Governor Phil Murphy: Good afternoon. I'm honored to be joined by the woman to my right, who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli. To her right, another guy familiar to you all, the Department of Health's Communicable Disease Service Medical Director, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, great to have you both with us. A guy to my left who needs no introduction, the Superintendent of the State Police Colonel Pat Callahan, as always. Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Jared Maples with us. Thank you all for being here.
Throughout the week, we have been able to make multiple announcements about putting our state on the road back to restart and recovering and in doing so, we're living up to the two key principles by which our decisions are being guided. First, that public health creates economic health and just as importantly, data determines dates. As we have said each day and we will say again, we would not have been in a position to make the announcements we have made over the past several days unless we had confidence in what we were doing.
The data that we are seeing from our hospitals, which is as concrete as any data could be, based on full and actual counts and on-the-ground facts, give us that much needed confidence. Look at how dramatically things have moved in just a few weeks. Just let's sit on this for a minute. New hospitalizations are down nearly 70% from the peak, and down by more than 40% in just the past two weeks. Overall, hospitalizations are down by more than half since the peak and more than a third in the past two weeks. The number of patients needing intensive care or a ventilator are both well off where they both were from the peak and over the past several weeks.
Just look at what we've seen, looking at this differently over the past two weeks. Every green light means a decrease. Stay with this just for one second. So if you've got a red ball, each ball represents a day, so the past 14 days. This is through yesterday. A green ball is a day in which we had a declined day over day. A red ball is a day where we had an increase day over day. So you've got in that 56 balls, of which 53 were down, and three were up and all three were in new hospitalizations. Let's look at this across regions even when we see in the regions, we see many more green than red. And even when we did see increases, these were days when succeeding decreases were even larger. Again, that's typically related to some distortion of weekend data. Overall, the trends are moving in the right direction.
And even though we are not out of the woods yet, we can see that every day we are falling into a more level comparison with some of our neighboring and American states. Let's stay here for a second. We have now slipped into sort of a grouping on new cases per 100,000, we continue to lead American states in hospitalizations per 100,000 and sadly, in fatalities for every 100,000 persons. This data relates directly to the slowing spread of COVID-19 that you all out there have made possible by sticking to social distancing and doing all the other seemingly small things like washing your hands with soap or wearing a face covering when you're out, that you have made part of your daily routines. But moreover, it means that our hospitals are no longer on a crisis footing. It means that our healthcare system, while still clearly focused on the tasks that still lay ahead, can also begin to assist more residents with their non-COVID-19 and non-emergency needs. Because of this, we are in a position today to take another step forward in our restart and recovery.
Today, I am signing an Executive Order that will allow for the resumption of elective surgical and other invasive procedures effective Tuesday, May 26. That's a week from Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day. To make this possible, the Department of Health under Judy's leadership, in coordination with the Division of Consumer Affairs, will release no later than this upcoming Monday, May 18, so that'll give folks an eight-day runway, It's binding guidance to all healthcare facilities and practitioners as to how these procedures may resume and under what conditions. To be sure, this guidance will take into account the needs for protecting all patients from COVID-19, for providing PPE to staff, for prioritizing procedures, and for allowing visitors, among other critical considerations. Allowing for these procedures to resume is a big step forward for public health, and we're able to do this on May 26 because the data we're received daily from within our hospitals says we can.
We know this will also be good for our healthcare systems and allow them to begin the process of serving the many health needs of their residents. They have been waging a heroic war against COVID-19. It's been all hands on deck and all resources at the ready. Now they can look to resume the other critical roles they play in ensuring the health of the communities they serve.
Second, I'm signing an Executive Order clarifying the procedures for our July 7 primary election. This will be a primarily -- and that's an important word – vote-by-mail election. However, we will ensure that a limited number of in-person polling places in each county will be open to ensure that everyone can exercise their right to vote. All registered Democratic and Republican voters will automatically receive a postage paid vote-by-mail ballot. All unaffiliated and inactive voters will automatically receive a postage paid vote –by-mail ballot application. And in addition to the United States Postal Service, we will also require counties to distribute secure drop boxes for voters to turn in their completed ballots.
A few minutes ago, I got off the phone with Dave Williams, who is the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for the United States Postal Service and walked through how important our partnership with the post office will be in this process, particularly in high density, particularly in low income neighborhoods. He assured me their full cooperation, and this is a partnership we want to see flourish in the months ahead.
While many voters have seamlessly transitioned to voting by mail, we know there are other voters who prefer to cast their ballot in person, in addition to voters with disabilities who cannot fill out a vote-by-mail ballot. For in-person voting, we plan to require at least one polling location to be opened in each municipality and social distancing protocols will be enforced within these polling locations, including the sanitizing of any touchscreen voting machines between voters and again, at least one location per municipality and at least 50% of the overall normal locations per county.
As we expect a much greater than usual vote-by-mail turnout, the deadline by which votes must be received by a county board of elections to be counted as valid will be extended from 48 hours after the polls close to seven days after the polls close. By the way, it is still the case that the ballot has to be postmarked latest, day of the election. And we will ensure that every vote is counted. Our goals are twofold: to maximize our democracy while minimizing the risk of illness. We want everyone to participate in a safe and fully democratic process.
I do have a final brief economic announcement to make and this one directly concerns our efforts to ensure that more of our small businesses who are, after all, at the heart of our economy, can be in a position to join us for our restart and recovery. Our administration is committing $50 million in federal CARES Act funding to directly support small businesses impacted by COVID-19 through the Economic Development Authority. These funds will be primarily used to provide grants that will serve as a vital lifeline for thousands of small businesses struggling during this unprecedented crisis. The funding will be subject to special EDA board approval, with details on the grant program and an application period to be announced in the coming weeks. Mahen, we may want to get Tim Sullivan to come back and join us, the CEO of the EDA, to go through this.
We know that many businesses have had real concerns about their ability to survive this pandemic, and we all fully appreciate and recognize those concerns, and we've heard from many of you directly. To the extent that we can use this federal funding to help our small businesses not just make it through, but to see them thriving again as we continue our restart, we will take these steps. As I said, our small businesses are the heart of our economy. Collectively, I think they employ about 60%, in normal times, of all folks employed in the state and their health is critical to our state's overall economic health. So details to come on that, but that's a big step forward.
Let's switch gears if we can for the overnight numbers. Yesterday, we received an additional 1,297 positive test results for a current statewide total of 143,905. The daily positivity or spot positivity rates for tests from May 11, and that's the last day that samples were collected as of today, which is May 15, and again, that timeframe has shortened considerably over the past couple of months, stood at 23%. So we have seen this number holding relatively steady over the past several days. Here is how this positivity rate is reflected across each region of the state. And as you can see, we are at a point where each region is very closely mirroring the statewide average, and that's a good sign. It means that we don't have any, right now, true outliers.
The map that we've been regularly turning to keeps showing slower rates of spread across the state. In our hospitals, the number of patients currently being treated for COVID-19 dropped again to 3,823. Our field medical stations again reported 42 patients. And this is a breakdown of hospitalizations across regions. And here are total hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, again across regions, to give a more balanced picture.
Looking at our long-term care facilities, we are seeing a slight slowing in the number of newly reported cases. You can see now a cumulative total of 27,374. The bars on this chart are not going up as sharply as they were, though we are continually taking steps to do everything we can to further slow and eventually stop them. And we continue to see an outsized proportion of our statewide COVID-19 deaths, more than half, blessed souls related to our long-term care facilities. This is one reason why we've taken all the steps we've taken, including deploying our National Guardsmen and women to some of our hardest hit centers, and why we are welcoming additional support from the VA, I think literally today or tomorrow, to fully support the staffs at these facilities, and to help save more lives.
I want to stay here on this, Mahen, if we can for a second. We discuss this as though this is in the past tense. What were you doing when Judy put out her first directive, I think on March 6, as I recall? What led you to hire that nationally recognized firm a few weeks ago? What prompted the Attorney General to do his investigation? Why have you mandated that long-term care facilities and their residents and employees should have universal testing by May 26? Why is the National Guard there? What triggered that? What triggered the VA response? And those are all questions that we constantly try to answer, and we will continue to try to answer. By the way, New Jersey is hardly alone. This is an American reality. I've said this before, the nursing home that my mom was in until her death, now almost 12 years ago, in Massachusetts has been ravaged, literally gutted by this awful reality.
I want to say this though, and I know Judy joins me, 5,259 blessed souls loss, including veterans This is both residents and staff members, cumulatively. We have somewhere, and it depends really on how you count a long-term facility, another 300,000 to 400,000 human beings in this state, residents and employees, who we are, and Judy and her team and the National Guard and Pat and his team and the VA and the staffs, the heroic healthcare workers who go in and out of these facilities every day, they are laying across the tracks 24/7, every minute of every day to save as many of those other 300,000 to 400,000 human beings in the state who have some association with long-term care facilities.
So we can do both mourn the loss of these extraordinary lives, learn from how all of this happened, not just in New Jersey but in America, but at the same time not be distracted for one second with the heroic work that's being done morning, noon and night in these facilities all over the state, even in the face of uneven performance by operators. And in particular, the heroic efforts by the first line healthcare workers to save as many of those other 300,000 to 400,000 precious lives.
The number of patients reported in either critical or intensive care fell again to 1,127. Ventilator use also continues its decline to 865. There were 285 new COVID hospitalizations yesterday. By the way, 285 people. Gosh, golly, why can't you flip the switch and open the whole place up? Yesterday, 285 people walked or were taken into a hospital for COVID-19. We're making an enormous amount of progress, folks, and you all deserve the overwhelming amount of that credit, but we are not out of the woods yet. I'm happy to say, at the same time, the number of live discharges was 357. That's a gap we want to see, and we want to see it widen.
Here are the numbers from yesterday, broken down by region. Sit on these for a second. Again, Judy was the first one who said this with Ed and Tina and others, that this was a virus that would migrate from the Greater New York City metro reality, which is ground zero in our country for this, and it would migrate through the state, and it has. It's done exactly as Judy had predicted, and Ed and Christina. But as you can see, we're not out of the woods, even back up north. And so that's something that we look very carefully at, not only where we expected this to go, but also to make sure that once it was on that journey, that migration that we are also looking back and making sure that something isn't coming in the back door.
So let's keep at it, everybody, let's keep moving our trends forward with many more green light, those green balls, green light days than red light ones. As we've noted, the difference between today and six weeks ago, let alone two weeks ago, is significant and we can keep it going. But, and this is a big butt, today we also must report that we have lost another 201 blessed souls of our great New Jersey family to COVID-19 related complications, and with that we have crossed the number of 10,000 fatalities; 10,138 to be precise. Think about that for a moment. That is a staggering number. As we hold each and every person we lost on that day in a place of honor, let's hold every person we have lost throughout this pandemic in a similar place. When we think about all of the prior fights that we've had as a country, as a state, from 9/11 to world wars, and each and every one of those lives we lost in those challenges, those attacks, those wars, Superstorm Sandy, natural events and tragedies from Mother Nature. We hold them and always will in a special place, and we will hold each one of these lives lost in this pandemic in a special place alongside of each and every one of them. Let's remember a few of the lives we've lost.
First, let's remember Newark Police Sergeant Michael Clegg. Pat first mentioned Michael earlier this week, a 27-year veteran of the force who served communities across the city, but was most recently stationed at Newark's 1st Precinct. He was also a member of the Newark Police Bronze Shield, an association of African American police officers. He was respected by his peers who knew him for his leadership and reliability. Certainly he was respected by the residents that he served Newark's Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose, and Pat mentioned Director Ambrose earlier this week, perhaps summed it up best. And he said very simply, and I quote him, "We lost a good man." Michael was just 53 years old. Sergeant Clegg is survived by his mother Rosalia, with whom I had the great honor of speaking yesterday, what a strong woman, and his sister Tammy and I said that's another reason why the Murphys and the Cleggs have a special bond. I also spoke with his sister. He's also survived by a nephew, four nieces and a whole host of friends and colleagues. We thank Sergeant Michael Clegg for his extraordinary service. We offer our deepest condolences and prayers to his families and the colleagues he leaves behind. May God bless you, Michael and may God bless all of your loved ones.
Next up, Ronald Rico Hicks. Look at that. Born and raised in Newark, and a proud product of the Newark public schools, he spent a career in sales, having started his career in 1977 with JP Stevens Textiles. If I saw him coming in looking like that, I would have bought right away. He lived in Howell for many years and worked in New York City before finally settling in Hamilton to be closer to his daughters. An athlete in his younger days, including having run the New York City Marathon, he made the most of his retirement. He spent many hours fishing on his boat, but he wasn't the solitary type, and his family remembers Ron as always being, "The life of the party." He was an active genealogical researcher and took great pride in connecting the generations to ensure that legacies would not be forgotten.
Ronnie leaves behind his daughters, Deirdre, Hope and Katie, and I had the opportunity, this was not easy, but I give Hope a big shout out here. She connected her sisters and me so the four of us had a call yesterday, and he leaves behind his three loving daughters and their families, including many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by another daughter, Rhonda. I should note that Hope, his daughter Hope is a very good friend of mine and is the Principal at Trenton Central High School. Ronnie enjoyed attending events there, including the father-daughter dance. May God bless them all. You're in our prayers, Ronnie, and your daughters and their families, may God bless you all.
Finally for today, let's remember Stella Kelly Maglione of Hamilton, who lived to the age of 97. I'll tell you, when you put a Kelly and a Maglione together, there's no stopping that. She was born in Bordentown and was a longtime resident of Trenton's Chambersburg community, more than 60 years, by the way, before moving to neighboring Hamilton. For the early part of her life, Stella worked in some of the factories that lived up to those words, Trenton makes, the world takes. But then she and her late husband Angelo, known by Tony Maglione, owned and ran Maglione's Cleaners in Trenton for over 40 years. Stella herself was a gifted seamstress. The costume designer, by the way, for the Hamilton Ballet Theatre, owned by her granddaughter, Julia Caprio, with whom I had the great honor of speaking yesterday, and also taught the craft to others, including seniors. She is survived by her two daughters, not only Julia and her husband, but also Dr. Connie Maglione. Connie lives in Princeton, buy the way, Julia lives in Hamilton. And she's also survived by many grandchildren. A tremendous life indeed. God bless you Stella, God rest your soul.
We remember all we have lost to this pandemic. Our flags remain at half-staff in their memories and in solidarity with those they left behind. We remember together because we are all in this together, and may it always be that way.
Switching gears for a minute, a couple of items I had. First of all, I mentioned yesterday, Sylvia Goldscholl, 108 years old. She made it through the Spanish flu. She then got COVID-19 and made it through this pandemic and it was a natural outcropping of that, that we decided we needed to speak to each other. So we spoke yesterday afternoon after I mentioned her name, and I asked her what her secret was. I felt like John Lennon was on the other end of the phone. She repeated several times, all you need is love. All you need is love. And she, by the way, sounded crystal clear. So Sylvia, God bless you.
Secondly, on a more sobering note, you know, we've talked about this before. Why does it hit, this awful thing, one community that looks very similar to another, but ravages over here and passes this one by? We've seen that in countries, Brazil and Ecuador are ravaged, and other South American communities are not. We see it in Asia. We see it in states around the country. Everyone's trying to figure out, what's going on in Florida? What's going on in parts of California?
Well, it's also the case in New Jersey. I had an exchange this morning, just to say this, Mayor Wilda Diaz, an old friend who's the Mayor of Perth Amboy. Perth Amboy is a community, by the way, with a big amount of diversity, a particularly big Latino population, that's been ravaged by this awful virus. So to Wilda and the brothers and sisters in Perth Amboy, God bless you all, hang in, keep the faith and stay strong.
I got a call this morning from the President of the United States, President Trump called and I want to give him a shout out. He had said this on a talk show apparently earlier today, but he confirmed that a big slug of money is coming to NJ Transit, and he wanted to tell me that personally. He said something to the effect, when the numbers are this big, I've got to give you a call directly. So the President called and that was welcome news, as you can imagine. It was good to speak with him. And again, I want to thank him and his team for all the common ground that we have been able to find and that support for NJ Transit is a big deal and a big game changer. Thank you, Mr. President.
I want to return to a topic we've touched upon a couple of times in the past week, and that is the Census. I ask you again to make sure you and your family are accurately counted by going to 2020census.gov and responding. Since last week, our overall response rate has increased and we are now at 61% participation. However, that's the good news. The challenging news is we still ranked 21 out of the 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. So even while you are picking up the pace, so is everybody else. There's absolutely no reason why we can't be at least in the top 10. And frankly, my super stretch objective is to be number one. Let's see this map. This map shows us the rates across our counties. The darker the blue, the more of you have already been counted. However, as the shades of blue go lighter and turn to shades of orange, these are the counties that we need to really see start to step up.
Now this has been a big week as it relates to our friends and our relationship with Cape May, so I want to give them a particular shout out. We know that one thing that is down in Cape May and they're the darkest color is the response rate we think is being skewed because a lot of the homes which haven't yet responded aren't year round homes, and these property owners have likely already responded from their primary homes. If you own a second home in Cape May, we ask you to go to 2020census.gov and register that no one lives at this address, because it's a seasonal home. Then we'll have a better idea of how many Cape May residents have responded to the Census. And by the way, not only is the numerator really important, and that's up to you, but the denominator of how we define what the total pie is important. Not only do we have Len Desiderio here yesterday, who I thought was terrific, and sat where Ed is now both as Mayor and Freeholder Vice Director on how we're approaching the beaches, so I thank Len again for being here. I also want to give Beth Bozzelli a shout out. She's been the County Administrator, she's worked for Cape May County for 40 years. She's retiring. I just left her a voicemail an hour or so ago. She's been the principal of contact between our administration in Cape May County and I said, Beth, I don't know what we're going to do without you. So Beth, if you're watching, God bless you and thank you for an extraordinary 40 year run. We'll know how to find you though, and we hope we can stay close.
I can't overstate how vital it is that every New Jerseyan be properly and accurately counted in the Census. This isn't just an exercise to count how many people live here. The census is the data that we need to make decisions that impact every community in New Jersey, and which has a direct impact on the amount of federal funding we get back from Washington. New Jersey was undercounted in the last census and because of that, we have left literally billions of dollars in federal aid on the table over the past decade. That undercount even impacts us today in our efforts to get more COVID-19 relief to our state. So I can't say it any clearer. If this money isn't coming to New Jersey, it's going to some other state. Let's make sure that we get the money here. So if you have not yet taken the time to be counted, please take a moment, go online to 2020census.gov and make sure you are counted. And if you have a seasonal home in Cape May or elsewhere on the shore, log on to make sure that property is properly reflected. So much rides, folks, on an accurate count.
And with that, today I want to conclude with a couple of final thoughts. Had COVID-19 not set upon our state, today I would have joined the Ramapo College Class of 2020 and their families and friends to deliver the address at their commencement. Obviously, I'm here, and the class of 2020 completed their courses at home, but I do not want them to think they are forgotten. So to every graduating Ramapo student, please know how very proud we are of your accomplishment. You are graduating in an unprecedented time. But if there's one thing I know about our younger generation, you're more than up to the challenges we face. Go out. Make us proud. Congratulations Ramapo Class of 2020, God bless you. Get out there and make us all proud.
Next and finally, I want to recognize and thank the members of St. Matthew AME Church in Orange. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have been providing lunch to our heroic frontline workers and first responders, and they have also been able to provide lunches and dinners five days a week to the State Trooper Station at the temporary morgue site in Newark. I know Pat, you know that well. Our communities of faith, every faith, has stood strong throughout this and it's really extraordinarily impressive. I don't think any state in America has the strength of faith communities that we are so blessed to have, literally, in New Jersey. So to everyone at St. Matthew AME Church, especially my dear friends, Pastor Melvin Wilson and First Lady also Reverend Leslie Marie Wilson, God bless you all and thank you all so very much.
And on that, I want to note that today is National Peace Officers Memorial Day. To every law enforcement family who has lost a loved one in the line of duty, I and we thank you for your sacrifice. Know that the service of your loved one is remembered and revered, and may God bless their memories and may God bless all who protect and serve our nation, our state, and our communities. 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. Good afternoon. As we prepared for the surge of COVID-19 cases at our hospitals, we took steps to preserve our healthcare system's capacity to treat those who required emergency or intensive care by suspending elective procedures in the state. By taking this step, we conserved critical resources such as ventilators, respirators and personal protective equipment. Although these procedures are called elective, for many people who are battling an illness or who are dealing with chronic pain, disabling pain, these surgeries are vital to their health and wellbeing. With the stress on hospital capacity and resources declining, and decreasing numbers of new cases of COVID-19, we are taking the step to allow a phased-in reopening of elective surgeries, beginning with the urgent surgical procedures at our hospitals. Safety and protection of patients and staff will be paramount. Facilities must develop plans to test patients 72 hours prior to surgery, and conduct symptom screening on the day of surgery. They will additionally require quarantine three days before surgery.
Patients testing positive for COVID-19 prior to the surgical procedure, or having symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should not have an elective procedure that is not emergent or urgent. Facilities have implemented all necessary controls to prevent the spread of the virus. Those controls include cleaning and disinfecting, social distancing in waiting rooms, limiting and restricting visitors and using physical barriers and masking when possible. Facilities will assure the department that they have adequate staffing, PPE and supplies appropriate to the number and type of procedures to be performed. The department will be issuing guidance to the facilities that will outline the requirements I covered in further detail.
Now for the daily report. As the Governor shared, our hospitalizations are down to 3,823 of COVID-19 positive patients and persons under investigation, including in that number are 1,127 individuals in critical care, with 75% of those patients on ventilators. The Governor reviewed the new cases and deaths reported today. In terms of deaths, the breakdown of deaths by race and ethnicity are as follows: White 53.5%, Black 18.6%, Hispanic up to 19.1%, Asian 5.5%, and other 3.3%.
There are 527 long-term care facilities in the state and as shared, there are 27,374 COVID positive cases in these facilities. The state's veterans homes have completed universal testing at all three locations and among a census of 660, there have been 368 patients testing positive and a total of 140 deaths. Our state psychiatric hospitals, with a census of 1,240, are reporting 202 patients right now testing positive and a total of 13 patient deaths at the psychiatric hospitals. They are continuing universal testing. The daily percent positivity on May 11 in New Jersey overall was 23%.
Lastly, Communicable Disease Service has reviewed all of the reported 17 cases of potential pediatric inflammatory syndrome related to COVID-19. Of the 17 cases, seven fit the case definition of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, seven. Six of the seven have tested positive for SARS CoV-2. That concludes my report. Stay connected, stay safe and stay healthy. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you. And elective surgeries, you'll lay this out, I guess we said by Monday. It'll be for a week from Tuesday. I think I said this publicly. I'm not giving up any privacy here myself, but I had surgery on March 4th and it turned out, knock on wood, I'm okay, which is good. Otherwise I wouldn't be here. But it was deemed to be a fairly significant surgery that had to take place within a window of time and it turns out, the tumor was malignant. And I asked my doctor a couple of weeks after it happened, I said by the way, if we had been a week or two later, what would have happened? He said, you would have been postponed.
The reason I say that is elective surgery makes it sound like it's all a bunch of folks who want to get a nose job lined up. To your point, it covers a broad range of procedures that, in some cases, are quite serious. And so hats off to you for giving the guidance. And again, this is one of these I think, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I think you felt strongly, we all felt strongly that a runway was needed. Just like you can't say today that beaches are open tomorrow and you need to do the following things. You can't say today elective surgeries are up for tomorrow. You've got to get a fair amount of protocols in place. So thank you again for your extraordinary leadership.
Another great leader to my left, any updates, Pat, on compliance, PPE, infrastructure, other matters? Thank you, sir.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone. With regards to compliance in Newark, I'm glad to report that Sergeant Clegg's brothers and sisters issued 199 warnings last night and did not have to issue any EO violations or close any businesses. In Camden, a home health aide that was symptomatic was told to self-isolate after testing. She ultimately came back positive and went against instructions and actually went into a home the next day to care for a few different family members. That subject was charged with endangering the welfare of others. So a little bit of a different one, but that was in Camden, a home health aid worker that did not follow self-isolation and the fact that she came back positive was certainly a concern for us. In Burlington City, two members were cited for having a large gathering at their residence. In Parsippany, an intoxicated subject was taken into custody, arrested and while being processed, intentionally cough towards the officer stating that she had COVID-19. In Lakewood, two members were cited for having a large gathering at their residence. And in Tuckerton, a restaurant owner was cited for having tables outside for customers to eat.
I'll just add to your comments with regard to Pastor Melvin Wilson at St. Matthews AME, Governor. He was amongst the first, if not the first, Chaplain to call me at the start of this and say, Colonel, how can I help? And not only with the feeding of those at that temporary mortuary site, but also the spiritual support that goes with it. I've grown to be very close with Pastor Wilson over the past few years, and if you're ever in Orange on a Sunday morning, once we're able to worship again like we did do traditionally, I strongly recommend that you go to St. Matthews AME Church and have Pastor Wilson's congregation welcome you like no other welcome that my wife and I had. Just a phenomenal service that you will certainly leave there feeling much better than when you walked in. Governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: Amen, I can attest to that as well. And they do extraordinary, like so many of the great faith institutions in our state, across the spectrum of faiths. And remember, of course, we're still in the holy month of Ramadan for our Muslim brothers and sisters, but the work they do, I'd be hard pressed for so many of these churches, temples, mosques, I'd be hard pressed to weigh which is more impactful in our state: the spiritual reality inside the sanctuary, inside the actual place of worship, which is overwhelming in some of these places. But equally as important, if not even more so, are the tentacles that they have into the communities and he's a great example of this, and that church is a great example. So to St. Matthew AME in Orange, hats off to you and so many other institutions of faith around the state. We're going to start over with Brent. Before we do, Mahen, am I right? We're together at one o'clock tomorrow, here. Our lineup will be one o'clock tomorrow here, unless there's a reason to see you or to get on the phone with you, we'll do electronically on Sunday. And Monday is usually TBD, just given the White House has a VTC most Mondays, so if you could bear with us. We'll try, as we always do, to shoot for one o'clock. But if we can't get that, we will let you know otherwise. Does that sound all right with everybody? Please, Brent. Good afternoon.
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Good afternoon. Residents say they're still frustrated about unemployment and they keep getting the same answers on it. When should they expect to get hard answers on when they'll actually get their money? Or do you think they'll be able to start getting through on the phone? And when will new workers hired to help the system be done with background checks and training?
Do you have an update on how many inmates are in temporary home confinement? And your administration just announced a $1 million settlement in Katie Brennan's lawsuit against the state? Do you have any comments or reaction to that?
Governor Phil Murphy: Was the first question about unemployment insurance?
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Yes, it was residents want to know, they say they keep getting the same answers to that.
Governor Phil Murphy: I've got nothing new to add on that. We will come back to you on a specific, stay close, Dante. Stay close. I'm not sure, I've got nothing new on that. Mahen, will you follow up with Brent in terms of the unemployment insurance. Rob was just here yesterday, I don't think we've got a whole lot new to report other than if you're frustrated, I don't blame you. We're chopping through this as best and as fast as we can. How many are in temporary homes or have left them?
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Sorry, an update on how many inmates are currently in temporary home confinement, that have been released.
Governor Phil Murphy: The numbers that have been released either on furlough, parole or for temporary homes, I think as of yesterday, Matt, was 600 and something. That's in total. Matt's behind you, by the way.
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: There's a total of 641; 368 individuals through furlough and released through the Executive Order process, and then there's an additional 273 who have been discharged from the State Parole Board's residential community programs, as part of their mitigation efforts. There's 188 additional people who have been granted parole but have not yet been released, largely because we're testing everybody before they're released.
Governor Phil Murphy: That make sense? And then lastly, I think we're going to, I don't know if we've put a press release out yet or not, but we will. Overall, I'll make one statement about this and that's all I'll say about it. I think it's a fair and reasonable settlement. We've worked collaboratively and constructively with Katie and her team to institute meaningful reforms to support survivors in the workplace. We look forward to continuing our work on these issues to make New Jersey a leading state for survivor-centric policies as we have been doing for now a long time. Thank you. Nikita, good afternoon.
Nikita Biryukov, New Jersey Globe: Good afternoon, Governor. Unfortunately, I have more questions for you than I did on Wednesday.
Governor Phil Murphy: I'm sorry, but that's okay. We'll at least give you one credit from Wednesday.
Nikita Biryukov, New Jersey Globe: Sure. As we get further away from May 12, it seems like there were a lot of issues then that point to operational problems at the post office. I'm talking about stuff like delivery delays, large amounts of ballots just left out in the open unwatched, and mail just not being collected. I want to know, are you personally going to be in contact with the Postmaster General to make sure that these issues don't repeat for the July races? And then I'm also wondering are unaffiliated voters going to get sample ballots for those same races? I know you had mentioned that you talked with USPS in drafting this order. What was their reaction? Did they find the expectations that you laid out to be reasonable?
Lastly, do you think that -- I'm sorry, actually two more. Do you think statewide VBMs can succeed without the full cooperation of the post office? Do you have any plans to extend the acceptance period for mail-in ballots received in the May 12 races?
Governor Phil Murphy: Okay, I'll start and I may want to ask Matt to come in here. I know for sure Judy, you and Ed get the question off on this one. You can put your feet up for the next couple of minutes. We're still doing a post-mortem on the May 12th election, Nikita. There's no plans right now to extend anything unless Matt tells me otherwise on the May 12 election, that that'll stay that way. Unaffiliated, will they get a sample ballot? Actually, that was a good question.
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: We waived the sample ballot in the EO. I need to confirm if unaffiliated on that point and get right back to you.
Governor Phil Murphy: We'll come back to you on that. Again, to repeat what I said, I want to make sure that I'm not just reading it, but I think you've written about it so you know it. If you're registered as a Democrat, you get a mail-in ballot. If you're registered as a Republican, you get a mail-in ballot. If you're unaffiliated, or you're inactive, you get an application that you have to put in to get a mail-in ballot. In all of the above cases, it's prepaid postage.
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Governor, I just confirmed no sample ballots for unaffiliated voters, no sample ballots across the board.
Governor Phil Murphy: Okay. And then listen, I don't want to say, I don't want to put words, Nikita, into Dave Williams mouth. He's the Chief Operating Officer and while the Postmaster General is the highest ranking person, the person who's running this operation day in and day out is Dave, and he understood. I specifically raised the point about the high density, low income neighborhoods. I was channeling your observations. We'll see. We intend to be a full partner with them as best we can, given that we're dealing with an extraordinary healthcare crisis and that's impacted, not surprisingly, the postal service as much as it's probably impacted any non-healthcare, non-care organization in the country. Thank you for that. Sir, please.
Reporter: Thank you very much, Governor. As you know, many residents and candidates in Paterson are very upset about allegations of corruption, ranging from stolen and forged votes to ballot stuffing and illegal bundling. Among those voicing real concern, a young man named Deon Latimore, who told us quote, "Our votes are null and void. If they were stuffing ballots, it means my vote doesn't count." What do you say to Deon Latimore about questions of possibly a deeply flawed vote by mail in Paterson, and additionally, in the last year, your Attorney General stood in Paterson City Hall and acknowledged a slow start by his office in fighting corruption generally. Perhaps look at North Bergen and Paterson and other allegations raised by the press over the months in various towns. Is the Paterson vote problem a latest warning sign that a culture of corruption is once again growing across your state?
Governor Phil Murphy: My state? Where are you coming from? Where are you now?
Reporter: I'm now in Westport, Connecticut.
Governor Phil Murphy: I just wanted you to know, I caught the slip. We could use you back in Teaneck. I'm not going to speak for the Attorney General. We have stood from moment one for transparency, for democracy that's as wide open as possible. We have literally marched down that road from literally the moment we've been in here. We're not far enough down there. I would love 30 days in-person voting, as an example. We have no choice, really. We thought about this every which way. We cannot responsibly for an election that is less than two months away, and Judy does have a big voice in this as a health matter. We just don't have any other choice but to have vote by mail be a big element of this, because we don't know what it's going to look like on July 7. We also want to have some place where you could physically go to vote, assuming that we're in an environment that the health reality would support.
I don't have any specific insights on Tuesday in Paterson. It's clearly something that we're looking at. My guess is with some fullness of time, we'll have more to tell on that. I would say to Deon Latimer, keep the faith. Every vote counts. We've seen election after election, including some cases for President of the United States of America where single votes tipped the election one way or another. That is the exercise of one's right to vote is the sacred element of democracy and we will do everything we can to uphold it. I've got no more insights in Paterson though. Very quickly.
Reporter: Can I just follow up? Are you satisfied with the work the Attorney General's Office has done in terms of fighting corruption?
Governor Phil Murphy: We have the best Attorney General in the United States of America. Please.
Reporter: Yes, Governor, three questions. First of all, any further discussions on when Motor Vehicle Commission offices might be able to be reopened? Second question is, two weeks ago, you let golfers hit the links. Any further discussion on whether or not some of the restrictions can be eased in that regard? And also, I know you addressed unemployment earlier, but there's a gentleman outside the side door who came today because he says he's frustrated. He's been out of work for two months. He's been trying to call, he's gotten no response from the state and he thought today, coming here with a placard was his last resort. Anything you can say to that gentleman outside?
Governor Phil Murphy: One thing I'll say to him is if he's still here, I'm going to ask one of our teammates to speak to him. I don't know where Mahen went, but Matt, could you ask Mahen to meet with him and get his details, and we'll have someone follow up with them. I don't want that to mean that everyone who shows up with a placard is going to, but if he's still here, we'll do that. But the fact of the matter is the statements, what we've said still holds, that we completely understand the frustration. There's a tsunami of folks who are looking for their benefits, rightfully. That they will get every penny that is coming to them, including the federal piece. We are chopping through this. Our folks are chopping through this and my heart breaks. I don't know what else to say other than I'm completely in sympathy and empathy with him.
I don't want to put words in Matt's mouth, but I think on golf, we still owe you protocols on pools, charter fishing, which I hope will be coming, both soon. We are looking at golf, no promises. But that's something we are looking at, no news to tell you. I don't have a date for MVC, but Sue Fulton who leads it is extraordinary. She and her team are doing a really good job of wargaming and figuring out exactly, including reconfiguration of the actual physical locations of what we will need when we do reopen. I hope it's sooner than later, but no date yet. Thank you, sir. Good afternoon.
Reporter: Governor, I apologize if I missed it during the press conference. Did we go over which counties have the most cases, ranked?
Governor Phil Murphy: No, but I can tell you right now. In fact, I was looking at this, I meant to say this earlier, Hudson is now I think, for the first day, gone into number one in terms of total positive cases. Hudson followed by Bergen, Essex, Passaic, Union and Middlesex right behind, but this is, I believe, the first day I've seen at least Judy, where Hudson had the most number of positives. It had been the second or third most all along.
Reporter: So following up on that, do we have any idea why Hudson is suddenly out in front compared to the other counties?
Governor Phil Murphy: No, I will tell you it's gradual. I would say, Judy, tell me if you see this differently, probably for the past 30 to 40 days the gap has been shrinking. It was first Essex and now Hudson. And Essex, I might add, continues to be, and this has been the case now for I'm going to say several weeks, Essex has the most number of fatalities, followed by Bergen and followed by Hudson. There is a gap in the fatalities in Hudson relative to the number of cases. I don't have any great insight as to why that is, but that is a fact. You good? Thank you. Sir, we're coming at you.
Phil Andrews, NJ News Network: Good afternoon, Governor. Phil Andrews, New Jersey News Network.
Governor Phil Murphy: Good to see you.
Phil Andrews, NJ News Network: I'm sure that the $50 million you talked about earlier for the CARES Act for small business owners is going to be welcome to them. But what do you say to those small business owners who say the curbside pickup doesn't work for them who rely on foot traffic? And the other question I have to you is you gave the thumbs up yesterday to beaches and shore stuff opening up. Does that also give people who rent out homes to go ahead and start renting out homes? Is that a whole separate different thing?
Governor Phil Murphy: I don't think we've restricted renting your home. That is still, you're open for business. Am I right?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: We've left it up to the towns.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, actually, that's a good point. The town, thank you for that. The $50 million, very good question. The $50 million from the CARES Act that we've been able to direct towards small businesses, it'll mean a lot. Let's just acknowledge that's a fact. It's equally as factual that there's still a world of hurt, just as there is in folks like the guy outside who are unemployed, there's a world of hurt for small businesses.
I would say two things about that. Most importantly, we need another big slug of federal support here. There's just no denying the outsized role the federal government can play. They can print money and we can't. We've got to balance a budget. We preach every single day that states need direct cash assistance, which we do, in very big amount but that doesn't mean that's all that we need. I would hope that we can get even more small business support from the feds. By the way, the extent to which states can get back on their feet also increases the chances that we could do more of what we've been doing for small businesses as well. So you really get twofers when you get a big slug of federal cash both directly to small businesses, but also to states. You give them a couple of lifelines.
We will as responsibly and as soon as we can, and we consider it all the time, wargame what to do with non-essential retail. We just can't yet get there indoors. Now admittedly, indoors when you're moving around is better than indoors when you're sitting down, and that's a difference and I want to acknowledge that that's a difference. So stuff that's outdoors, if I get over my skis here epidemiologically please bail me out, either of you. But stuff that's outdoors, we have more degrees of freedom. And then as you get to the indoor stuff, and you're moving around, you've got more degrees of freedom, particularly if you limit the amount of people in there, etc. But we're not there yet. We are still largely at a stay-at-home reality. Supermarkets, retail essential, yes. Now curbside pickup. Let's see how it goes. It's Monday morning at 6:00 a.m. Let's see how it goes, but I don't want people to think either that we're jumping the gun, or that we're not thinking about it, and we are definitely thinking about it. Thank you. Elise, good afternoon.
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Good afternoon. My first question is from Amy Rosenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Regarding Senior Week gatherings of kids at the shore, are they allowable? What if there are fewer than 10 people? Would any group of more than 10 people in a shore house who are not all from the same household be a violation of your executive order?
And my own question is for the budget update next Friday, are you expecting to announce any state worker furloughs or pay cuts, or spending cuts of any kind? Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Elise. I think, and Matt will correct me on all of the above, for Amy, if the gatherings are less than 10 and there's proper social distancing, they are deemed to be allowed. I've not been asked the question about sharing the house, but you know, this notion of the bubble and going and breaking your bubble and going outside of it, if there's more than 10, that gives me discomfort. Is that a municipal reality? Or what's your view on that, Matt?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: I apologize. I missed that.
Governor Phil Murphy: Sharing a shore house. Is that the question, with more than 10 folks?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: We have to come back. Some of it would depend on the facts, so we'd have to come back to you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Tell Amy we'll come back to her on that one. I will say, this is me to you, as an individual thought, that gives me concern, I have to say. It gives me some concern. Too early on the budget update. I don't have a crisp answer for you on that. We're looking at everything right now. We have to, we've got no other choice. And including, unfortunately, looking at layoffs because in the absence of any certainty on federal direct cash, and we still don't have certainty on the borrowing piece although, as I said, I think we all thought, the Senate President and Speaker and I thought that the working group made good progress a couple of days ago, we're not in the end zone yet. So thank you for that. John, you're going to take us home. John, one day you'll say to me, actually, I have no questions. But that won't be today?
John McAlpin, Bergen Record: It will not be today, no. I do have a follow up on the gatherings of 10, there's some confusion about 10 people social distancing on the shore, on the beach. Can you still do that in people's yards and in parks? People have been asking that.
Forgive me if I missed this, but the ambulatory surgery, is there any specifics about which types of ambulatory surgeries, or is it all of them, or is just those affiliated with hospitals or the standup surgical centers?
Two other questions. Governor, there are about 1,500 corona cases and about 100 deaths in the developmentally disabled community. Nearly all the cases and about two-thirds of the deaths are at state developmental centers and state licensed group homes. Every day you guys give us details on nursing homes, the psychiatric hospitals, all this other data, but we're not getting that on the developmental centers, and particularly Health and Human Services just gives a once-a-week update and there's some confusion over numbers in the dashboard. Would we be able to get regular updates about the developmental centers in the state licensed group homes? And is there any reason why this information is so hard to come to?
And over this week, Governor Richard Besser said in an interview that he was not getting guidance from the CDC that he needed to help formulate the plans for reopening, that the State Commission and as a member of the Regional Commission. Last night the CDC did update some of their guidance. Are you confident that you will get the details you need from the CDC to help this? Especially given the reports of the Trump administration suppressing such guidance? Have you spoken to the President about suppression of the information from the CDC?
Governor Phil Murphy: Okay, so John, on the first one, the 10 people, unless Matt tells me otherwise, the 10 people gathering, fewer than 10. If it's at your house or your neighbor's house and you're doing proper social distancing, I don't think there's any difference between that and being in a park or on a beach. Just keep your distance and you're okay.
I will turn to Judy for two and three in terms of ambulatory surgery. I think you're going to come out with your guidelines on Monday. So that's the answer, I think for that, but please tell me and then developmental centers, whether or not you've got any color on that. Developmental centers are included in the long=term care numbers, the aggregate numbers, right? So the total fatalities, sadly, and the total positive cases. You're asking, John, whereas we break out psychiatric versus others, why not do that? And I'll tell you, the last person I'm going to disagree with probably behind Judy, and maybe Ed, is Rich Besser. If Rich Besser says he doesn't have the CDC guidelines, I'm going to defer to Rich, having run the CDC. Rich is extraordinary, by the way. Rich, to rightfully point out, has not only got his day job, he's on our Commission advising us on restart and recovery, and he is one of our three regional representatives on the Regional Council, and he does extraordinary work. I have not spoken to the President about CDC guidance. But I know Judy spoke with Dr. Berx the other day and maybe you've got some color there. So over to you, Madam Commissioner.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I'll talk about the ambulatory surgery centers. We expect Monday to put out guidance for in-hospital surgeries, hospital-owned ambulatory surgery centers. We're working with DCA for single-room centers that are associated with physician offices, and then CMS certified ambulatory surgery centers. There's about, on the surgery centers, approximately 250 throughout the state, and we want to be able to put out guidance for all them at the same time. I'll let Ed talk about CDC.
DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: First, let me say, by the way, I would have been happy to answer Nikita's political questions if you want to throw them to me Governor next time, that would…
Governor Phil Murphy: That's a deal, man. Actually, the July 7 voting plan actually is Ed's plan.
DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: We work very closely with CDC in general at our level, we think that they are excellent partners. Yes, it has been slow to get detailed information as far as guidance, as far as reopening goes. They did release yesterday a slew of less highly detailed information that is useful as well and certainly we like to work with them and work well with them and look forward to getting more information yet.
Governor Phil Murphy: I think we still owe one answer on the breakout of the developmental centers.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: We had a meeting yesterday with Department of Human Services, there are five developmental centers. They have all been tested. I think they're still testing some of the employees. What we are getting is a list of all of the group homes and how we can get not only statistics on them, get them into our testing plan. When I get that all together, we'd be happy to get you all of the numbers, if that would be helpful.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. I'm gonna mask up, if that's all right. Again, Pat, I intended to wear my State Police mask, but still on the prowl, looking for that. I want to first of all thank Judy and Ed for your leadership, not just today, but every day. Pat, likewise to you, Jared, Matt, the rest of the team. Secondly, again, we'll be with you tomorrow at one o'clock here unless we say otherwise. And then Sunday we'll be electronic and back together, unless there's a reason to be together. Monday, we'll be back to you, depending on the timing of the White House VTC.
We had parks a couple of weekends ago, it's going to be in the 80s today, it may be there already. I went for a run this morning and it was beautiful. Tomorrow is going to be 75 and sunny. It looks like Sunday is going to be cooler, so we've gotten our parks open. We've got a bunch of beaches doing their sort of shakedown cruise this weekend. We are slowly but surely, we talked about elective surgery today. We'll probably talk about pools and charter fishing, and we may readdress golf at some point. We're taking all these steps, but we're all in this together, folks. We've got to make sure that we take them responsibly, so opening any given door up are decisions that we're making based on the facts and then how we execute on that is really up to all of us. And so please, folks, keep doing what you're doing. Even as we begin to open more doors, staying away from each other, staying at home when you don't have to be out there is still the watchword. Have enough face protection, particularly when you're in close proximity. Those are all still really smart things to do.
But things are clearly, while we're not out of the woods, we are clearly, without question, making enormous progress. And the more progress we make, the more steps we can take, the faster we can get back to some sort of a new normal. Thank you all. God bless you all.