Governor Phil Murphy: Good afternoon, everybody. We've got a fair amount of ground to cover so we'll get right at it. I am 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 familiar face, the Department of Health's Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz, great to have you both. The guy to my left who needs no introduction, the Superintendent of the State Police Colonel Pat Callahan.
First, with a heavy heart, I want to send my condolences to the families of the victims of the horrific fire in Elizabeth on Monday evening that claimed the lives of four residents, including three blessed little children, as well as destroying a local business. Elizabeth is a strong and resilient community and I know why. I know they and we will rally around the survivors as we do whenever tragedy strikes our New Jersey family. I exchanged notes with Mayor Chris Bollwage. We are with him in spirit and prayer. We are also grateful for the hard work of the Elizabeth Fire Department and the local fire officials who are still investigating the fire. May God bless and watch over the souls of those who are lost.
On a much happier note, I also want to give my congratulations to the newly announced New Jersey Teacher of the Year, Angel Santiago. Mr. Santiago is a fifth grade teacher at the Loring Fleming Elementary School in Gloucester Township. He was selected because of his commitment to his students, and because he exemplifies the professionalism that we see in classrooms throughout our state. Congratulations again to Angel, and we tip our cap to every educator up and down the state. Let's all remember, they are a big part of the reason that we have the number one public education system in America.
Next, switching gears, I want to give a few updates if I can. First, our dashboard showing the latest information on cases of coronavirus in our schools has been updated. Again, we promised, Judy, to do this once a week. Today we are showing a total of 16 outbreaks which can be traced to our public schools, accounting for a total of 58 cases of the virus. And again on the left column you see the outbreaks by county; the right column, the number of persons, whether it's students, faculty, staff associated with it. And by the way, remember, this is 16 up from 11 last week, and as Kevin Deemer reminded us, out of over 3,000 school buildings across our state.
The Departments of Health and Education continue their strong partnerships with our educational communities and local health departments to ensure that every precaution is being taken, and that as every new case is identified, it is dealt with quickly and properly to keep our schools safe. We take every one of those outbreaks, every one of those cases seriously, as seriously as we can. But in terms of having a system with over 3,000 buildings, to have 16 of them now in early October is well within any reasonable expectation of where we'd be, and that's a good thing.
Next, switching gears, our efforts to ensure a complete count in the 2020 census continue. I feel like, it says we're in extra innings. I feel like we're in potentially sudden death overtime here of the census, and there's still time to go to 2020census.gov to make sure you and your family are counted. We cannot stop until the census comes to a stop. Remember folks, that it was to have been until October 31st, then the Trump administration limited it to September 30. Then a federal judge said actually, you can't do that, you've got to go to October 31st. And then even the Secretary of the Department of Commerce said it would spill into the early days of October. So while that's moving around, we're going to continue to keep our eye on the ball and keep asking you to get counted.
The Census determines, after all, the fate of billions of dollars in federal funds for our schools, our healthcare systems, our transportation and mass transit networks or small businesses and much, much more And after all, that money is our tax dollars and if it doesn't come to New Jersey, it goes somewhere, but it will go to another state. And by the way, we were dramatically undercounted in 2010, shame on us. So let's bring our money back home. Again, go to 2020census.gov if you haven't already done so, and make sure you are counted.
And if a census enumerator from within your own community knocks on your door, cooperate with them. Your responses to the census are secure and they're protected under the law. The census is important and it is your civic responsibility. So far online, 69.2% of New Jersey households have self-reported through that website, 2020census.gov. And when the households who have responded to a knock by a census taker are included, our state is more than 99% counted. But that also means there are still some of you who we haven't reached. We've got to get to 100. So again, the counting continues. Let's make sure that every New Jerseyan is counted.
Switch gears, forgive me again. Our new online voter registration portal, there you see it, vote.nj.gov, continues to provide a safe and secure means for voters to register. So far, more than 322,000 New Jerseyans have gone to vote.nj.gov to register to vote. The voter registration deadline is this upcoming Tuesday, October 13th. You can't vote if you're not registered. So if you are over age 18 and up and haven't yet registered to vote, go to vote.nj.gov and register today. Again, 18 and up.
Next, switching gears again, the Department of Labor this morning released the latest unemployment figures. Over the past week just over 23,600 New Jerseyans filed an initial claim for unemployment. This is a decrease of roughly 3,500 from the prior week. Overall, since the beginning, more than 1.65 million New Jerseyans have sought unemployment benefits since the beginning of the public health emergency in March, and the Department of Labor has released more than $16.2 billion in benefits. Roughly 96% of all who have been deemed eligible have received payments, and the average length of benefits is more than 15 weeks.
The department also announced that it has launched the process for workers to receive up to six weeks of FEMA lost wages assistance at $300 per week. The claimants who have already attested that their unemployment is COVID related don't need to do a thing; they will receive a lump sum payment if they are eligible, later this month. Those who have not attested why they are out of work will need to certify that their unemployment is COVID related. They are being notified by the Labor Department with instructions.
Eligible claimants will receive the supplemental benefit in a lump sum payment of up to $1,800. While this is not the long-term relief that we had hoped from Washington, it will certainly help struggling New Jersey families and we welcome that. And as I always do, I want to send my thanks to Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo and his team for their continued hard work to ensure that every eligible worker receives the benefits they deserve.
Before we move on, I have to underscore that point. This is something, and if we can find a penny for you folks we will get it and deliver it to you. But shame on Washington and what's going on right now. Just absolutely extraordinary. They weren't in agreement, but Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin and I've spoken with her and Steve Mnuchin and I exchanged notes. They were at least in the room, on the phone, trying to find common ground and that is the spirit of compromise. Not perfect, but compromise.
The fact that the President has said "no more" is appalling. And by the way, it's appalling for state assistance, county assistance, small businesses, and for anybody out there who is unemployed. We'll take the FEMA money, but that's a workaround. What should really happen here is that $600 benefit should be extended, and extended meaningfully, and done so through the normal channels. When you look back on what the federal government did spring into early summer, I actually would give it reasonably strong grades in terms of being there to hold up the economic freefall that we were all in.
But six months ago we started saying, this needs to keep going. We need a bridge. We're going to recover as a state and as a country, there's no question about that. But we need a bridge over troubled water. We need stimulus at all levels. States need it, we've talked about that ad nauseam. Small businesses. How about if you're a restaurant owner right now? You telling me you don't need it? Unemployment insurance and extending. If we only had been able to extend that -- and we still can, by the way -- we would collectively have seen a much better transition period, both for the general economy and for everyone out there individually; every proprietor, every worker.
The clock has almost run out for the moment. So when you heard what the President said the other day, that could now be months until what we're talking about happens, whether he's reelected or Joe Biden is elected. We can't afford that. We will, as a nation, and we probably will as a state, go into a freefall as a result of that. And hardworking individuals, especially those who are unemployed will be the ones that bear the biggest burden. Please God, folks, get something done. Mr. President, please support it, sign it, and send it out to the folks who need it the most.
Finally, before we get to the overnight numbers, the list of states from which travelers to New Jersey are being advised to observe a 14-day self-quarantine period has been updated. The 35 states and territories in red on this map have, over a seven-day rolling average, either more than 10 new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents or a daily positivity rate greater than 10%. Again, either or over a seven-day rolling average. Anyone entering New Jersey from one of these states, or reentering in the case of traveling residents, is advised to observe a two-week self-quarantine period and to get a coronavirus test.
As Judy and I discussed ad nauseam on Monday, just getting that test on Day 1 of your 14 days doesn't get it done. You've got to wait a few days, maybe the fifth day or more, to get a test to make sure something wasn't incubating in your system. We know this isn't easy stuff, folks, we get it. It's not fun. But if we're going to drive this thing to the ground, that's what we have to do. So visitcovid19.nj.gov/travel for more information to learn whether you should be self-quarantining or to fill out the Department of Health's travel survey.
Let us now, with a little bit of sobriety to say the least, turn to the overnight numbers. Today we are reporting an additional 1,301 positive test results, giving us a cumulative statewide total of 211,148. Before we move on, Dan, the last day, Judy, we were at that level of positives in a day was on May 29th, and it was 1,394, and so that's a sobering number.
Of these totals, of the 1,301 totals, 285 or 22% are from Ocean County, and 128, or roughly 10%, are from my county Monmouth. These two counties remain our greatest focus, but far from our only focus. Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Passaic and Union Counties all also reported more than 80 additional cases each.
The statewide spot positivity rate for all tests recorded on October 4th, which was Sunday, is 3.69%. By the way, we've talked about how you kind of can get a sense of the testing capacity, and this is rough numbers. If you take 1,301 positives and you divide it by 0.0369, which is the spot positivity rate, you get a number that's plus or minus 35,000 tests.
The good news, silver lining in this, is we've got as robust a testing reality as any American state and that's before we get the Binax and their first delivery has just come in, before we add that capacity to our numbers. The rate of transmission is currently 1.22. That's actually down slightly from a couple of days ago, so we were as high as 1.27, it's 1.26, 1.24, 1.22, let's hope that keeps going in the right direction.
In our hospitals, another sobering number, there were 422 COVID-positive patients, 230 patients awaiting their tests, that's a total of 652. That's the highest number since August 6th,, so that's a couple of months. As I said, not just since August 6, the numbers of COVID positive patients and the total number of patients in our hospitals have been increasing over the past several days. A total of 148 patients were in intensive care, and this number has also increased over the past several days; 52 requiring use of a ventilator.
Sadly, with a heavy heart, we report an additional 11 losses of life confirmed to have been from COVID-19 complications. The total of confirmed deaths are now at 14,373. Additionally, the number of probable deaths as determined by the Communicable Disease Service, overseen by Ed, is currently 1,788. So of the 11 deaths, Judy, seven are from the past seven days, including two each from October 5, 6, 7. Again, apples to oranges, which we say every time we say it, but just so everyone has a spot sense, hospitals reported 13 deaths yesterday; but again, those numbers are not in the confirmed numbers.
As we do every day, let's take a couple of minutes to remember three more of the blessed New Jerseyans we have lost to this virus. We begin today in Montclair, the People's Republic, to remember longtime resident Carla Horowitz. She was 77 years old. Carla was born in Massachusetts -- please don't hold that against her, Pat -- and lived for four years in Japan after she married her husband Milt in 1962. Milt enlisted in the United States Air Force, which is why they were in Japan. From there, the couple settled in Montclair, and that's where they stayed. Carla discovered a love for the arts during her time in Japan, and would turn that love into her career, starting a pottery business, the Clay Cellar Pottery, that would grow from being housed in the basement of a friend to a storefront in Montclair's south end business district, that would serve as an all-in, one-shop studio and classroom for 16 years. She would go on to cofound the Doubletree Gallery of Fine Art and Contemporary Crafts, and teach pottery at the Montclair Adult School, the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts and the Montclair Art Museum. She was a member of the Potters Guild of New Jersey and was secretary treasurer of the Riker Hill Artists Association in Livingston, where Clay Cellar Pottery would eventually find a home.
If art was Carla's first love, community service was a close second. She started working in the Montclair Clerk's Office in 1993 and would work there until 2013, retiring as Deputy Township Clerk. Her husband Milt told me he believes her voice is still on the answering machine at the Clerk's Office, God bless her. Carla and Milt were also supporters of New Jersey Peace Action in the World Fellowship Center in New Hampshire. Carla leaves behind Milt, with whom I had a fascinating conversation on Monday about their time in the Air Force, especially about being Jewish and the stigmas associated with that at that time. This is the early to mid-60s, just a fascinating discussion, and obviously about his beloved Carla. They were married for 58 years.
She's also survived by her daughter Denise and son-in-law Daniel and her granddaughter Vanessa. They lost their son Jeffrey, sadly and tragically. He was born in Japan, by the way. They lost him in 1997. She leaves her brothers Lauren and Dennis and their spouses, as well as cousins, nieces, nephews, and countless friends. A full life if there ever was one. We thank Carla for sharing her passion for the arts and for her service to the community of Montclair that she loved, and may her memory be a blessing.
Next, we remember Dr. Kenneth Jewel, look at that smile, of Mountain Lakes. Ken was a respected radiologist who grew up on Long Island and was educated at both New York University and the University of Buffalo School of Medicine. He truly loved what he did, and always gave his time to mentor fellow doctors, nurses and technicians at Montclair Radiology, where he worked for 38 years until his retirement in 2011. Many of those colleagues became lifelong friends.
But of course, life isn't all work and Ken made sure he spent the rest of his time doing things he loved with the people he loved most, his family. He was a runner and tennis player and a movie buff. He loved taking his wife Jane, with whom I had the great honor of speaking with on Monday, for a sushi dinner as much as he enjoyed snorkeling with his kids on fun family vacations and playing in the pool with his grandchildren. Those are the memories his family will cherish.
Ken leaves behind Jane, to whom he had been married for 56 years, along with his sons Andy and Dan. They are respectively in New York City and Washington DC, and their wives, Shala and Lan respectively, and his beloved grandchildren Sarah, Zack, Emma, and Dylan. We thank Ken for his decades serving his patients and for being a model for the next generation of healthcare practitioners. May God bless him and watch over him and his family.
And finally today we recalled Thomas King -- look at that shot -- of Paramus, who put up a valiant battle against this virus at the age of 90. Thomas was New Jersey through and through, a native of Carny and a graduate of both St Peter's University and Seton Hall University. After serving in the army, he returned home to New Jersey to begin a career in education as an English teacher at Hasbrouck Heights High School. In a few short years, however, he would trade the classroom for the administrative offices, first as the Vice Principal of Hasbrouck Heights High School, and then Principal, and finally, Superintendent of Schools for Hasbrouck Heights. In all, a 33-year career. He was literally a legend in that community.
After he retired, Thomas returned to the classroom, albeit in higher education as an adjunct professor of education at William Paterson University. He was a proud and devout Catholic and a longtime parishioner at Annunciation Roman Catholic Church in Paramus. He was active in the Hasbrouck Heights Lions Club. Thomas is now reunited with his beloved wife, Eleanor, who we lost in the year 2017. He leaves behind their children, three guys, Thomas Jr, James, William, two of whom are in New Jersey, one in California, and Kathleen with whom I had the great honor of speaking, she's in Hillsdale, and their spouses and 10 beloved grandchildren. Are you ready, Judy? Megan, Shawn, Terra, Lorelei, Calvin, Daphne, Aiden, Dylan, Tyler, and Evan. We thank Thomas for his years of service to our nation and to the students and families of Hasbrouck Heights. May God bless and watch over him, his memory and his family, and may God bless the families of every New Jerseyan we have lost.
Next, before we recognize another of the great organizations that has partnered with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to remain strong during this pandemic, I am proud to announce that the EDA is about to pass the mark of helping 20,000 small businesses and organizations. Through emergency grants and loans, the state has put roughly $150 million right onto Main Street, New Jersey. One of the organizations which has benefited is the Atlantic City Arts Foundation, a 501-C3 that works with creators and neighborhoods to promote arts-based tourism and economic development initiatives. Through the Arts Foundation, Atlantic City has tapped into a wellspring of community pride, self-esteem and civic engagement.
The foundation's programs include one in mural arts, and our former Special Counsel for Atlantic City, I want to give him a shout out, my dear friend Jim Johnson, he even joined the Foundation in putting his mark on one of their projects, and that's Jim on the right looking way cool, I have to say.
To keep their mission strong, the foundation worked with the EDA to receive $3,000 in grant funding and $42,000 alone to meet their expenses. Executive Director Joyce Hagen, and I had the great honor of speaking with Joyce on Monday, she's there on the left, has been a tremendous leader and champion of the arts in Atlantic City, and I'm proud that we've been able to partner with her to ensure many more great works to come. Their website, AtlanticCityArtsFoundation.org. Look them up, it's worth it.
And if your small business or local organization is facing challenges due to this pandemic -- by the way, who isn't? -- I encourage you to visit the Economic Development Authority at njeda.com to see what programs may be available to you.
And finally, Judy, before we turn the show over to you, I urge every one of you to keep up your work in helping us beat back this virus. Every time you put on your face mask, you keep a social distance from others, you wash your hands with soap and water, you're doing your part to help us win this battle and come back stronger, fairer and more resilient than before. Wherever I travel across our state -- and by the way, I'm trying to do more and more as I can within the reasons of being responsible about that travel -- I see so many of you, by the millions in fact, who have taken to heart your role and responsibility in this fight. We all thank you for being model residents.
But we all know there are also others who still don't get it. So to anyone who still is under the misguided thinking that this is just like the flu, it's well past time for a wakeup call. It isn't. Here's the number to keep in your head. In just seven months, the number of New Jerseyans who have died from COVID-19 -- again in just seven months -- is nearly 11 times the total number of residents who died from flu-related complications in the entirety of the 2018-2019 flu season; 11 times. We must take this virus very seriously.
I was extremely disappointed to hear the President's words when he got out of the hospital. By the way, we continue to wish him, the First Lady, Governor Christie, anybody else who has been infected with this awful virus nothing but a speedy recovery and the best of health. But when you hear words, like when you see the mask coming off, and you hear words like "Don't let the virus dominate your life. Be strong." I will tell you I speak -- we memorialize families every time we're together. I speak with survivors, loved ones, all the time and there are literally two things in common with every single -- as diverse as the people are and as different as they are in their lives lived, each one of them was extraordinary but there are two things in common.
Number one, they fought this virus tooth and nail, in some cases for weeks and in others for months. They fought it. They didn't give an inch. They fought it as hard as they could and in every way they could. And that's a common trait among all those whose lives we have lost.
The other common trait? Every one of them is dead. Every single one of them is dead.
So to say this virus isn't still with us, to say that it isn't virulent, to say that it could not take your life is completely false, every speck of that. So it's simple. We don't have a therapeutic yet. God willing, soon. We don't have a vaccine yet. Again, God willing, soon. And Judy will make sure when we get it we'll kick the tires, make sure it's safe, efficacious, and it's delivered equitably.
But until we have those, we're left with very few things at our disposal. The bad news is we don't have those. The silver lining is what we've got is not advanced calculus. This is basic stuff, folks. It's social distancing. It's wearing these. It's washing your hands with soap and water. It's taking yourself off the field if either you've traveled to a hotspot or if you've known that you've been exposed to somebody with COVID, or if you've got symptoms, or obviously if you yourself have COVID. And lastly, get tested, but get tested at the right point. The minute you think, Judy, that you've been exposed, the minute you get symptoms, the minute you've come back from traveling, quarantine first, wait a few days, and then get tested. I think our magic number is at least five days.
Folks, that's not complicated, right? That's very basic stuff. That's what we've got to do. Please, God, do that. When we get 1,301 cases in one day, we know we're still in the fight, folks. When we memorialize these people every day, they're gone. They're dead. They've left us. Please, please, please continue to do the right thing, as millions of you have. And for those of you who haven't, wake up. For crying out loud, wake up. Wake up.
One last thing, Judy, before I turn it over, on a slightly more upbeat note. On Tuesday, I thought we had great meetings with Dr. Debbie Birx and the leadership of both Rowan University where Judy and Pat joined her, and Rutgers University where the three of us joined her. It was a real honor to have her in New Jersey and I want to thank her again for making the trip. She has been a consistent ally and source for us through all this craziness. She's been very good. And she said, listen, we happened to focus on higher ed and higher ed continues to be a big priority for us as a health matter and also as an enforcement matter. But she basically said it's a version of what we're seeing, which is community spread and we're seeing that right now in counties. It's people congregating in close quarters, indoors, is basically what we're dealing with.
I want to end with something she said which is incredibly important for us to keep in mind, and Pat sent this quote along. She said, "We need a surge in due diligence to prevent a surge in COVID-19." We need a surge in due diligence to prevent a surge in COVID-19. So let's have that surge in due diligence, especially now as the weather turns cooler and more activities begin to move indoors, where we know this virus is at its worse. Let's keep up the fight, folks. Let's keep using our common sense for the common good.
With that, it is my pleasure and honor to turn things over to the woman who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Thank you, Governor and good afternoon. As the Governor shared, we are seeing increasing signs of community spread in the state, predominantly in adolescents and young adults, but not exclusively. It is vital that residents continue to follow the steps we know can help prevent transmission: social distancing, wearing a mask, getting tested, staying home when you're sick. And if you've had close contact with someone who has had COVID-19, quarantining.
We are monitoring several specific areas of concern where we are seeing increases in cases. Most notable is the increase in cases that we have been following in Ocean County and specifically in Lakewood. Today, we're reporting 285 new cases in Ocean County, 206 of which are in Lakewood. In Lakewood, we are seeing increases primarily in persons between 19 and 49 years of age, primarily in white, non-Hispanic groups, and predominantly in males. Some of the increase of COVID-19 cases may be related to gatherings associated with religious services and/or celebrations that occurred in late September.
We are working closely with the local health department and other community leaders to increase testing, contact tracing and to provide information on steps to prevent further transmission. We've greatly increased testing in Lakewood. Just yesterday, more than 1,000 individuals were tested.
Today there is testing available at the Monmouth Medical Southern Campus in Lakewood and Lakewood High School. Tomorrow there will be testing at the high school again in the municipal lot, and on Saturday testing will be available at the Lakewood High School. We are also closely monitoring increases in college-aged students in Monmouth and Middlesex Counties, and at other colleges and universities as well.
Any communal living presents an at-risk situation if masking and social physical distancing is not adhered to. We are working with local health departments and university partners in those counties to expand testing for asymptomatic persons and to ensure contacts are quickly identified and quarantined. To date, cases don't appear to be associated with on-campus instruction, but rather are associated with informal gatherings and socializing. The department has set up a hotspot team, several of them for Ocean and Monmouth Counties, including Lakewood, and a second one for colleges and universities to work closely with the local health departments.
We have received our first shipment of BinaxNOW COVID-19 rapid tests, so some of those kits will be distributed by the Department of Health, the State Office of Emergency Management, and will also be distributed to county offices of emergency management for pickup by schools.
Over the past week, we have seen an increase in cases. We are seeing an uptick in hospitalized cases as well. Our rate of transmission is 1.22. As you know our goal is to keep that under 1, and it has been over 1 for several weeks now. We are anticipating a second wave and we are preparing based on lessons learned from our prior experiences. If individuals do not adhere to social distancing, masking guidelines, washing your hands, staying home if you're sick, this wave has the potential to become a surge. We have stockpiled PPE and we've stockpile antiviral medication Remdesivir, and we have stockpiled ventilators. Our biggest concern will be staffing. If individuals, if healthcare workers fall ill like in the prior surge, we will have a problem; staffing will be affected. And unlike March and April when healthcare workers from other states came to New Jersey to help out, those workers are now fully engaged in fighting this virus in their own states. We continue to work with our long-term care facilities on infection control and stockpiling.
We know that the virus did not take a break. It is presenting itself in younger individuals who are experiencing mild and moderate symptoms. We also know that asymptomatic spread is more prevalent than initially thought, so the non-pharmaceutical interventions -- handwashing, physical distancing, masking -- are even more important. We know that inside is more of a problem than outside. As the cold weather sets in and people move indoors, the threat of spread is even greater. We also know that we will be fighting this enemy for a longer period of time, and hope the community protection to effective vaccination against COVID-19 takes hold.
Moving on to my daily report, as the Governor shared, our hospitals reported 652 hospitalizations of COVID-positive patients, or PUIs. 148 of those individuals are in critical care, of which 35% are on ventilators. Thankfully, there are no new reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. Our total cases remain at 58.
At the state veterans homes the numbers remain the same, 390 cases among residents. That's cumulative, they are not new cases, and unfortunately 146 deaths among our veterans. At our state psychiatric hospitals, six new cases have been identified at Greystone and also one new report at Ancora. . Across the hospitals there have been a total cumulative 222 cases and 13 patient deaths.
New Jersey positivity rate as of October 4th is 3.69%. The Northern part of the state is reporting 3%, the Central part of the state 4.34%, and the southern part of the state 4.08%. A robust contact tracing effort is underway. It is the key to containing the spread of COVID-19.
And as you know, the COVID Alert NJ app is complementing our traditional contact tracing effort. The COVID app does not track or record users GPS locations. It uses Bluetooth proximity technology, and works through an underlying system developed by Google and Apple. To date, COVID Alert NJ has been adopted by approximately 3% of New Jerseyans. More than 137,000 have downloaded the app since last Thursday, but we need more. We need to reach a lot wider public participation in order to improve the effectiveness of the app and ensure that all New Jersey residents and vulnerable populations are protected against COVID-19.
To the residents of New Jersey, please add your phone to the COVID fight. Download COVID Alert NJ. Receive exposure notifications, protect your community and stay completely anonymous. Join the movement and encourage your friends, your family, your neighbors to do the same. Do it for each other and for us all. That concludes my daily report.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you on all the above. Several quickies. If we all downloaded that app, or at least a bunch of us, that would make our contact tracing life a heck of a lot easier.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Absolutely.
Governor Phil Murphy: And that would aid and abet directly our ability to basically surround any flare up and drive it back into the ground.
Secondly, your comment about veterans and the overwhelming loss of life, 146 confirmed losses of life. There's no silver lining to a loss of life, period but we have to say that the numbers 63, 81, 3 has not changed, I think, since June 10th. So four months, please God it stays that way.
Thirdly, and this was the point I alluded to but you said it much better than I, the higher ed piece, I think this is on me. We could give the wrong impression that there's something around going into a university building that's the issue. It's actually the communal living point that you've made, right? It's the close congregation living.
Yeah, I'm sure there are basement keg parties that are part of this, and that's what Deborah Birx thought when Debbie said, community spread, yes at higher ed, no question that's a focus and that'll be a Binax focus, I know for you in terms of where you get the testing, but it's also the broader reality of folks all piled in together and living together. Is that fair to say? So thank you, as always.
Pat, obviously, we'd love to get an update on compliance, on our brothers and sisters on the West Coast fighting fires. I don't know about you, but I was a little bit taken aback. The FBI has just arrested six persons in a plot to kidnap Michigan governor, our friend who's an extraordinary governor, and a very close friend, Gretchen Whitmer. Just goes to show you that -- I think that goes to show you a lot of things, but the more we can come together, the better. This is just beyond the pale, at least from my perspective, and you've done an extraordinary job, as always. So Pat, over to you. Any observations on any of the above?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you, Governor, good afternoon. On the compliance front, Jersey City Police responded to the 512 Quantum Sound Bar for a noise complaint. They found overcapacity, no social distancing, no masks, and the owner was cited with a summons for that.
To the Governor's point with regard to our forest fire service, California has officially advised us they will not be extending their mission. They will be fighting fires for the next couple days. Their mission is due to end Saturday. I know we flew four vehicles out there, but California has agreed to service those four vehicles, and that entire team will be driving back to New Jersey; probably a four-day trip that'll start Sunday or Monday.
Governor Phil Murphy: Couldn't charter the rush cargo?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: No, they decided to drive so that we expect again, not only that we pray for them the next couple days of fighting fires, but certainly for that long trip from the West Coast here.
And lastly, Governor, you know, if you've seen, we're also monitoring Hurricane Delta, which is expected to make landfall in Louisiana and Texas as a Category 2. It is a monstrous, monstrous hurricane. And as we are always ready and poised should an EMAC request come from our Gulf states to support them in certainly in any way, shape, or form that we can. That's all I have, Governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Pat. I'm not going to get on the soapbox on climate change but I will say just as a very simple observation, the amount of conversations we've had both publicly here and privately many more so about forest fires in the West and hurricanes in the South and the amount of interactions we've had, I've had with fellow governors and you've had with your fellow leaders, is it's becoming almost a weekly reality. This season, of course, it's the height of the season, so.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: And Monday and Tuesday we're expecting a substantial amount of rain from that hurricane, so we're watching that as well and we'll be obviously ready, Governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you as always, Pat. Speaking of Monday and Tuesday, Monday is a State Holiday, unless I've got my wires crossed, so next week will be unusual, and I think we reserve the right to call an audible on this, but we're only going to be together one time next week, and that's a week from today at one o'clock unless you hear otherwise. We may well call an audible. I know I'm on the road publicly on Tuesday, and I believe publicly again on Wednesday, and we'll communicate virtually with you all. If we think there's a reason, you know, we're not taking these numbers right now lightly, I can promise you that. This is our overwhelming focus. If we think there's a reason to get back together in person sooner than that, we will do that. But unless you hear otherwise, that's where it'll be.
So let's start, Brent, with you if that's all right, good afternoon.
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Good afternoon. Is part of the dramatic increase in cases announced today because of a delay in results in Lakewood, because Saturday was the Sabbath and there might not have been testing on Saturday?
What happens if the state qualifies for its own travel advisory? Apparently getting close?
When did you last speak with Governor Christie, and how is he doing?
Do the recent case uptakes complicate increasing capacity in indoor dining, and are we closer to tightening restrictions than we are lifting them further?
And last one, President Trump said today he may have gotten COVID from Gold Star families, but that reception he had with them was four days before the Bedminster trip. What's your reaction to that?
Governor Phil Murphy: I missed that last one again, President Trump said?
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: President Trump said today he may have gotten COVID from meeting with Gold Star families which came four days – it was a reception that came four days before the Bedminster trip. Any reaction to that?
Governor Phil Murphy: My Lord.
Let's say, on the first one, it's possible, right? Delayed results are quite possible due to the holiday.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, the testing volume for the holidays is really low, so when testing came back up --
Governor Phil Murphy: By the way, really low, I'm proud to say for New Jersey is 20,000 a day, which not many states are doing, by the way, for the community itself, but even for the state.
I had no other than, making my comment earlier, I love the Christopher Nolan line, our job and our collective energies are to keep us below that line. And again, those are seven-day rolling averages and we're doing everything we can to keep it below the line.
I exchanged notes with Governor Christie last night. I've got no further insight. I shot him a note, just as I had done already a couple of days earlier, just to say that we're here for him. He was very gracious in his reply and he remains in our prayers, as does everyone. Obviously, former first lady Mary Pat and everybody who's been infected. He is a fighter, let there be no doubt about it. He is the quintessential Jersey fighter. We're all with him in thoughts, prayers, and we're here to do whatever we can for him.
You know, unless Judy or Ed or Pat say otherwise, I don't think indoor dining is right now, based on what we've seen, we can't say definitively that that's a cause for this. I don't know that you would agree with that, but in our private deliberations we haven't seen that. So as it relates to specifically indoor dining, I hope at the right point we can continue ratcheting it up. I had a good exchange with my friend Howe Werth the other day. He said, "Listen, if you don't feel good about taking a big quantum step, how about increasing it in 10% increments?" I thought that was actually a fair suggestion, and we're kicking the tires on that.
I think gatherings, Brent, so less indoor dining but gatherings, particularly indoor gatherings, are ones that we're looking very carefully at. Every option remains on the table and I continue to believe, again, Judy should correct me if she sees this differently, or Pat or Ed. But it's more likely to be scalpel than it is blunt instrument. Could we see some move on indoor gatherings, perhaps? We don't see the evidence in indoor dining, which is why I think we'd like to slowly but surely keep going with that, particularly given that the weather is going against us.
I don't even know what to say to the comment about the Gold Star families. First of all, why God are we bring a Gold Star families into this. By definition, you're not a Gold Star family unless you've lost a loved one in your family in combat or in military service. I just would repeat that the Bedminster trip should never have taken place.
I did last night, by the way, I'm not getting political, I did three back-to-back-to-back virtual fundraisers. We're doing them all the time, Republicans and Democrats. That's sort of the way it is these days. I don't know who was thinking what that they actually had gone ahead with that trip. I can't speak to when the President was infected, but they knew they had been exposed to someone who was COVID positive, and the rules of the road that Judy has laid out, if you know you've been exposed to someone who is COVID-positive, it's black and white what you're supposed to do. Take yourself off the field. Certainly don't take a trip. So that's all I've got on that. Do you have any questions, sir? You're okay? You guys, and then we'll come back to you, Dave.
AC Mike Lopez, Atlantic City: AC Mike Lopez from Atlantic City.
Governor Phil Murphy: Mike, I could barely recognize you between the hat and the mask and the whole shooting match there.
AC Mike Lopez, Atlantic City: Good to be here.
Governor Phil Murphy: Nice to have you.
AC Mike Lopez, Atlantic City: Thanks for the Arts Foundation shout out also, didn't know that was going to be mentioned, a fantastic organization.
Governor Phil Murphy: Great.
AC Mike Lopez, Atlantic City: Get to know it. Governor, this past week, at the Buddakan and Continental, two restaurants on the boardwalk and pier, announced that they will be closing permanently. Atlantic City relies heavily, as we all know, on its bar and restaurant scene as part of its tourism economy, a sector which experts say will be the last sector to recover. The establishments can't survive, so they say, indefinitely on 25%. I know you've answered a little bit right there on indoor dining, takeout, delivery and outdoor dining. Once the weather changes, is there a plan? I know we discuss it pretty much every day, for those businesses to survive the winter back to the spring.
And then also if I could, sir, Stockton next week, I believe it's one of your trips down south. What do you see that as the impact in South Jersey and Atlantic City, Atlantic County in general for that groundbreaking that we've been so eagerly waiting on next week?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, thank you, Mike. So on the first, I saw the same announcement. My wife and I, usually twice a year we'll spend at least a night, maybe a weekend in Atlantic City; we're going to do that again coming up, I hope sooner than later. One of our favorite spots is to go and have lunch at Buddakan, and if it's a Saturday or a day off -- don't tell anybody -- I might even have a beer or two. So I saw that announcement and reacted with a heavy heart. I don't know the other restaurant, but I know Buddakan.
And sadly, as bummed as we all should be, but sadly, it's one example of many right now, not just in Atlantic City, but around the state and around the country. The hospitality/restaurant business, of all the business sectors, that's at the top of the list of those that have been clobbered.
It's another opportunity for me to say the EDA is doing everything they can but no state, including ours, has enough resources to be able to give the full frontal addressing of the restaurant crisis that we have in the state. We need more federal money, and that's a great example. Not just the state/counties/local, not just unemployment extension, which we talked about, but small businesses, and especially restaurant and hospitality.
I hope this is temporary. I know they've said it's permanent, but I hope somehow that money comes and flowers begin to bloom. And as you said particularly, the weather's getting colder. That's an example of a restaurant that's inside of a pier, the Pier Mall there. They don't have the outdoor option. And even if we get there in increments, we need the feds to be there.
I think the Stockton, I'm thrilled to be in Atlantic City I think on Wednesday, if my memory serves me. Great opportunity. Stockton, listen higher ed, period, is a game changer in our state. Stockton is a great example of that, and it's Atlantic City presence is a further example. I toured their dormitory set up there when it was being constructed years ago before I was Governor. I'm thrilled to be with President Harvey Kesselman and his team and the board members next Wednesday for that groundbreaking. It's a big deal.
And by the way, anywhere higher ed plants a flag, it has a knock-on impact on the local economy. So not only is it good for Stockton and higher ed, but it puts roots into the community, and that's exactly what we need in a lot of places right now in New Jersey, but certainly at the top of the list is Atlantic City. Thank you. Dave, good afternoon.
David Matthau, NJ 101.5: Hi, Governor. 1,301 new cases, that's a lot. What's going on here specifically? Do we have information? People are going to hear this and get really nervous in New Jersey, I believe. I feel nervous. You seem a little freaked out, Governor. This is serious. Do we have a sense about what may happen in terms of possible pullback? I know you had mentioned everything's on the table. Could you clarify that? What's the next step here? I mean, could this be the beginning of the so-called second wave? I know Judy just mentioned, you know, that looks like it's possible or probable. I mean, could this be the start of it? It's not only Ocean, it's not only Monmouth, it's a lot. You're appealing to people to wear masks, social distance. I mean, this is getting serious now here. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, it is. I mean, it's hard to argue with any of that. I wouldn't say I'm freaked out. And by the way, Judy and Ed, Ed lives in this, I suspect would endorse this with the exceptions of the hyper flare-ups that we've seen in places like Lakewood or at Monmouth University or Rowan, the modeling suggested at a certain point we're going to start to see numbers like this. So there's, I'm gonna just going to say 20% or 25% or maybe 30% more on top of this beyond what we expected, but let's say it's 25%, you still have 1,000 cases.
And as I mentioned in my introductory remarks and Judy amplified, Bergen 97, Essex 96, Passaic 89, Union 85. Those are four counties, in addition to the 285 in Ocean and the 128 in Monmouth. There's kind of no denying there's some amount of community spread here.
What's on the table? Again, I lean more scalpel than blunt instrument, but they both have to be on the table. The blunt instrument, I think – and when I say blunt instrument I mean statewide -- it's got to be in the category, I would think -- and Judy, you should weigh in here -- in gathering limits, things like that. The scalpel stuff has to go into particular communities or particular pockets.
We're not waiting; as you heard from Judy, we've already plussed up testing, contact tracing. You should expect to see, I think you've previewed this, Judy, that the Binax -- the Binax test, by the way, if you haven't been paying attention and you're just tuning in on this, this is something that can be done locally, administered by a school nurse, and you get your result in 15 minutes. We just got our first batch in. Judy and Pat, both from a health and OEM standpoint are overseeing over the next few days how that gets distributed, that's in process. That'll give us something, if somebody walks into the nurse's office with a sniffle, as we said, we know in 15 minutes to either send home or give them a Kleenex, and that can make a big difference in higher ed, vulnerable communities.
And so we're watching this, there's no other way to put it. You know, this is somewhat within the modeling -- more than somewhat within the modeling of what we expected, but we've got some flare ups that are on top of it in both communities, as well as folks generally need to know that we have to keep all options on the table. And again, I hope it's more scalpel than blunt instrument.
Anything you want to add, Judy? Ed, how about modeling? Can we get Ed to weigh in on that?
DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: Sure. So as the Governor said, certainly everybody's been talking for a long time about fall surges and the issues with going back indoors, colder weather, congregating, all those things happening at the same time. So certainly when you look at models and other things, we had always expected the numbers to increase. Modeling takes you so far; modeling is not 100% predictive as far as things go, and certainly we're keeping a very close eye on this. The numbers go up and they go down every day. There's a bunch of different reasons why this number may be higher than would be expected but certainly it is concerning that we're seeing this trend up and that number is so high.
Really, I just want to echo what other people have been saying out there. To me, it is less about a single place that I can go in and say okay, boy, there's really a problem with gyms; we're not seeing that. What we're seeing overall is spread in many different places, some associated with colleges and other places. But I do strongly want to encourage people, I know that they're tired. I know that this is hard. I know that they've been doing this for a long time with all that is happening, but wear the mask, social distances. You know, I walked into a restaurant the other day and people were sitting around eating and they had masks there, but they weren't wearing the masks even when they weren't eating. Those sorts of things, you need to do this continually, regularly, all the time. You always need to be thinking about it.
Governor Phil Murphy: As I look over at Ed, I see a bottle of Purell right in front of him, so he's living his advice. Sir, do you have anything?
Reporter: No, not today.
Governor Phil Murphy: I'll slip you another $20. How about you, sir? You too? Okay. Stacey, my guess is you've got a question, so I can't make the same offer, I'm sorry. Sir.
Reporter: Yes, first for the Commissioner, you said the state is preparing for a second wave by looking at prior experience. What specifically is being done to make sure nursing homes do not become the COVID clusters they were before?
And for the Governor, has the Trump National Golf Club been cited for any EO, Executive Order violations for the President's October 1st fundraiser? If not, what do you say to restaurants, businesses, bars, and average citizens who were fined and why they had to pay a penalty, but the President does not? Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: I'll take the second one and back into the first. Is that okay? That's a matter for the Attorney General and the Somerset County Prosecutor, so I'll leave it in their lane. What I would say is, again, I don't have full visibility on this but there appears to have been an indoor aspect where people weren't wearing masks. They were closer than they should have been, and there was some buffet food element. My word to everybody else is don't do it. Don't do it. And I'll leave it to the Attorney General and the Somerset County Prosecutor to continue their work as it relates to this specific event.
Listen, Judy, as I pass it to you on long-term care, we hired Manatt, they gave us a series of tough love recommendations. Some of it was by Executive Order, a bunch of it by laws that I've actually now signed; some more that we're actually now working with, building stockpiles of PPE and requiring that. Paying the staff at these places as part of one of the laws so that they don't have to work two or three jobs. Cohorting, meaning separating as we said, from moment one, to make sure everybody – and by the way, the uneven performance in the industry, that they actually did that and do that between positive/non-positive, not just residents but also staff. But Judy, anything else you want to say on that front?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, we're on weekly calls with the long-term care associations and industry. In addition to stockpiling, promoting more employee testing, because we do know that when you have congregate living, they are contracting the virus from what comes into the building. We're starting education on infection prevention and control. We have set up an emergency operations center so if they run into trouble with a second wave or unfortunately if it's a real surge, they will have their own EOC at the Department of Health that will work closely with the Office of Emergency Management.
We are not only working with them to develop cohorting within their organizations, but we will also be developing COVID-only nursing homes and transferring individuals appropriately, so that the spread of the disease – that the disease does not spread amongst people that are negative.
Governor Phil Murphy: And again, we had this huge reality which was not just in New Jersey, it was in America, where it was the unwitting staff member or the unwitting loved one, asymptomatic, who came in and infected. We've taken, as you've heard, some of them have taken a lot of steps to make sure that does not happen going forward including, by the way, a lot of testing. Thank you.
Stace, good afternoon.
Stacey Barchenger, Asbury Park Press: Good afternoon. We've been hearing concerns, I guess, that residents who go to register to vote online are either encountering a frozen website or an internal error message. I wonder if you're aware of that problem and what's being done to fix it? And I guess more broadly, what are you doing to ensure that the site doesn't crash like happened in Florida earlier this week?
Also, the VFW has demanded that a special prosecutor investigate the deaths at the veterans homes. Do you agree that this should be done? And if not, can you explain what your previous call for a full accounting means?
On the situation in Michigan, investigators there said other states were also targeted. Can you say if New Jersey was one of them? And if so, will you beef up security or what would be the response?
Lastly, my colleagues at the Asbury Park Press in the USA Today Network this week published an investigation about loopholes and lax oversight that they found when it comes to keeping dangerous bus drivers off the road and preventing bus companies from switching names and continuing to win contracts. Today, the state police and the Attorney General announced charges against one of the companies. Colonel, I'm curious if more charges against that company or other companies might be forthcoming.
And Governor, will you make or consider other changes when it comes to surprise inspections, or have any intent to close other loopholes that my colleagues found? Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. I'm not aware of the problems with the site, but I promise you we will follow up on that. If I can, Dan, will you make sure we do that? And obviously, that site crashing is something that we don't want to see happen, for obvious reasons. I'll come back to you.
And by the way, so far, so good. We have a lot of people who have registered. So the good news is it's got to be working in some form or fashion because there are a lot of people who are registering online, I don't care what party they're in. They're registering and that's a good thing.
I would just say on the veterans homes, I mentioned a minute ago, 62, 81, 3 are the first three numbers, awful numbers, 146. There is no silver lining in a loss of life, but they haven't moved in four months. There will be a full accounting, I've got no more color to say on that but I promise you that that is something that we have not and will not lose sight of, our veterans. We've had this, we've seen this around the country, we've seen it in long-term care generally but our blessed veterans, we need to stand with at all costs.
I'm not aware of other states, in addition to Michigan's governor, that have been targeted. I want to just say she's a great person. I know her very well, she's also a great governor. This is completely unacceptable. And again, it's a symptom of the moment we're in which people who are at the fringe are given a permission slip to do things like that, which is incredibly sick. Again, I'm not aware of others. I'm not aware of anything in New Jersey, but I know that Pat carries a gun and I'll be following him out of here very closely.
Dangerous bus drivers, listen, I've not read the articles. Pat should talk about the action if he wishes, or Matt Platkin is with us, as well, the Chief Counsel, to talk about any action that the AG or state police have taken but what you've described is unacceptable. So am I open minded to other steps? Maybe statute? I've signed a lot of laws related to school buses. If there's more steps we should be taking with, I assume these are commercial buses, that's something that I'd be open minded to. You mentioned spot inspections. I'd be open minded to, without having been read in on what the actual facts are, keeping dangerous bus drivers out of the driver's seat is something I'd be committed to. Pat, anything you want to add.
State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan: I would just add, that investigation does fall under the Attorney General's Office but whether it's the theft by deception, fraud, improper endorsements on licenses, wherever that exists, we will certainly as a state police support the Attorney General's efforts to not only identify but then also to investigate. And if probable cause exists, to charge them accordingly.
Governor Phil Murphy: Matt, anything you want to add? You're good? Again, this is an uncomfortably long stretch before we'll see you again, so just watch that space. If we think there's a reason particularly, Dave to your point, the numbers continue to go in this direction which we're obviously not just monitoring, we're doing a lot to address it. But it's the breadth of the numbers right now. Yes, there are hotspots in Ocean and Monmouth but it's broader than we would like and that's something that we're going to stay very close to. So expect a week from today, but expect to hear a lot from us in the interim. As I say, I know I'll be public. Actually, I'll be down South, as I recall, tomorrow and I'll be in public as well on Tuesday and Wednesday, so more details on that as they come out.
I want to thank Judy and Ed as always. Pat, thank you. Matt, Dan. Jared Maples is not with us, so we're putting an APB out on Jared today. To each and every one of you, thank you. Again, folks, the numbers speak for themselves. The lives we memorialize every time we're together speak for themselves.
Please continue to do what you've been doing. No state has done what we've done. Even though our numbers are up, compare us to other American states. We're among the very best, but you can't sit on that. You have to earn that every day, all of us. No matter how many pronouncements we make, no matter how many words we say, it's the actions of literally millions of New Jerseyans that make the difference, and you've made an extraordinary difference.
Believe in the basics. Believe in the facts. Social distancing, face covering, washing hands with soap and water. Take yourself off the field if you don't feel well. If you've been exposed to a COVID-positive person, if you yourself are positive, if you've been in a hotspot state, take yourself off the field, self-quarantine. And after say five days, Judy, get tested. That's the playbook.
Someday we'll have a therapeutic, like you take a Z-PAC for strep throat, someday we'll have that. I hope sooner than later, right? There's a lot of companies working on that. Someday we'll have a vaccine like the flu vaccine I got a few weeks ago. That'll be a huge step. We still have the flu however, right? So that's a huge step but that doesn't mean we're going to be able to get back immediately to the old ways of doing things, but that's a game changer. We'll have that. We have neither right now, so the basics are what we've got. That's the hand we've been dealt. Let's play that hand. God bless you all. Thank you.