By: Christian Oberly
TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Phil Murphy held a press briefing at 12 p.m. on March 23 to provide an update on New Jersey’s war against COVID-19, a disease that is confirmed to have infected over 2,000 New Jersey residents and has so far taken the lives of 27.
Murphy began the briefing with an update to our state’s numbers, explaining that the increase in cases by 930 from yesterday to today was something his administration expected to see. As New Jersey’s testing capacity goes up, the number of cases discovered each day will rise as well. With the total number of confirmed cases now at 2,844, New Jersey is the state with the second-most infections — only trailing New York, which has over 20,000 cases.
Regarding the updated case numbers, Murphy called on all residents to abide by his stay-at-home order. “Every number is a fellow New Jerseyan who needs us to rally behind them.”
The increase in testing capacity is possible in part because of two drive-through testing centers — one at Bergen County College that started operation last week, and one in Holmdel that began testing at 8 a.m. today. Both testing centers have experienced massive turnout, typically resulting in closing early due to hitting their testing capacity for the day.
Meanwhile, commercial labs have stepped up their testing capacity as well. And in light of that, Governor Murphy has called for the centralizing of data about COVID-19 cases from all sources in the state to help his administration report numbers in real-time.
Murphy also warned that as the number of cases grows, the state may need to shift some of its resources from testing suspected cases to caring for those that have already been diagnosed.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal also spoke at the press briefing and reiterated a previous announcement of Murphy’s that many low-level offenders will be released from county jails to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This order could affect up to 1,000 people who are currently incarcerated in county jails — though prosecutors will be able to challenge the release of anyone who poses a significant risk to public safety. This order does not commute the sentences of individuals released, but once the public health emergency is over, “judges will determine whether any sentences should be commuted,” according to a release from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
Grewal also foreshadowed “serious legal consequences” for anyone found to be violating the governor’s stay-at-home order, found to be taking advantage of the crisis by price gouging, or anyone who uses the pandemic to justify acts of bias and hate.
His office has already received more than 1,400 complaints about suspected price gouging from across the state.
Additionally, Governor Murphy made several other announcements, including a restriction that will go into effect this Friday, March 27 at 5 p.m. to suspend all elective surgeries until further notice. No operation that can be safely delayed will be performed until the public emergency is over, in an effort to preserve the state’s supply of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.
Anyone with diabetes who is in need of a back-up emergency kit can apply to receive one at: diabetesfoundationinc.org or by calling 973-849-5234.
For continuing updates on the COVID-19 situation in our South Jersey region, visit our dedicated COVID-19 page.
The state of New Jersey has also created a website to compile information about the disease as well as resources to help those affected by the pandemic, including job postings, which can be accessed at: covid19.nj.gov