Our fervent hope is to avoid that, is to have that plan in place, including isolation and a place where people can go and that it works, but we have to reserve the right. If this comes back again and reasserts itself, we have to be prepared to go to a more comprehensive, which is why that resiliency piece includes keeping and funding, hopefully from the feds, bed capacity, ventilator capacity, PPE, keeping these volunteers somehow in the game in terms of healthcare workers in the surge.

That's my quick answer to that. Judy, anything on that or other than the 14-day decline, anything more specific in terms of particular numbers you're looking at?

State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan: The standard epidemiologic answer is usually it depends. Because I think it's important to recognize that when you look at an epi curve, when you look at the number of cases over time, there's always going to be some daily fluctuations. And again, I think everybody realizes that. But the other important piece to recognize is that the case counts, the absolute case cats themselves and watching trends over time, what we present every single day represents a lot of different things that are happening in different geographic regions of the state. A general number won't necessarily reflect, for example, more dramatic trends that might be occurring in a region.

As the Commissioner and the Governor keep on pointing out, in these recent days, for example, we've seen decreases in the northern region, but we're starting to see increases in central, southern areas. So, you know, we have to kind of look at the entire picture of the cases, we also have to look at moving away from looking at absolute cases sometimes and look at other trends like the hospitalizations, like the burden on healthcare, like looking at the impact per our overarching population, 100,000 population.

The simple answer to the question is that there isn't a magic number per se, but looking at the epi curve really takes into account all these different factors which sometimes are obscured by just looking at absolute numbers statewide.

Governor Phil Murphy: Well said. Thank you. Brent, good afternoon.

Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger:  Good afternoon. Thank you. Barnes & Noble workers just delivered a petition calling to your office calling on you to take action to close their Monroe warehouse, because there have been a number of cases there. Would you consider that if they marched the petition down to your office today?

And with golf courses, I know New York has reopened them and now Pennsylvania. I mean, people are saying you can social distance on a golf course better than most sports. Why specifically golf courses? Are they something you've targeted?

Governor Phil Murphy: Is that it? Oh, Jesus. I've got no insight on Barnes & Noble. That's the first time I'm hearing of it but we expect any operator of a retail establishment, of a warehouse, of any entity that is open now or we may reopen over time to adhere to the workplace conditions that we have mandated in our Executive Order. That includes rigorous, aggressive social distancing, work from home policies, etc. So that's something that if you could bear with me, we will look at, Matt, and I'm sure we'll be talking about that later.

Matt, tell me if you disagree with this. In New York, I believe when they opened golf courses, it was private courses only, and you have to play by yourself. I believe that's true. Either way, golf courses is on the list and I would incorporate my answer to Dave by reference here. It is on the list of things that we look at regularly. I've got nothing, as I said, I don't golf myself much, but I've got nothing against golf but we've got to make sure that we do this right, and that we don't have people congregating inappropriately. But again, it's something we hear a lot about and we constantly look at, particularly as we make progress. Please God we make more progress. The weather gets better. We understand the pressure. Anything you want to add to that on either Pennsylvania or New York.

Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Just with respect to golf courses in New Jersey, because the Governor's closed county parks, a number of our counties have public golf courses, which is the reason why golf courses are closed statewide. I would just say, Governor, as a general point in response to both Dave and Brent, these orders are built based on public health guidance, on the idea that people need to be staying at home. The reason why certain things are open and certain things are not is because we've identified essential activities. We want as many people home as possible. Until the health guidance, based on the principles the Governor laid out yesterday, suggests that it's safe to do so that's when it would be appropriate to start relaxing them.

Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, I forgot the most basic reason. We're supposed to ask you to stay at home. But thank you. Again all kidding aside, it is something to consider. Do you have anything, sir? Okay. Do you have something, sir? You move on me. I apologize.

Reporter: I lost my spot.

Governor Phil Murphy: You got your haircut and you moved both.

Reporter: Governor part of the plan you detailed yesterday, including safe places for isolation, rather than sending positive COVID-19 patients home to isolate with their families, at what point will the state consider designating more facilities for centralized isolation?

Commissioner Persichilli, what is your reaction to the test results from 16 South Jersey long-term care facilities? How will the findings from this study inform a statewide testing program?

Finally, Governor, I'm sure you're aware of the protest that was going on earlier today in Trenton, calling for New Jersey to be reopened immediately. They believe that this quarantine is a form of fascism and that their rights are being impinged upon. Is there anything you'd want to say specifically to these protesters?

Governor Phil Murphy: Let me just start with your top one. We actually, there's a fair amount, I mean, Judy, and Pat, correct me if I'm wrong here, but there's a fair amount of work that's already gone into identifying locations for folks to head to, as I think I alluded yesterday, especially hotels. Needless to say, hotels are not exactly full these days. So if your question was, are we wargaming places where we could send people if they tested positive in a reopening context? The answer is yes, other than home. You all could correct me if I'm wrong. Judy, I'll defer to you on the South Jersey long-term care.

I would just say, listen, on the protesters, I don't begrudge anyone's right to protest. This is America. We all have First Amendment rights and I don't begrudge that at all. I really wish they would do it at home, because just driving over here, I could see that they're congregating and that's the last thing we need right now. And I hope they're not making each other sick.

This notion of fascism is ridiculous, we're trying to save lives. I appreciate all the American flags that I see out there. God bless each and every one of them. I want everyone to know I've got five in my house, four little ones in the front and a big one in the back. This isn't a question of patriotism. This is a question of doing what's right. Who's a patriot who isn't? We're in here trying to save lives every single day. Do we always get it right? No, we don't always get it right. Believe me, I'm the first to admit that. We are absolutely desperately trying to save every life we can. Our heart, trust me, is in the right place. We love our country. We love our state. This is the greatest nation on Earth. We're trying to keep as many of us in New Jersey alive as possible. That's our only objective.

Anything else on isolation or South Jersey, Judy?

Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure, first on isolation and quarantine, we are identifying areas where individuals who cannot go home to isolate or quarantine can be held. You know, we're looking at the field stations, as well as potential areas where those individuals can be cohorted. Because most of the field stations are in such large venues, we'll be able to do that.

On the long-term care, as you know, we identified 16 long-term care facilities and we tested, and a shout out to Cooper Health System who helped us with this, we tested almost 4,000 residents and employees. As of this morning, about 90%, 92% of the results are in. I expect 100% of the results in a couple of days. And it will inform how we go forward not just in long-term care, but many of the people that we tested were asymptomatic, so we're trying to determine the percentage of asymptomatic individuals who could also be positive for COVID-19. It's going to be important information, not only for our long-term care facilities, but for our general population as well. More to come on that. I do expect that we'll be able to report out generally on the results by the end of the week, for sure.

Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. Dustin, how are you?

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record:  Can the state post data about active cases as New York does? That seems like it's a pretty good indicator of how the virus is progressing or digressing?

On the protest, we hear this enforcement report every day, but what are the penalties for having these large gatherings like we're seeing right now where people are clearly close together? Are police issuing tickets to those people today?

And then a couple of quick questions from NJBIZ. What's the timeline for when the Commission will hold its first meeting and put out some recommendations? Who are those recommendations before? Is it for your administration, local governments, or businesses, or all of the above?

Governor Phil Murphy: I'll take a couple, and then, Pat you and Judy should come in. I'll defer to you on active cases, Judy, and I'll refer to you on protests. Again, the protests that we've seen heretofore were not, to the best of my knowledge, with a couple of handful of cases, folks congregating on foot. They were largely driving cars and blowing horns. And just literally driving over here, there were a lot of folks I saw congregating. Again, this has nothing to do with whether they should or shouldn't protest. I worry about anybody congregating right now. We cannot have people doing that.

In terms of timing of the meeting, first meeting of the Commission, Dustin, it will be very soon. I can't tell you when. I don't have a timing in terms of any recommendations and the recommendations will be to me and to our administration, and we'll take it from there. Pat, anything on the protests and penalties?

State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thanks, Governor. We have several discussions when we know one of these are coming down the pike. Our posture really is discretion, obviously, and to give the protesters the right to do that, as long as they are socially distancing. I don't know if any citations have been issued yet, Dustin, I'll know that certainly by the afternoon. But it is that balance of trying to interact with 100 or 200 people. If they're socially distancing, to the Governor's point, give them the opportunity to be heard. But at the same time, to do that virtually would be our recommendation. I spoke to about 10 troopers on my way in here, and that was their posture to just, you know, give them the opportunity to protest and assemble, but as long as they're doing it with social distancing in mind.

Governor Phil Murphy: Again, I repeat, we love our country. We love our state. We're trying to save lives. Secondly, we respect anyone who protests. I wish they would do it virtually. The real issue I've got is congregation. For whatever reason, you may be congregating, we cannot be congregating right now. That is the last thing we need. Judy, anything on active cases or on any other?

Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I wasn't quite sure what the question was on the active cases.

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: I'm really not clear on what the distinction is between what you're putting out and what active cases are. I just know that New York puts out active cases. Maybe you could just educate me on that. I don't know.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan: I don't know what that means, the active cases. We'd probably have to look into what you're saying about what New York state is doing. I honestly don't know what active case means.

Governor Phil Murphy: Hey, Dustin, on that one, Look, can we follow up with you? Just because I actually don't watch, not because I don't love them, but I don't watch their presser. So if we could maybe get a chance, Christine and Judy and I will look at what it is and we'll get back. Mahen, will you help out there? Tammy, any questions? Okay. Nikita.

Nikita Biryukov, New Jersey Globe: Thank you, Governor. Deputy Commissioner of Veterans Affairs General Mark Piterski resigned last night, five days after he dropped an independent house bid and as 55, I believe residents, at a Paramus Veterans Home that he is in charge of have died of COVID, why did he resign? Who is specifically in charge of the Division of Veterans Services and the Division of Veterans Health Services now that Piterski is gone?

We're still getting reports of undelivered mail-in ballots for the May 12 elections. Have you or anyone else in your office reached out to the United States Postal Service? Can you say anything about specific corrective action that will be taken in this regard? And then are you considering extending the time to mail VBMs because of the delays?

And lastly, ROI-NJ yesterday reported that Jose Lozano would be on the Commission whose membership you announced today. Was that report incorrect or was he ever on the list, or was he dropped from it at any point?

Governor Phil Murphy:  I literally just read this morning that Mark had resigned. I met Mark when he was in uniform as a general, an outstanding member of our military and then as a civilian leader. I don't have any more color as to who he resigned to. There's an acting person who came in from under him. I don't know that name but I've got no more insights into that. And if we do, we'll get back to you.

I've got no more insights, I apologize, on the mail-in ballots that were left there but I promised yesterday we would follow up with you. I'm not sure we have but let's make sure we do that. Actually, Matt Platkin is going to follow up on the spot.

Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Nikita, we've been in touch both with the federal delegation as well as internally and we'll have more for you later today.

Governor Phil Murphy: Nothing more, unless Matt does, on timing on how much time you've got to mail in your ballots, but again, that'll be part of the answer. Jose, I saw the headline of the article but Jose and Choose New Jersey will be very much involved and they have been all along. You know, there are standing armies of people who are already standing. Judy has a standing army. Sheila has a standing army. Pat has a standing army. Choose New Jersey in its own respect is one of those standing armies. The EDA, all the parts of government or, as Choose New Jersey is, organizations that are outside of government but are sympathetic to our economic development objectives. I could repeat all of that. I won't. Jose does a terrific job running Choose New Jersey. Choose is a very important organization and it will continue to be. The folks that we put up today is a new Commission that wasn't a standing army before and is now going to be an invaluable body. I appreciate the folks to either side of me who will be ex-officio from our government to make sure there's connective tissue.

You also notice that both Dr. Rich Besser and Jeh Johnson and George Helmy are part of this because they're our representatives on the Regional Council. We could have talked, and I now have for a minute about all the various other entities that will play an important role as we try to get the state back up on its feet. With that, folks, let's remask, make sure I get this right side up. Again, unless you hear otherwise, Mahen, we're one o'clock tomorrow here. Folks, I would say to each of you watching, keep doing what you're doing, it is working. Notwithstanding the enormous toll that this is taking, when you look at that map, when you look at hospitalizations, when you look at some of the other metrics that we care about, the trends are in the right direction. Please continue to stay home. Please continue to stay away from each other. What you're doing is having an enormous impact to each and every one of you, God bless you. Judy Persichilli, thank you, Dr. Tan, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, Colonel Patrick Callahan. Jared, Matt, the rest of the team, First Lady Tammy Murphy, thank you all. God bless you all.