New Jersey reports 44,416 coronavirus cases; 1,232 deaths

New Jersey’s death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 1,200 people, even as evidence begins to show the state is beginning to flatten the curve of the virus, according to state health officials.

Statewide, New Jersey is reporting 44,416 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

FULL COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS

The Garden State and New York are among the hardest-hit states in the country. New Jersey is likely weeks away from hitting the peak of the outbreak, according to health officials.

A closer look at the latest developments:

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (Edwin J. Torres/Governor's Office)

CASES

Below is a breakdown of positive COVID-19 cases by county:

– Bergen County: 7,533, including 263 deaths

– Essex County: 5,078, including 232 deaths

– Hudson County: 4,949, including 103 deaths

– Union County: 4,358, including 95 deaths

– Passaic County: 4,101, including 62 deaths

– Middlesex County: 3,717, including 100 deaths

– Monmouth County: 2,770, including 71 deaths

– Ocean County: 2,641, including 85 deaths

– Morris County: 2,239, including 87 deaths

– Somerset County: 1,033, including 40 deaths

– Mercer County: 837, including 24 deaths

Camden County: 736, including 12 deaths

Burlington County: 733, including 13 deaths

– Sussex County: 331, including 15 deaths

Gloucester County: 311, including 5 deaths

– Warren County: 255, including 7 deaths

– Hunterdon County: 234, including 2 deaths

Atlantic County: 144, including 4 deaths

– Cape May County: 94, including 3 deaths

Cumberland County: 71, including 2 deaths

– Salem County: 31, including 3 deaths

WHAT TO DO

State health officials have recommended calling your health care provider if you have symptoms, including fever and shortness of breath. Officials also point people to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which recommends people stay home except to get medical care.

New Jersey residents with coronavirus-related questions can call 211 or text NJCOVID to 898-21.

MORE TESTING CENTERS

Cumberland County in southern New Jersey is opening its first drive-thru testing center, the governor said.

A number of other counties, including northern New Jersey counties that have seen the most cases, also have testing facilities. All the county centers are for county residents only and require people to be exhibiting symptoms.


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SCHOOLS

Murphy announced the closure of all schools and colleges in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak. The state’s more than 600 school districts were affected. Most of them had already closed.

SUPPLIES

The state secured 500 more ventilators after “multiple conversations” with the White House, Murphy wrote Sunday on Twitter.

Murphy said the machines are New Jersey’s biggest pressing need, and he vowed he would not “stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life.”

New Jersey state police can now commandeer health supplies to address the COVID-19 outbreak under an executive order issued by Murphy.

The governor said he hopes the state will not have to use the power it authorized. Companies have been voluntarily donating medical equipment.

Murphy has also said the state needs personal protective equipment (PPE). Anyone with PPE to donate is urged to visit the state's dedicated COVID-19 hub.

MORGUES REACHING CAPACITY

The climbing death toll is straining morgues in New Jersey, the governor said, and more space will be needed soon. He said he’s begun discussions about getting more morgue space with federal officials, including the Defense Department.

The state is working to get refrigerator trucks to transport deceased people, according to Persichilli and the state police superintendent.

It’s unclear when the new storage will be needed, Murphy said, but it’s coming soon.

UNEMPLOYMENT SKYROCKETS

Residents applying for unemployment benefits last week climbed 32% higher than the week before, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

There were more than 206,000 claims for the week ending March 28, up from 155,000 the previous week, the department said in a statement.

The jump in claims is fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, according to state officials.

The new claims over the past two weeks dwarf the state’s previous record for jobless claims: In 2012, Superstorm Sandy led to a spike of 46,000 claims.

Nearly 156,000 residents are currently collecting unemployment benefits, about 51,000 more than the week before, according to the department.

A field medical station at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

NEW FIELD HOSPITAL

Murphy toured a 250-bed field hospital at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus. The facility will open early next week, according to the governor.

The hospital is slated to field non-coronavirus cases. It’s one of four field hospitals that are supposed to open in New Jersey.

There will be two 250-bed facilities in Edison, with the fourth 250-bed field hospital in Atlantic City.

‘DEEP INTO MAY’

Murphy, appearing on CNN late Wednesday, said he thinks rigorous social distancing and the shuttering of many businesses will continue “deep into May.”

The first-term Democrat on March 21 ordered the state’s residents to stay home, after he earlier required the closure of casinos, gyms, theaters and restaurants and bars except for take-out or delivery.

Also shuttered are the state’s more than 600 school districts. It’s uncertain when they could reopen.

TRANSIT FUNDING

New York-area mass transit providers will receive more than $5 billion in aid from the federal government as they confront large revenue losses from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Federal Transit Administration on Thursday announced $25 billion it is awarding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). It included more than $5.4 billion for the New York metropolitan area including New Jersey and Connecticut.

Last month, New Jersey Transit, the nation’s largest statewide public transportation system, requested $1.25 billion in aid. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the Long Island Rail Road and MetroNorth rail service as well as New York city bus and subway service, had requested $4 billion.

TOLL HIKES?

The public vented about proposed toll increases on the Atlantic City Expressway during live-streamed public hearings amid the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.

The proposed hikes would pay for capital projects and would be financed by average toll increases of 57 cents at most, according to the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the expressway. The authority is also considering automatic toll increases of at most 3% annually beginning in 2022.

Callers said they couldn’t afford such a significant price hike in light of current economic uncertainty. One person called the proposal a disgrace. A handful of callers said they were OK with the increase.

PRIMARY DATE CHANGE?

New Jersey’s June 2 primary seems likely to change. Murphy said Friday he’d be “stunned” if the date doesn’t move later, but no final decision has been made.

The Democratic National Committee has pushed its convention from mid-July to Aug. 17.

RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS

Residents preparing to celebrate holidays in the coming week should not get together with family and friends, Murphy said.

Christians are preparing to celebrate Holy Week beginning Sunday and leading up to Easter a week later. Jews mark Passover on Wednesday.

Residents have been ordered to stay home since March 21 to help stop the spread of the virus.

“We’re going to have to be especially vigilant,” Murphy said.

In the absence of a vaccine, the governor said, social distancing amounts to the No. 1 tool residents have to stop the spread of the virus.

A graphic illustrates the importance of social distancing in order to reduce the number of infected patients during a pandemic. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

FLATTENING THE CURVE

The near shutdown of the state’s economy as part of social distancing seems to be paying off, the governor said.

For the first time, state health officials said that the height of the outbreak would likely come between April 19 and May 11, with anywhere from 86,000 to 509,000 positive cases.

Hand-washing and social distancing will have to continue for a while, the governor said, though he didn’t specify how long.

“The curve is flattening, but this is no time to spike any footballs or take our foot off the gas,” he said.

COMFORT FOR NEW JERSEY

Some beds on the USNS Comfort hospital ship that recently arrived to help New York battle the virus will go to New Jersey residents, Murphy said.

The governor didn’t have many details, as he said he had just gotten off the phone with President Donald Trump who approved the governor’s request for beds on the ship.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.