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Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Beth, and thanks, everybody, for joining us. As promised we will keep these briefings at 2:00 PM each day either telephonically or in person unless you hear otherwise.
I’m honored to be joined, the principal speakers today are Commissioner of Health Judy Persichilli and Commissioner of Corrections Marcus Hicks. Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver and I will have brief comments and then we will throw this open to questions. And we have a much broader team on the line with us should any of the questions go beyond the immediate expertise of the four of us.
Again, it was good to be with you in person yesterday. It’s good getting back into the swing of things for me. And I just would say, we continue to be guided by decisions that are based on the facts, on science; making sure we’re properly prepared and proactive, making sure that we’re doing everything we can to get out ahead of this challenge; and that wherever possible we are lessening anxiety and not increasing anxiety, trying to be as professional as we can.
And I repeat what I said yesterday – we will get through this. We will not get through it unscathed. We’ve already seen that. But assuming that all 9 million of us beginning with yours truly and the rest of our cabinet and our teams, and each and every one of the residents of the state do their part including the little things – washing hands with soap, coughing into their sleeve, staying home when they’re not feeling well – we will get through this. It will not be mistake-free I’m sure; it will not be unscathed I’m sure – we’ve already seen that. But let me say as unequivocally as I can we will get through this, and again, thank you for joining us.
Since yesterday’s briefing we have received 19 new presumptive positive test results. That brings our total statewide at the moment to 69 from moment one. Judy will provide details on these cases. We continue to work alongside local and county health officials, our hospitals, our public health workforce to closely monitor the situation across New Jersey so we can take aggressive action to mitigate the spread of the illness. You heard me speak yesterday and you heard many of us say the phrase ‘flattening the curve.’ That is what we are laser focused on.
We are more than pleased by the House’s passage last night of the Federal Response Bill, and also the President’s support for it. We urge the Senate to pass it immediately so we can keep moving forward without delay. As you folks likely know, it’s got provisions in that bill for school lunch, for SNAP, for paid leave, unemployment insurance, COVID-19 testing, stipulations and elements for seniors. As I said yesterday, New Jersey is happily in a place where we had a lot of the provisions that this bill at the federal level are going to codify and backstop for us. But it was a very good step that was taken and it was a bipartisan step, and we should all be thankful for that.
I had a short but good conversation last night with the Vice President and thanked him for the PPE, the personal protective equipment that he’s begun to send our way and some of which we have received today. But I pleaded with him that we needed more; that that was a piece of our ask but that we have a lot more that we need. And Judy can update you on some of what we’ve already received. As I said, we continue to work with our federal partners including the CDC, individual departments, clearly to get the guidance and the support we need to ensure the health and safety of our residents.
I did not mention this piece – we received word last night that the nationwide regulatory relief has been given to the trucking industry to allow supplies to flow, whether that’s medical supplies to our public health workers, to groceries, hospital supplies, to markets, etc. And as I said, we got a chunk of the PPE ask that we had and Judy can go through that. Again, it’s a fraction of what we need. We’re going through this stuff pretty quickly as you can imagine but it is a step in the right direction.
Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet and the Department of Education alongside Col. Callahan and Head of Homeland Security Jared Maples and their teams continue to work with our school districts for what I mentioned yesterday would be the inevitable extended shutdown of our schools. We’re happy to answer any questions you’ve got. We’re not yet at a position to make a specific announcement on that but we are close, within a matter of days. So, please bear with us on that front.
As I mentioned yesterday, some of these steps that look very intoxicating have elements to them that we just have to make sure we’re prepared for and they don’t have unintended consequences. So, the kid who’s only reliable meal in a given day is through the school, the implications of daycare including for our health workers and our first responders; the questions of remote access and ability to learn outside of the classroom. We’ve got to make sure that at every school district we have our arms around and are prepared for those implications and more.
I think we’ve now got more than 480 of the 600 and change emergency action plans from the school districts in the state. We need to get that up to 100%. But the good news is the Commissioner, Col Callahan and others are chopping through each of those plans and we’ll have more to tell you soon.
I mentioned that the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections Marcus Hicks will speak. Again, this is another one of these more easily said than done, but we care deeply about all 9 million of us in this state, including those in our criminal justice system. And Marcus is going to go through some of the steps we’re going to take there. Again, those steps don’t come without a cost. So, he’s also going to talk about some of the mitigants that we can put in place to lessen that blow.
The guidance and the recommendations of our administration regarding so-called social distancing still stands. We continue to urge as strongly as we can the cancellations of any public gatherings in excess of 250 people. We are continually monitoring the situation in real time and we will make any necessary announcements as warranted. We are committed, as I said up front, to be proactive, to getting through this together; our actions to be fact-based, properly prepared, science-based; lessening anxiety, not increasing it. And those are our watchwords.
I cannot thank you all enough for your cooperation. I would like to ask if the Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver has anything she’d like to add before we switch to our Commissioners. Sheila, welcome.
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver: Thank you, Governor Murphy. No, you’ve covered it all extensively and we’re all working through the departments to achieve the potentials that you laid out. So, I’m good.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you so much for everything you do. And it’s a good reminder for everybody that the Lieutenant Governor wears two hats, and she, in addition to being the Lieutenant Governor runs the Department of Community Affairs, which is one of the most consequential departments in our state by any measure. So, thank you for all of the above, Sheila, as always, and for keeping this state on its feet as you have.
With that we’d love to turn to Commissioner of Health, and I just want to reiterate that she and her team are doing extraordinary work. Please help me welcome Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone.
As Governor Murphy said yesterday, we’re taking steps to flatten the curve of COVID-19. As we see continuing spread of the coronavirus, it is critical that we take every action possible with the goal of a more gradual rate of infection over a longer period of time.
I want to talk a little bit about Bergen County. We are working closely with the Bergen County Executive James Tedesco. As you all know that county as the highest number of cases in the state. I’m pleased to announce that we’re working with him to start a widespread testing center at Bergen County Community College. Additionally, we’re working with the New Jersey Hospital Association and the hospital and medical community to increase testing options throughout the state.
Last night, the Bergen County Executive outlined stepped up mitigation interventions to slow the spread of COVID-19. He has taken what we call aggressive mitigation interventions. Through an executive order he closed movie theaters, performance halls, the Bergen County Zoo and county-sponsored events. The American Dream Mall in East Rutherford will close its facility tomorrow. Beginning Monday, Bergen County employees over 60 years of age and those with underlying medical conditions can remain at home, and County employees affected by school and daycare center closings are authorized to work remotely form home. On Thursday, he announced that all 75 public school districts in Bergen County are transitioning from onsite to learning to off-site internet-based or paper-based distance learning until further notice.
Statewide, concerts and other mass gatherings of more than 250 individuals have been cancelled, and a growing number of schools and colleges throughout the state have also decided to close. Social distancing measures can reduce viral transmission by decreasing the frequency and duration of social contact among people of all ages. These measures are common sense approaches to limiting face-to-face contact, which reduces person-to-person transmission.
Some of the steps the state is taking to mitigate the disease include effective 5:00 PM today, no visitors will be permitted in long-term care facilities including nursing homes, pediatric residential facilities, dementia care homes except for end-of-life situations. Adult daycare centers in some counties may close depending on the number of cases in that county. These are the most vulnerable populations in our state, and given that COVID-19 has caused more severe illness in older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions we feel this action is critical.
There are other social distancing steps that can be taken in a community. For example, businesses can encourage staff to telework when feasible, particularly individuals at increased risk of severe illness. Implementing social distancing measures, things like increasing physical space between workers at a work site, staggering work schedules, decreasing social contacts in the workplace such as limiting in-person meetings, liming large work-related gatherings such as staff meetings and after-work functions, and limiting all nonessential work travel.
Schools that are open can implement social distancing measures by reducing the frequency of large gatherings or discontinuing all large gatherings such as assemblies; and limiting the number of attendees for any gathering; altering schedules to reduce mixing, staggering entry into the schools and dismissal times, limiting interschool interactions and of course considering distance or e-learning.
I need to emphasize that the spread of this disease will be stopped at the community level. We want at the state to join with all of you in partnership by taking personal responsibility. Taking personal responsibility will make a difference. In fact, it may make all the difference. Individuals with increased risk of severe illness should consider staying at home and avoid gatherings or other situations of potential exposure including travel. If you feel ill or feel warm take your temperature, and if you have a fever please do not go out.
At this time we’re also at high flu activity statewide. Hospital emergency rooms are seeing spikes of what we call the worried well. We certainly understand that but emergency departments are getting an influx of patients. The COVID-19 call center which has responded to 800 calls in the 24 hours ending midnight is seeing unprecedented volume including a surge in callers trying to find out where they can be tested. We expect over the next several weeks to be able to give specificity in that regard.
As I have said, this is a rapidly changing situation. Events are changing quickly and we know that many people are anxious and concerned. We understand that. We’re holding these daily briefings to keep the public informed, and I encourage the public to stay informed and up to date on current information at both the state level and in your community by relying on the government website www.nj.gov/health. We have extensive resources and answers to frequently asked questions on that website. We’re also tracking the number of positive COVID cases on our website. You will be able to access that information daily.
We know that many individuals want to be tested but if you do not have symptoms, you don’t need to be tested for COVID-19. If your symptoms are mild and your healthcare provider tells you to stay home, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider. The department has been prioritizing testing right now for our most vulnerable individuals. We need to ensure that testing is available for individuals who fall into the criteria of greatest risk: those who are hospitalized, symptomatic healthcare workers who have been exposed, an individual who may be part of a cluster or an outbreak, and the medically fragile and communal settings.
In anticipation of more widespread testing, if you do not have symptoms at the time you are tested and you test negative, it is important to know that it is possible that you may test positive later if you develop symptoms. And if you have symptoms and you test negative, you might have another respiratory virus infection unrelated to COVID-19. Again, we remind people that you should stay home when you are sick.
For healthcare workers, our healthcare unions are rightfully concerned about the protection of healthcare workers throughout our state as they care for patients. We need them to stop the virus. We just received four truckloads of personal protective equipment. We have just started the inventory. At this point we know we have 13,000 gloves, 4500 masks, 2208 face shields, 1482 gowns and 42 overalls. A process is being developed for dissemination of this equipment.
Before I get into the numbers of positives today, I wanted to share that the CDC has just told us that the data analysis that they’ve conducted, they will now be considering all positive tests conducted in a public health lab such as ours as confirmed. We will no longer use the term ‘presumptive positive.’ We have also been informed by the CDC that nine New Jersey residents who were on the Grand Princess Cruise Ship will be coming into Newark Airport this weekend and they will be screened by the CDC on arrival.
Now I want to provide you with an update of today’s numbers. Today, we have 19 new positive cases. So, in New Jersey we have at the present time a total of 69 positive cases. The 19 new positive cases are from the following counties: Bergen, 7 cases; Middlesex 7; Essex 2; Hudson 2; and Monmouth 1. 13 of these cases are females, 6 are males and they range in age of 18 to 80. We know that these numbers may be concerning to some because they are rising. This is not expected. We are taking every action to protect the public health and safety of the residents of New Jersey, and we promise to continue to update you on this evolving situation. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you for that very comprehensive update. And I’m sure there are questions that will come out of that. I previewed already that we had with us as a speaker, and I want to give him a huge shoutout for the extraordinary work that he does, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections Marcus Hicks. Marcus is going to briefly go through some new restrictions that he is going to implement in the system effective immediately, but also importantly as I mentioned earlier some mitigants. There are two sides to every step we take and this is no exception. Marcus, fire away.
Commissioner of Corrections Marcus Hicks: Thank you, Governor, and good afternoon everyone on the call. I’d like to announce that out of an abundance of caution the Department of Corrections is temporarily suspending its visits for the next 30 days to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We know that families are a critical support for the population in our care. We also realize that ensuring the health and safety of our inmate population, our residents, our staff and the public are of paramount importance during this public health crisis. And so, we will be implementing those bans effective at 5:00 PM.
However, in an effort to mitigate the impact of this temporary measure, the Department is increasing access to other forms of communication with families. And this includes expanding inmate access to additional phone calls free of charge, expanding inmate access through additional JPAY kiosk usage as well as providing the inmate population additional access to free postage.
One of the things to keep in mind here is that this ban does not apply to legal visits, so our population will still have access to the courts. This latest action is part of a series of measures that the Department has already taken to address the impact of the pandemic. For instance, we have been conducting COVID-19 screenings at intake as part of our regular health assessments of our population. We have been conducting temperature scans that have been done by medical staff of all individuals who enter our facilities. We have placed restrictions on a transfer of county inmates that have presented with symptoms in addition to common things such as enhanced sanitation and education efforts to mitigate the spread of germs throughout our facilities. Additionally, we have been in constant contact with our county facilities to ensure that we are sharing best practices on pandemic containment.
And so, we realize that this is a protective measure but we are doing all we can to mitigate the impact of this and we’ll be working closely with the Department of Health to monitor the situation and the impact on the Department of Corrections. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Marcus, well done as always and good luck with the implementation. Thank you. With that, Beth, we’re going to turn it over to you for doing some questions if that’s okay.
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Hi, thanks for making yourselves available. What can we expect from the Bergen County testing center? What will it look like? Will it be drive-in, will it be free? When do you expect it to start operating? Also, regarding the American Dream Mall, why is it waiting to close till tomorrow which I understand that it’s closed anyway. Why not close today? Also, do you have any word about any other malls in Bergen County that plan to close?
Governor Phil Murphy: Elise, this is Phil. I’ll start and then I’ll turn it over to Judy. I don’t have any insight as to why American Dream is closing tomorrow and not today but the fact of the matter is they are going to take a break for a couple of weeks. I don’t know of any other mall closings in Bergen County but to the best of my knowledge I don’t think they exist but we’ll get back to you. I think Judy alluded to this earlier and she’s going to handle the question on what testing in Bergen County is going to look like. It’s still coming together. In fact, I think there’s a call on that at 6:30 tonight to further that plan. With that, Judy, any insight into Elise’s question?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Not additional insight, just to say that right before this call I was on a call with the County Executive and he shared with me that the location would be Bergen County Community College. He expects to make some announcements later on today. He has some type of tenting option that I think he’s looking at. So, I would defer to him; it’s his announcement at this point but we do expect the announcement later today. And as the Governor just shared, we have a 6:30 call to talk about where the specimens that are collected, where they will be sent and how that will be communicated. So, that’s late-breaking news but it is expected to be operational I believe starting on Monday.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thanks, Judy. And again, this is something like any specimen collection and testing that we’re going to have to get completely comfortable with and we’re in that process right now. Thanks, Elise.
Brian Thompson, NBC: Thank you very much. Hello, Governor and everybody. A couple of questions. Can Judy detail more about the seven in Bergen County? Are they related to, in proximity or whatever, to the existing cases in Bergen County? And then, for both of you, Governor, this number of 250, when you all say people should not be in conference meetings or whatever, that might be 10 or 20 people but a gathering of 250 is exponentially larger. Is there any guidance you were given on this and is there any consideration being given to reducing the 250 number?
Governor Phil Murphy: Brian, first of all, good to hear your voice. Again, let me start and then I’ll throw things over to the experts. One thing that you’re going to hear from Judy, and I think you’ve heard it from both her and from me and from others is the testing universe expands dramatically and that is our objective. We’ve been proactive on that from day one and it is our unequivocal objective to expand testing exponentially over time and details still are being put together. But one of the realities is that the huge uptick in testing will overwhelmingly come from the high-speed testing private sector players, and at least at this point this is not a New Jersey only reality; this is an American reality. We have less insight into that data than if it were tested through the Department of Health. I don’t want to preempt Judy’s answer but we need everyone to understand that. I think over time we’ll be able to shrink some of that gap but that’s just a reality. Secondly on the 250, again, Judy and the experts can weigh in, best practices is the answer. Are we married for 250 forever and always? No. I think everything we’re doing we reserve the right to revisit and 250 is one of them. But that seems to be a number that is best practices. Some folks are at 500, some folks are at 100 but the important other point, Brian, I want to make sure everyone knows. I’m in a room with four people right now, we’re six feet apart. None of us have a temperature, if we’re coughing we’re coughing into our sleeves, we’re washing our hands with soap. So, even if you’re under 250 there are certain protocols that we all have to adhere to. Judy, anything you want to add?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, there’s really no science to the 250. You used the term best practice. We kind of surveyed what’s going on in other states. Some states are using 500, some municipalities are using 250. The most important thing is for people to use their own discretion when they go to any assembly of people; and they should decide whether they should even be there. And if they are there we just have to keep encouraging people to be far apart from one another. There’s no getting away from that.
Alex Zdan, News 12: Hey Governor, thank you for doing this. I had a question for the Commissioner to follow up on the investigation into the death of a person under investigation. I wanted to know if there’s been any progress made on whether or not that person died due to the effects of coronavirus. And if you can just tell us anything about the location, county or hospital; and if it’s a situation where a person who was tested subsequently died or this was a death referred to the Department of Health from a County Medical Examiner.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, the first thing is we don’t have that specimen back yet. It arrived late yesterday and didn’t get in the batch. We’re batching the specimens and running them overnight. It didn’t get in the batch overnight so it’ll be tested during the day today. I do not have the results. And that individual was in Monmouth County. So, that’s the information I have on that individual which is limited at this point.
Governor Phil Murphy: Alex, again, we’re going to be back together tomorrow at 2:00 in the afternoon and if we have anything new on that we promise you, you’ll get it then. Thank you.
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Hello, everyone. So, what’s being set up in Bergen County, is this the first testing facility that people can go to in New Jersey?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yes, and the reason it’s up in Bergen County is because of the number of cases up there. And we’ve said repeatedly as we see community spread, we will be looking at not only aggressive mitigation interventions but also the ability to bring more widespread testing. But given what we’re hearing throughout the state and the calls that we’re getting into our call center, again, we’re working with NJHA and the hospital system to start increasing the amount of testing that we can do. And we’re just trying to be extremely responsive to the anxiety that we’re feeling around the state and trying to respond to that. But candidly right now Bergen County is the area that we’re focusing on for additional testing.
Governor Phil Murphy: Brent, I would just add to that, it’s Phil. It makes complete logical sense that if we’re going to take a first step on specimen collection that Bergen County would be the place to do it, given the higher cases of incidents there. Secondly, you’ve got both intake and you’ve got testing, and Judy is… I’m practicing without a license, so expect to see expansion on both fronts over the coming days and weeks – both places where folks can submit a specimen and also particularly in the commercial lab side. I’m sure Judy would agree with this because they’re going to have the high-speed testing capabilities, expansion of our ability to process those tests. Thank you for that.
Lindy Washburn, Bergen Record: Hi, thank you. Hi, Governor. I thought I heard a whole new set of criteria being identified for those who get priority for testing. Those were hospitalized, symptomatic healthcare workers, etc. And I wanted to know if this is the state now putting these criteria out and if these are recommendations to the different labs and doctors and facilities? Or you know, what type of guidance they are exactly?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I’d be happy to take this, Governor, sorry. I was sharing the criteria that we’re using here at the state lab.
Lindy Washburn, Bergen Record: And so, are you recommending that at Bergen County, Bergen Community College they do that or at different hospitals also that are up and running with tests?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: We think the priority is a good priority, particularly if they’re receiving… Obviously the walk-in labs will not be receiving individuals who are hospitalized. But for example, if they have a symptomatic or maybe an asymptomatic healthcare worker that goes to a walk-in, we would like them to prioritize the healthcare workers because we need them. We need them to be at work. And medically fragile individuals, over 60 years of age individuals, sure, they should be prioritized as well because they’re more at risk.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Judy. Thank you, Lindy.
Ashley Balcerzak, Bergen Record: Thank you very much. Hi, how’s it going? I was wondering if any of these new positive cases were connected to any of New Jersey’s jails and prisons and if this new policy that the Commissioner announced applies just to the state prisons or also the county jails.
Governor Phil Murphy: Both good questions. Judy, I think on the first the answer’s no, right?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, we do not have any… At this time we do not have a nexus with any correctional forensic patients.
Governor Phil Murphy:And Marcus, do you want to address the question as to state versus county?
Commissioner of Corrections Marcus Hicks: Sure. So, this new policy applies just to the state correctional facilities as of now. But as I mentioned earlier, we do share best practices with our counties. Some of the counties have already suspended their visits. It has not been adopted statewide by the counties but my expectation is you will see additional counties adopt the same measures that we have.
Governor Phil Murphy: I would just echo, Ashley, what Marcus has said. This is not just in this particular step but in terms of best practices as a general matter, when the state moves it typically is only a matter of time till the counties in the state line up in terms of their policies. Thanks for your question.
Tracey Tulley, New York Times: Hey, how are you? Actually I rescind my question. I wanted to know about the jails so it’s been answered. Thanks very much.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thanks, Tracey.
Sergio Bichao, New Jersey 101.5: Hi, Governor. Could you explain in some detail how the trucking regulations that you mentioned, how will that help alleviate the shortage of supplies that people are seeing at the supermarkets. And what is your message to the people of New Jersey who are flipping out when they see that the supermarkets don’t have any bread or whatever? How much should people be stocking up on when they go to the supermarket?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, so I want to ask Col. Callahan to come in and augment my quick reaction, Sergio. But first is I think when you remove the hours waiver which is for the overnight trucking reality you expand the amount of hours available to actually get goods on the move and onto shelves for consumers. That’s sort of the big logjam that we’ve broken. Pat, anything you want to add to that?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: I would just echo that, Governor, from the hours and things we can do to expedite folks from going through weigh stations – anything that we can alleviate the impact on that supply line. And our troopers on our Transportation Safety Bureau have all been made aware with those troops that are out there every day looking at truckers’ logbooks and inspecting their trucks. They’ll still be inspecting trucks out there but as far as those hours regulations, they’ve been advised of that. Thanks, Gov.
Governor Phil Murphy: Pat, thank you. And as I’ve mentioned, Sergio, yesterday the good news is we’re the warehouse state. I don’t know this but I would bet a buck that we have as high a percentage of warehouse workers in our workforce as any American state. And the good news is that means the stuff’s in New Jersey. So, any amount of logjam breaking we can do has an immediate impact on our consumers and their ability to access goods, so thank you for that.
Tom Bergeron, ROI New Jersey: How are you? Good to have you back. Thanks for taking the questions. Two questions on the Bergen testing – first of all, I appreciate this is all being done in real time and you addressed it a little bit before. Are there concerns about false positives and false negatives coming from these types of tests? And I know we have to alleviate the anxiety but that could be another issue. And the second question if you don’t mind, is there a worry about a surge of people from other counties, even New York, coming over to get this test? Is there going to be any type of vetting as far as what county you’re from or how sick you are on where you are in line? Thanks.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, you want to jump in on those?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure. The first thing on false positives and false negatives, you have to understand that they’re not doing the testing. They’re just collecting the specimen. The testing will be done by an approved laboratory. And every test sometimes has a false positive or a false negative – I’m not sure if that’s the term you used. Dr. Chan, this is your wheelhouse.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan: This is Tina. I think the question about how well the test performed at whatever commercial laboratory or whatever laboratory will be performing the testing is the question to actually refer back to the laboratory. But it’s important to note that if you’re symptomatic and you get tested, even if it’s negative you still have to be mindful that you’ve got symptoms and it’s important that you still take the same precautions because you could have another viral illness. And so, you want to take the same precautions about staying home and ensuring that you’re not proving a risk to others.
Governor Phil Murphy: I just want to underscore Dr. Tan’s second point. Influenza as a general matter we live with every single year and it’s deadly. It’s a different challenge but just because you don’t have corona doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily healthy. Judy, you all broke up but I’m not aware of any restrictions or otherwise, I’m looking at my colleagues here, that we have in terms of screening folks from out of state. Did you address that?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: That hasn’t been developed yet. That’s part of the collaboration that we’re doing with the County Executive in Bergen, because the testing site as he described it to me would be fore Bergen County residents.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, and again, we should also assume, Tom, to your question, this is the first of what we anticipate will be many different avenues to collect specimens and as I said on the backend, expand testing. But it’s a good question, it’s one I hadn’t thought of before so we will take that under advisement and we’ll let you know if we come up with a specific policy. Thank you.
Mike Davis, Asbury Park Press: Hey, Governor, Commissioners, thanks for taking the call. A question for the Commissioner: you mentioned possible exposure of healthcare workers, and I wanted to ask about Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel because patients are being diverted after a number of staffers were sent home due to possible exposure. So, I’m hoping you can provide some info on what’s going on there, and in general how overwhelmed hospitals are and what’s going to happen if one or more are taken offline like what’s going on there.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: The first thing is on the Bayshore situation, we were advised a number of days ago that several of their healthcare workers in their emergency room had to go into quarantine. And we were quite concerned about the ability for them to continue providing the appropriate level of care in their emergency room. So, my understanding is that they’ve been diverting patients so that no one is put at risk. We do understand that some of the team members testing have come back negative, so they’ll be returning to work. My understanding is they’ll be returning to work when it’s appropriate. So yeah, Bayshore is an issue. Are we concerned? We’re definitely concerned that our healthcare workers may be inadvertently exposed even under the best of circumstances where we have advised people if they have respiratory symptoms, if they have some nexus with a COVID-19 case or if they have traveled from an area that is documented as community spread that they call the emergency room first so that they can be masked immediately and put into an isolation room. I can’t emphasize that enough because our healthcare workers right now are the greatest asset we have not only within our hospitals and particularly our emergency rooms but within our urgent care centers and particularly in our community health settings. So, I just want to emphasize again that everybody has to take personal responsibility and understand that this is a two-way street. They need to seek care when they’re symptomatic; they also need to advise their medical providers of why they’re seeking care so we can protect everyone.
Governor Phil Murphy: Hey Mike, I just want to add to what Judy said, just as a general matter. The heroism, the indispensableness if that’s a word of our healthcare workers right now… They’ve always been important to us. They’re among the most important professionals in our state and always have been but they have never been more valuable and their livelihoods and their personal well-being never more important. I’ve been making the rounds over the past couple of days to the CEOs of the big hospital systems, talking to each of them – Bob Garrett at Hackensack, Barry Ostrowsky at Barnabas, John Gantner at RWJ, Audrey Meyers at Newbridge, Mike Marion and Holy Name, Kevin Slavin at St. Joe’s and others. And their healthcare workers, their health, their viability and just sort of their well -being comes up constantly and it’s something that we are focused laser-like on. Thank you.
Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: How many total tests have been done and how many are pending? And as far as these new so-called drive-through tests, what’s the wait period for those to come back?
Commissioner of Health Judith Perischilli: I can tell you what’s pending right now. I think we have 26 to be tested today here at the state lab. I have absolutely no idea what is pending at the commercial labs or at the hospital labs. We know Robert Wood in New Brunswick is testing now and we know that Hackensack is testing. So, to give you the total numerator and denominator is impossible.
Governor Murphy: Thank you.
Charlie Kratovil, New Brunswick Today: Good afternoon, Governor. I wanted to know what guidance you might be giving to municipalities, Boards of Ed, authorities about public meetings. I know there’s many scheduled in the coming weeks; councils have important business to do and the public has a right to be there for it. What guidance if any do you have for those entities?
Governor Phil Murphy: Well, I’ve got the the general guidance and I’ve got our Chief Counsel here Matt Platkin with me who may want to weigh in. We’ve got the general guidance of the no more than 250 and by the way, even if you’re under 250 there are a series of protocols that you have to adhere to – six feet separation probably being the most important. I think we have a suspension as it relates to judicial trials for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure if there’s a limit on that, I can’t recall – indefinitely. I don’t know that there’s any particular constraint on a ban or a recommendation against public hearings as long as they meet the criteria that we have laid out as a general matter. Matt, anything you want to add?
Chief Counsel Matt Platkin: Jury trials are two weeks and municipal courts have been suspended with certain exceptions indefinitely. A state authority has advised them to do as much as they can telephonically, so to do their meetings by phone if possible and most are. And we’re working actively with counties, locals and school boards who have requests for guidance. But we haven’t put out a general prohibition on it but many are pulling them down or doing their meetings by telephone.
Governor Phil Murphy: And by the way, Charlie, that’s probably good hygiene for a lot of us. We spent a good chunk of today thinking through how do we run the state while respecting the needs if not requests for folks to be able to do remote work if that works. That’s probably a good hygiene for boards of ed, for public meetings, etc. As it relates to school districts, again I want to repeat what I said earlier. We are still working and this is going to be within a matter of a couple of days on the inevitable longer-term closure and implications of that, and making sure we get that done responsibly and get it done exactly right for our schools. So, thank you for that.
Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat: Hello, thank you. I have two questions about schools. The first is about internet access to. For schools that are closed, and it sounds like more are going to be closing soon, is there any thought at the state level to provide funding to help districts provide internet access hotspots for families that don’t have that? And then the second question is about student assessments. The federal Education Department has said that they would consider giving waivers to states if schools are closed during the assessment window and that’s coming up next month for New Jersey. So, I wondered if there’s been any thought about requesting a waiver from that mandatory student assessments?
Governor Phil Murphy: So Patrick, on the first one, internet access, I’ll give you a couple of different things that we see that we’re working on, and again, I mentioned this upfront. Food security, daycare, ability to actually remote teach and learn are three things we want to make sure we understand completely before we pull any levers here in terms of a statewide shutting. So, number one, we’ve had good conversations with the legislature and the assembly I think in particular on bridging the digital divide. So, the answer is to be determined but those are conversations that are underway. I’m reminded as well that certain school districts if need be, depending on the amount, the percentage students who do not have access, are preprinting instruction packages that will last… I think our best advice is to last at least a month into that closure. And thirdly, I’ve personally been on the phone today with one private sector provider and a good corporate citizen who is volunteering to try to aggressively embed hotspots around some of the communities in the state where we do not have access. So, lots of movement there and that’s something we’re taking very seriously. I think on your assessment question it’s still too early to tell. Dr. Lamont Repollet, are you on? So, I think we’re going to come back to you on that, Patrick, but that’s one of the items we’re trying to button down before we make any statewide moves. But it’s too early to give you a definitive answer. When we have one I promise we’ll get back to you. Thank you.
Pat Robinson, New Jersey Hills Media Group: Hi, Governor. Thanks for taking me. I’ve got two questions actually, and one is East Hanover last night announced its first COVID-19 case, and I’m just wondering if we know if that is the same Morris County case that was confirmed yesterday? And if so, is there a connection to any of the Bergen or New York cases? The second question is actually are there any plans to curtail the hoarding that has been seen in the state?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, on the latter – and I’ll let Judy answer the former. On the latter, all I can say is I’m using my bully pulpit, I know Sheila Oliver is, Judy, the rest of us. This is a time to be smart, prudent and prepared. It’s not a time to panic. And folks have to just, not just hear that but they’ve got to accept that. And we completely understand the anxiety. It is completely understood and it’s rightful. There’s a lot of unknowns to this and for all of us, we’re going through something we’ve never gone through before. But if we thought there was a reason to hoard I promise you we would say so. And there just is not. And the fact I mentioned earlier when I got a question on freeing up the trucking regulations, that’s a good thing. That will allow us to replenish the shelves more fully and more quickly than we otherwise would have. But I would just plead with folks. On the one hand, understanding your anxiety; on the other hand, be smart, prudent, prepared. Don’t hoard and don’t panic. Judy, on East Hanover, any color there?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: No, I just have the county. So, I don’t have the list of actual cities in front of me. So, I just can’t help with that one.
Governor Phil Murphy: If we get any color on that we will come back to you, and appreciate your raising.
Anthony Johnson, Channel 7 Eyewitness News: Hi Governor, welcome back. My question comes, now that we have the private labs coming onboard as far as the testing is concerned, will we get the numbers from them on possible positive cases as quickly as we are getting those numbers from the Department of Health? In other words, could the numbers be even higher than we know because those private labs are now doing the testing?
Governor Phil Murphy: Good question. I’m going to give you mine and then Judy, again, as usual the experts need to take over. We’re getting those numbers in terms of the gross numbers as quickly as we’re getting out of the Department of Health. So, we have those numbers on the positives. What we have less insights into are the details of the exact cases and we have less insights into their gross number of tests and the negatives, all of which over time we believe we will close some of those gaps. But at the moment one of the gaps is not that we are not getting their positives. We are getting them. They’re included in Judy’s numbers. Again, over time we hope to have more detail and also have a better, more comprehensive sense of the total number of testing including negatives. Is that fair, Judy?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah. And Dr. Tan is the closest to how all of this reporting takes place. I’m going to ask for her opinion on the commercial labs and their reporting.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan: Thanks, Commissioner. So, basically what happens is that when a commercial laboratory, they have a positive result, it will be reported both to the state and the local health department. However, there are occasions where the local health department will get that information more immediately than the state does because we get… This is going a little technical but we get the results through electronic file. Because these are more immediate situations, the laboratories are supposed to be calling or faxing the local health department of the jurisdiction of where the individual resides immediately. So, that’s why sometimes these local health departments who are the leads in these investigations will sometimes be getting the results sooner than the Department of Health.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you for that.
Nick Muscavage, Gannet News New Jersey: Hi, thanks for taking the time. Actually, Dustin asked this question but I’m just going to double down a little bit. Do you guys know at least an estimate for the state tests? If it’s too hard to know how many tests are being done at the private level, how many tests so far have been conducted by the state? Perhaps you know that number?
Governor Phil Murphy: We do know that number. I don’t have it in front of me but Judy and her team have that number.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I can tell you the total positives in the state are 69. I can probably get the total that we’ve tested. Dr. Chan, do you have something?
Governor Phil Murphy: Just Department of Health only I think is Nick’s question, just the testing we’ve done.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I don’t have the total number of the tests that we’ve run both positive and negative. I can get it.
Governor Phil Murphy: Alex Altman will get that from Judy and her team, Nick, and we’ll get that number to you. Many thanks.
Chuck O’Donnell, TAPinto New Brunswick: Good afternoon, Governor. Glad to see you on the mend. My question centers around the spike of positive cases in Middlesex County. Is there anybody in the Rutgers community affected? And if you do see a spike in an area like Middlesex County, what sort of would be the response and resources from the state?
Governor Phil Murphy: Good questions. Again, remember my health warning earlier that the labs, the good news is they can do a lot volume a lot faster but we have less insights into the details of the specific positives. So, with that in mind I want to turn it over to Judy and her team.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: As far as the spike, we were surprised to see that as well but we did see that most of them came from Robert Wood Johnson’s lab, and that’s a new lab that was just approved to do the testing. So, that may have been how they batched and sent on.
Chuck O’Donnell, TAPinto New Brunswick: I see, great.
Governor Phil Murphy: If we get any more we’ll get it to you, but that’s a good point. RWJ, I think, Judy, was it Thursday they came onboard?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yes.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thursday they came on as a new testing locale and that may well have just skewed the data for that reason. But if there’s anything beyond that that we know of, we will get back to you. Thank you.
Caesar Darias, Darias News: Good afternoon, thank you Governor. Every day I listen to your press conference and the New York City press conference and really, the areas are kind of interdependent. Anyone who’s been a commuter knows that in many ways, yet I feel like we might as well be on two different parts of the planet given everything that is said and done and the tone. So, it leads me to this question: how much are you in communication with New York City? Is there an agreement and do you talk frequently about what should be done and the going back and forth, because there have been several cases of people who live in one area and work in the other?
Governor Phil Murphy: I’ll give you my quick answer, it’s Phil Murphy, and then Judy may well want to weigh in on here. We are in active, regular and high-level communication with our neighbors. In fact, while we’ve been on this call, I stepped aside to take a call from Governor Tom Wolfe from Pennsylvania with a specific corona call that he and I are trying to work through. My team is in constant communication with both the City of New York, the State of New York, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey which is particularly relevant because they oversee the operations of Newark Liberty. And listen, you should be rest assured, we know that we are living in a neighborhood. If you look at the impacts we’ve seen in Bergen County it’s unmistakably due to the fact that there’s adjacencies with the State of New York. And so, we get that. I know Judy is in touch with her colleagues in our neighboring states and certainly New York City and we understand. Certainly NJ Transit trains run under the Hudson River; they run into New York Penn Station. The ridership goes both ways as just one example. So, the hygiene at NJ Transit matters at both ends of the Hudson. The service we provide, whatever it might be, we understand that. There are always going to be challenges with local and state governments synching up. We don’t always necessarily see things the same way but we overwhelmingly do. It’s another reminder, by the way, that the federal government plays an indispensable role no matter what the topic, but certainly in a healthcare crisis such as this. There’s nothing like the federal government being full bore in the seat, and the statement of the declaration of national emergency yesterday by the President, the bill that passed the house and hopefully will pass the Senate in the next couple of days, negotiated by Democrats and Republicans last night – this stuff will have huge impacts on our neighborhood and transcend in many respects even all the good work that we might be doing. Judy, anything you want to add?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: No. Well, you know, I’m in constant contact with Commissioner of Health in New York and also Commissioner of Health of New York City. And whenever we have questions about cases that may migrate between our states we certainly call one another. And I also know that Dr. Tan, the epidemiologists, probably talk much more than even I do with the Commissioners. I don’t know, Dr. Tan, if you want to share your type of communication because it’s at the most scientific level and what we need the most.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan: Yeah, that’s correct. You know, and it’s not only New York State and New York City, and it’s not only our surrounding states but we have so many states, countries. We get information from all over the place so if there’s any touchpoint with New Jersey or vice-versa outside of New Jersey we contact our respective epidemiology teams and provide that information about the contact information so that they can do whatever they need to do on their end. It’s constant and it’s not only for COVID-19; it’s for every single reportable communicable disease that we have. Like we have measles, we have meningococcal disease. You know, when they touch other states and other jurisdictions outside of New Jersey, that communication always happens.
Governor Phil Murphy: Dr. Chan, you’re doing an incredible job as well. And a lot of this stuff including coordinating with neighbors is not easy. The question is a good one. Thank you.
Brianna Vannozzi, NJTV News: Thank you, hi Governor. Welcome back. This question is for the Commissioner. I’m wondering about children, now that schools are closed children who have one-on-one support or who have direct employees, hired for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities for a limited number of hours. Will the Department look at adding additional hours to their budget? And because we’re fee-for-service now I know that those hours can take awhile to be approved, so what’s being looked at?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: First of all, I think that’s a great question and it’s certainly at the top of our list with school closings, how we make sure that particularly kids with special needs are supported. That comes out of the Department of Human Services primarily and we’re working closely with them to not only look at the high-need individuals but also to look at the equity of making sure that all of the kids, no matter what municipality they’re from or no matter what city they’re from, that all of the wraparound services are still available. And one of the areas that we’re looking at is our early intervention services and how important that is to the thousands of kids in New Jersey that are beneficiaries of that work. Great question. We’re still working out all of the particulars around it but thank you so much for bringing it up because it’s one of our areas of most concern.
Governor Phil Murphy: Brianna, I just would echo what Judy said. You’ve got 1.4 million kids in our public school system plus countless thousands of others in our private and religious schools. This is a good example of why we’ve got to do this responsibly. It’s very intoxicating to just sort of flip the switch but this is another good example of the reasons why we’ve got to take this very deliberately and make sure we get it right. I also would say this. There’s so much… I mentioned a minute ago the federal government plays an indispensable role and that’s just in the raw numbers and financial reimbursements and support we’re going to need, not unlike any other American state. So, thanks for raising it.
Daniel Munoz, NJBIZ: Hey, Governor. So, I guess this is a two-part question. The first is there are about 25 coronavirus relief bills in the Assembly, likely in the Senate, likely gonna get passed this week. Are you going to sign them? And I guess the second question is for you and the Health Commissioner – just to be clear, the 250-person event, that’s just a recommendation still? It’s not an outright ban and why isn’t it going up to an outright ban if not?
Governor Phil Murphy: Daniel, I will take both, and if Judy thinks I screwed it up as I’m sure I will she will jump in. On the former, this is no different than any other bill. When it’s not yet to our desk or we haven’t made a decision on any bills, we’re not going to comment on them and this is no exception to that. We review each one of these, we take each one of them seriously. Conceptually some of them are completely consistent with what we’re talking about and doing 24 hours a day such as, per earlier, shrinking the digital divide. As a conceptual matter that’s something incredibly important for us to do. But beyond that no particular comment. Also, the recommendation is the recommendation. We are assuming that folks are smart enough to adhere to that. I know of no blatant violations since we’ve put this in place so far so that’s one thing we would monitor, and if we thought there were blatant violations and willful violations then we would take further actions. And we reserve the right to go from recommended to mandating. But for the time being we think that’s the right way to go and we’ll continue to keep our eye on it. I’ve said this 20 times, Judy’s probably said this 30 times, even if there are less than 250 people in the room keep six feet distance, cough into your sleeve, wash your hands with soap, the usual stuff. Thank you, Daniel.
Dan Prochilo, News 12 New Jersey: Hey, thank you guys for making yourselves available. I was just wondering if you could provide a breakdown in the 69 positives in the conditions of these individuals. How many of them are stable? How many are in ICUs? How many are critical and whether or not there are first responders among the 69 positives?
Governor Phil Murphy: Dan, good questions. Again, Judy will answer this with her team but remember also my comment earlier. We’re going to have deeper insight into some of these cases than others depending on where the test was processed. Judy?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: This is certainly an evolving situation because people are in and out of hospital, they’re in and out of regular medical surgical units. They go into critical care, they get discharged out from critical care to a stepdown unit, from a stepdown unit to a regular unit, from a regular unit to home. So, that’s information that I just do not have. We try to keep on top of those that may be so significantly critical that the CEOs feel are at risk for mortality. But at this point I have no specificity even on those at this point. We just don’t track that. It’d be almost impossible.
Governor Phil Murphy: Dan, thank you for that.
John Mooney, NJ Spotlight: Hi, Governor. Thanks for doing this. Just a quick question on are you extending or is the Department of Ed extending similar oversight to private schools in terms of getting plans from them for doing remote learning, including those that serve special needs students especially?
Governor Phil Murphy: So John, we can’t mandate it but we are exploring options, and I don’t know that we’ve had anybody object to the steps that we’re taking to voluntarily comply with whatever direction we’re headed in. I’d be very surprised if we saw otherwise. George Helmy is with me, my Chief of Staff. We were on yesterday with leadership in the private, religious school arena. In a couple of situations, folks to their enormous credit want to do the right thing here. Am I concerned that somebody will go rogue? Maybe, but I don’t see it. I think at the end of the day folks know that we’re taking this deliberatively, we’re trying to do it responsibly with all the parameters and potential unintended consequences that we’ve beaten to death already in this call, and so far so good. And if we see behavior that’s outside of that norm obviously we’ll try to address it as best we can. Thank you.
Tom Davis, Patch.com: How you doing, Governor? Great to see you. I think all my questions have been answered actually, just one question though and that is, is it possible… I’ve been hearing that there’s some districts that are just outright balking at the idea of actually closing. Is that as many as 15%? And they’re not all poor districts. Is that an issue at all?
Governor Phil Murphy: I don’t know. Lamont is not on I don’t think. I don’t know that I know of any folks who were literally balking, but I mentioned this yesterday. And these are statistics that you have to keep in mind, and these are public school kids only. So, I don’t know what the numbers look like on the private side and the religious side. You’ve got about 1.4 million public school students in the state, public education students in the state. You’ve got about 15% of them who are going to have food access issues and food security issues. So, that’s 210,000 kids right there. You’ve got another, there was a survey that was done – I forget who did it – but there was a survey that was done and there are 259,000 who don’t have access to a device so they can easily do remote learning via a device. My guess is there’s a decent amount of overlap between those with food insecurity and those who don’t have access to a device. So plus or minus 15%-ish of the state public school kids have real challenges that we have to have a plan for. And I know Pat Callahan is all over this preemptively before we flip the switch. That’s different than saying that folks are balking at what we’re doing. In fact, we’ve seen frankly more of the opposite, that school districts who feel as though they’ve got those questions resolved or in fact they don’t have those questions at all, we inform them and they do it to our satisfaction, have already gone ahead and they’ve made decisions on closures. And that’s measured now in the hundreds. And as long as they’re dealing proactively with the same issues that we’re trying to deal with at the state level we don’t begrudge that. We want to make sure that they’re managing those challenges as we are trying to manage them at the state level. But if we see evidence of the contrary we will let you know. Thank you.
Lisa, Burlington County Times: Hi, thank you for taking the time today. So, I’m wondering in light of some of the Pennsylvania casinos announcing that they’re going to close, I’m wondering about the economic impact here in New Jersey of possible closures should they move forward, and whether that’s something that you’ve discussed.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, listen Lisa, this was one we were asked yesterday. We’ve been in touch with the casinos as recently as today. At this moment we have no plans to mandate the shutting of our casinos. The restriction on gatherings of 250 or more clearly has an impact on casinos in the sense of their calendar of events and their shows, so that part of it has been impacted. But we have no plans at present to shutter the casinos. And as I mentioned yesterday you could rightfully conclude that there are more than 250 people on a casino floor at any given moment in time, but the enormous expanse of those floors gives our Health Commissioner, I don’t want to put words in her mouth or her team, comfort that that’s an acceptable reality as long as they follow the protocols of being six feet away, etc. But we have no plans at this time to shutter our casinos. Thank you.
Rebecca Panico, NJ.com: Yes, hi. Thanks for taking my question. I’m just hoping to get some clarity. I think during this cluster actually the County Executive in Bergen County just released new numbers saying that they have a total of 31 confirmed cases over there. That’s actually six more than what was just said about an hour ago I guess. So, is the state total 75 now?
Governor Phil Murphy: No, the state total is 69 but I’ll let Judy answer beyond that.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, I have no… I can only tell you what we have. If a commercial lab is reporting to him before we have it, that could be where he’s getting the numbers. But I don’t have that number, but that does not mean it’s a bad number.
Rebecca Panico, NJ.com: So, can you just clarify, too, what’s the process for the state getting these numbers? Because honestly, the numbers seem to be getting a little garbled and less specific now. So, what’s the process? Is it till you get the numbers from local health departments in each municipality or a county? How does that work?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yes, Tina has explained the process a couple of questions ago. She’s just stepped out of the room; she’s on the phone with the CDC. But the process is, if I can just reflect on what she said, the process is that when a commercial lab gets a positive test they report it directly to the local health department first. And then, they enter it into a system that we have here at the Communicable Disease Service – that’s the automated system. So, if the commercial lab gets a positive it reports it to the local health department, and the local health department reports it to…And they should be reporting it to whoever ordered the test, which we call the treating physician first. But as things happens, sometimes they report to their County Executive and then we get it after that.
Governor Phil Murphy: Rebecca, there’s no garbling. I just want to make sure, I want to add to Judy’s point. It’s at the moment that we go live on a call like this, we’re giving you the official confirmed number drawn from a variety of sources – the Department of Health labs, now a number of hospital systems that are doing their own testing as well as the private sector testing facilities. And the number that we give you is not garbled; it’s in fact at that moment in time it is the number, recognizing that over the course of 24 hours that number moves around. Judy has said this and her team has said this many times. They batch during the day, they batch at night. But we are giving you the very best numbers we can give you. So, thank you for that.
Julie Dario, NJTV News: Yes, hi. I think I may have missed the answer to this question earlier so I just want to double-check. When you’re talking about the Bergen county Community College testing location, can you just reiterate who is going to be able to go up and get a test? Is it going to be something that requires a referral from a doctor or essentially is it just anyone including these kind of worried folks who may think that they have coronavirus but it’s something else or they’re not showing symptoms? Can you clarify that, please?
Governor Phil Murphy: Really, Judy and her team will answer this. Just to reiterate, just to make sure we said this earlier – this plan is a work in progress. It’s a work in progress that will not last more than a couple of days but the exact details of this are still under consideration and deliberation. Judy?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, thank you, Governor, for clarifying that. It is a work in progress. We will be talking with the County Executive later on this evening. Our hope would be that it is on the order of a physician so that if individuals do come up positive that we’re sure that they’re being covered and treated symptomatically by their physician.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Judy.
Brent Johnson, Star Ledger: Hi, first of all, Governor, welcome back. I’m glad you’re doing better.
Governor Phil Murphy: Nice to be back, thank you.
Brent Johnson, Star Ledger: So, how often do you guys plan to update the state numbers website? As was mentioned in the last question, we’re now getting numbers from Bergen County and I’m sure people are trying to make decisions of whether to stay in their house or whatnot based on these numbers. So, how often do we expect that to change?
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy will answer how often we’re going to change the numbers, but may I say on this question of people making decisions whether to stay in their house or not. Everybody should. We understand the anxiety, we get it. We’re going through something we’ve never gone through before and we’re doing everything that we can to lessen that. But everybody has to make sure they’re on the right side of the line of being smart, prepared, common sense, planning, proactive, doing all of those things but not panicking. There is no reason to go over that line. And I want to make sure whether you’re in Bergen County or one of the other 20 counties, folks need to understand that. If there’s a reason that we think it’s crossed that line I promise you, you’ll hear it from us and probably from yours truly and we won’t hold back that information. Judy, as it relates specifically to the numbers and how often we update them, any color?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, we update them once a day and it’s… You described it very well. It’s at a point in time. Because everybody here is working 24/7 to take care of the things we have to take care of, and we have to stop at some point and say, well, here’s what we have. This is what it looks like. But I guess the question I really want to respond to or the comment is that people look at this to determine what they should be doing. I think I just have to elaborate on that. We expect numbers to increase. We expect them to increase from North Jersey to South Jersey and we expect that everyone will take the precautions necessary that we have discussed and shared over and over and over. Everyone should assume that the coronavirus will be expected in their community. So, whether they have one case right now they need to make an assumption that they may have ten next week. They need to take care of themselves. They need to take personal responsibility. The website will let them see what is going on in their county, but I hope that they realize that they should be washing their hands frequently during the day for at least 20 seconds, coughing into their sleeve or a tissue and then discarding the tissue. All of the things that we have said repeatedly – stay home if you’re sick, if you’re symptomatic stay home. Everything that we have been saying over and over again applies to everyone whether there’s zero positive in their county or if there are 10 or 12 or 13 or 20. I just need to say that.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, incredibly well-said. And just let’s not have anyone come back to us a week or two or a month from now and say you didn’t warn us that the numbers were going up before they go down. They will go up before they go down. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to be prudent and do the basic stuff that Judy’s talking about. That’s our best prophylactic against this. Social distancing is a huge weapon for us to flatten the curve, and as long as we all do our part, all 9 million of us, we will unequivocally get through this. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be unscathed; it doesn’t mean the numbers aren’t going to get worse before they get better because they will. But that also doesn’t mean that we need to panic as a result of this. So, thank you for that.
Mike Davis, Asbury Park Press: Hey, just wanted to follow up. Commissioner Persichilli, on this potential death in Monmouth County can you provide any info on where the person was from or the hospital where they were at? And then, with respect to the Bayshore situation as we talked about before, we’ve been hearing that over 100 people have been sent home. I’m wondering if you can confirm if that’s true and kind of give us an idea of how serious a problem that might be.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: The only information I can give you on the Monmouth County is that it was CentraState. That’s all I have. The only other information about 100 individuals, we were not informed that 100 individuals were sent home from Bayshore. That’s not a number we have.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you. Mike, thank you.
Rebecca Panico, NJ.com: Yes, hi, just a quick question again. Where can people find information about which towns these people are from, of the concerned cases?
Governor Phil Murphy: These people meaning the ones who have tested positive?
Rebecca Panico, NJ.com: No, so residents of New Jersey, where can residents of New Jersey go to find out like which towns the confirmed positive cases are in?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, I don’t know that there’s anywhere they can go for that, Judy. Is there or no?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: They can go on the Department of Health website. They will get it by county.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, Rebecca, I don’t think there’s one source that has indications as to the towns. You have it by county, and again, remember the point that we’ve made multiple times here. And again, these gaps I would bet over time would close, but you’ve got more robust information, far more robust information from the tests that Judy and her team are doing at the Department of Health than we have at the other end of the spectrum from the private lab providers. And that’ll probably continue to be the case for awhile but that’s a gap that we hope to be closing sooner than later.
Beth, I want to thank you for doing an extraordinary job hosting this, and other colleagues on the call.
END OF CALL