Governor Phil Murphy: Today is the eighth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. For many across our state and especially in our Shore communities, it is a painful anniversary. While so much has been rebuilt and made more resilient, we know that there are families, to this day, who still are not back to where they were before Sandy ripped their lives apart. We continue to do all that we can to support their efforts, and our commitment to protecting all of our communities is steadfast.
A couple of other quick notes, if I may, and we have a lot of ground to cover today. First, the latest numbers from the Secretary of State and the Division of Elections shows that a total of, as you can see, 2,988,234 ballots have been returned to our county clerks, and we are now at just over 75% of the total voter turnout from 2016. That was about 3.9 million. There is little doubt that we will pass 3 million ballots returned today, which is a huge step and statement. And again, I don't care who you vote for, please vote.
Secondly, today -- and this one is really jarring -- today is Latina Equal Payday, the day on the calendar when Latinas nationwide had finally earned enough through both 2019 and 2020 to equal the wages earned, on average, by their white male colleagues in similar jobs in 2019 alone. Twenty-two months to earn what others did in 12. Here in New Jersey, we have enacted the nation's strongest equal pay law, along with putting our minimum wage on a clear path to $15 an hour. So for all women across our state, we are moving significantly to eradicating the wage disparities that have been endemic for so long in our society. I am incredibly proud of this progress and we know that better health outcomes in our communities are directly tied to economic opportunity and economic equality. Our job is not yet done, but New Jersey is on the road ahead of the nation on this one.
Now, I should have said up front, I'm joined by a trio of outstanding individuals and great leaders. First by the woman who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli; the State's Epidemiologist, another very familiar face, Dr. Christina Tan, and another guy who needs no introduction, the Superintendent of the State Police, Colonel Pat Callahan. We will all get to today's numbers in just a minute but here's a bit of a spoiler alert. They continue to show that the second wave of the coronavirus is no longer something off in the future. It is coming, and it is coming now.
We have been seeing the numbers of new cases grow exponentially across the past several weeks and along with that, the numbers of patients being treated in our hospitals has similarly been on the rise. We are now urging you to double down on the practices that helped us flatten the curve in the first place last spring and throughout the summer: social distancing, washing your hands with soap and water frequently or using the high alcohol hand sanitizers, and critically, wearing a mask.
After eight months, I understand, we understand, that we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue but this virus has been waiting for us to get lax in our personal responsibilities so that it can come roaring back. And in particular, we're seeing many of the new cases linked to small gatherings in private homes, where folks are more apt to let their guard down, especially in not social distancing. We urge you -- please, folks, I urge you -- to get back to that level of vigilance that you showed six months ago, so that we could beat back this second wave. And in return, I commit to you, as a state, we are ready for it.
Our focus has been on building our capabilities in three critical areas: personal protective equipment, testing, and contact tracing. Two months ago, we noted that we have used the past months to secure the vital personal protective equipment our essential workers and first responders need. Through the leadership of the folks with me today, Pat, Judy, their teams, as well as Jared Maples, the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, along with the tremendous work of their teams and colleagues in our front office, we have been continuing with an aggressive program to source the PPE we will need to have a strong three-month inventory supply in our own State Strategic Stockpile. We knew we would need to have PPE at the ready and capable of being deployed when the second wave arrived. Well, here we are.
First, I have to note a tremendous figure. Look at this on the screen. Throughout the pandemic to-date, the State of New Jersey has distributed -- not in our stockpile, but already out the door -- 82 million pieces of PPE to the facilities where they were most needed. This is an incredible number. Remember, folks, eight months ago, the State of New Jersey was not in the PPE business; we just didn't do this. And eight months later, we can say that we've already distributed 82 million pieces of PPE.
However, even as PPE has been flowing out the door to critical areas, we were, at the same time, building the stockpile we need to prevent a repeat of the spring when we were fighting to get every available piece. Today, we thought we'd update you and tell you where we stand.
First off, our target for N95 masks is nearly 5.9 million. Today, we have already an inventory of roughly 5.7 million, and another 1.6 million are on order with the expectation of being received within the next 30 days, so we will easily exceed our target.
Next, for surgical masks, and you can see all this on your screens, we currently have 13.3 million in inventory, which is 92% of our goal of 14.3 million.
Next up, face shields. We have 1.3 million in stock and another 665,000 on the way in the next 30 days. Our goal is 2.15 million. Our goal, by the way, was to be by the end of the fall, which is obviously December but we don't want to wait for that. We have more than 3.7 million hospital gowns inventoried in our warehouse, with another 1.5 million on the way. When those arrive, we will clear our target of 4.5 million.
We have revised our target goals on gloves upward to 117 million. Our warehouse currently has nearly 3.9 million, but an additional 100 million are on order and are expected to arrive in the next 30 days.
Finally ventilators, a shortage of which we all remember we aggressively battled against the spring in our effort to save every life possible. Our total stockpile is 2,050 with 597 currently deployed statewide. And remember, for the most part, a ventilator is a different category than the other PPEs. So when you send out masks, shields, gowns, gloves, they get used and they are then expired. Ventilators, for the most part -- there are exceptions to this -- ventilators, for the most part, have a life. So when we say we've got 2,050 in the stockpile and 597 currently deployed, we would expect, God willing when we get through this surge, that those ventilators that are in the field will ultimately be returned, maintained, and be ready for service in the future.
So all in all, this has been a massive undertaking led by the Office of Emergency Management. Pat, I want to give you and your team a shout out, and Judy, you and your team. While we have come a long way, we will not let up in our pursuit to ensure that we have the PPE required for this wave and to build a stockpile for the pandemic to come.
Next up, I mentioned testing. We have worked just as hard to increase our statewide capacity. We are currently exceeding our goals and doing about 33,000 tests per day, and have conducted to-date more than 4.5 million tests in New Jersey. That's per capita, one out of every two people in the state. Plus the addition of the 2.6 million Abbott Labs Binax Now antigen rapid test has only buttressed our ability to ensure that we can move testing supplies to our hotspot areas, long-term care centers and schools.
Judy and her team continue their work alongside our local public health officials to see that tests are available when and where they are needed most. And at the same time, we are working diligently to further build out our community contact tracing corps. 350 of our current contact tracers have been undergoing advanced training and coaching to help enhance their abilities so we can better combat the current surge. On Monday, 100 new contact tracers started their training, with the goal of having them deployed to local health departments by next Wednesday, November 4th. These contact tracers are being asked specifically to work evening and weekend shifts to help provide extended coverage to the departments where they will be stationed. Additional prospective contact tracers will begin training this upcoming Monday, November 2nd, and we are seeking at least 50 tracers who are Spanish speaking to meet an identified need from local health officials.
Within the next two weeks, we'll have at least a total of 2,100 contact tracers working throughout the state to support the local health departments. Our partners at Public Consulting Group, who have been bringing more of our contact tracers on board and respectively, their partners, Staffing, Etc. and The Computer Merchant are currently contacting people who registered interest in becoming a contact tracer. So folks, if you receive an email from one of these organizations, please know that it is legitimate, and you are needed as part of our community contact tracing corps.
Across the board, we have been aggressive in building our capabilities to fight the second wave that is now starting to crash on our shores. All of us collectively on the screen are pledged that we would not be caught unprepared when the second wave arrived. Well, it is here and we are ready. I know Judy is going to talk and refer to the so-called Lakewood model in her remarks. When we say scalpel, a big piece of that is testing, tracing, enforcement, public pronouncements, working with our community leaders, with faith leaders, and that combination feels like it is one that is working in the context of what is undeniably a surge.
A couple other things before we get to the overnight numbers. Give that it's Thursday, this morning the Department of Labor released the latest state unemployment figures, as does the nation and every other state. Last week, 27,000 workers submitted an initial claim for benefits. That's a decrease of more than 1,400 from the prior week. This is the second straight week of decline. While we're all gratified by that, tell that to one of the folks who just filed for the first time. This continues to be an ongoing crisis in our state and in our nation, and my jaw is on the floor that the Republican leadership in the Senate has not found a way -- in fact gone out of their way -- to reject a desperately needed stimulus package from Congress, signed by the President, that will go to a whole host of needs, especially to those who are unemployed.
More than 1.7 million New Jersey workers have filed a claim to date, and more than 1.45 million workers have met the monetary requirements to receive benefits. All totaled, more than $18.1 billion has been released to our unemployed and underemployed workers. For the past eight months, the department and its staff have been tremendous in their efforts to help every eligible worker and family. And as always, I thank Commissioner Rob Asaro Angelo and his team for all they've done and will continue to do.
While we're on the topic of our working families, yesterday happily I joined with Commissioner Asaro Angelo and Congressman Donald Norcross and some of our essential workers, and signed an Executive Order providing mandatory health and safety standards that will help protect all New Jersey's workers during this pandemic. We took this step because, yet again, the federal government hasn't. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, known by OSHA to all, has not yet put forward comprehensive COVID-19 health and safety standards.
But as in so many cases, where Washington doesn't lead, New Jersey will lead. We have set aside a new page in our COVID-19 information hub where workers, and employers by the way, can learn more about the order, their rights as well as their responsibilities, and what it means for them when the order takes effect next Thursday, November 5th, at 6:00 a.m. The page can be found right there, covid19.nj.gov/safe. I once again thank all of our partners in labor, especially the Protect NJ Workers Coalition for all their work in helping us take this important step.
With that, let's look at our overnight numbers. And as I said, they are sobering. We report an additional 1,477 cases. That brings our cumulative total to 234,547. I'll give you a little county color. Essex County, with 241 cases, remains our biggest current concern. Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic and Union counties also each recorded more than 100 additional cases. The positivity for all tests recorded on Sunday, October 25th was 6.54%. That is becoming very concerning as it's gone up. And as Judy will indicate, when you look at it regionally, it's pretty tight around that number. The statewide rate of transmission currently stands at 1.25. Thankfully, not getting out of hand, but stubbornly above one.
In our schools, our dashboard has been updated, as it is on every Thursday. This week, we're reporting 11 new cases -- that's on the right column -- stemming from three newly confirmed instances of in-school transmission. This gives us a total on the left of 28 outbreaks, and on the right 122 cases of either students, educators or other members of staff. As you can see, one county has four instances, and that's Ocean, the rest are zero, one, two or three. While we have seen overall spikes in multiple counties, we take some solace that these spikes do not appear related to our schools. We remain confident that we have the protocols in place to protect the health and safety of our schools and educational communities.
Before we go on to our hospital numbers, just to say that as of now, and this is a set of numbers that we've been tracking, 505 of our school districts are in hybrid mode. That's up substantially. 169 school districts are in remote mode. That is down substantially. 94 school districts have complete in-person, that's up slightly, and 39 districts have a combination of all of the above, depending on a mix of buildings. That's, folks, about what we had expected. You remember we've been saying at or around the end of the first marking period, a lot of districts had in their plans that they would go mostly from remote to hybrid. We're seeing that happen. I think you'll see it's a stickier migration from hybrid to full on in-person, for the very simple reason that we don't have the floor plate in our districts, at least in all of our districts, to accommodate the six-feet social distancing that we need schools to adhere to. Again, I want to give a huge shout out to administrators, superintendents, educators, kids, their families, all the stakeholders. This is so far, again, not perfect. What is these days? There's no normal school year, there's no normal probably anything right now, but this is going about, even though we take every single one of those 122 cases deadly seriously, this is about as good as we could have hoped.
With that, let's look at our hospitals. Last night. We had 1,072 total patients. That broke down 846 confirmed COVID positive and 226 persons under investigation awaiting the receipt of their test results, 217 patients in ICUs, 79 requiring a ventilator. And sadly, we are reporting an additional eight losses of life now confirmed from complications of COVID-19, bringing our statewide total to 14,539 blessed souls lost. All eight, by the way, of those new announced passings are from the past 10 days. Our probable cases has been refined downward over the past week and currently stands at 1,793.
Again, apples to oranges, Judy and I always want to report this figure. Judy, I've got 16 fatalities or deaths in our hospitals in the past 24 hours. Again, they're not yet here, they are being investigated to confirm that they're COVID-19 complications. As we do every day, let's take a couple of minutes to remember three more of the blessed souls we have lost.
We'll start in South Jersey, Cape May Courthouse, to be exact, the home of Isabel “Issy” Sickerott. That's Issy on the lower right of your screen. Issy grew up in Stone Harbor and went to Middle Township High before earning a degree in elementary education from Glassboro State College, which as we all know, is today Rowan University. Issy would have a multi-decades long career in public education, combining book learning with a passionate love of music and song to reach her students, teaching at schools in Middle Township, Sea Isle City and Dennis Township. Her former students and colleagues, and this was also underscored by her daughter, would remember that she always had a piano in her classroom, and she loved, I have to say as I do, the old standards. She retired in 2005, and she and her late husband Bernie took off on a cross-country adventure in their RV, but the call of her South Jersey home would bring her back.
Issy leaves behind her four children, Karen with whom I had the great honor of speaking the other day, she's on the lower left, and then those are her brothers, John, Greg and Eric, along with her eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. She's also survived by her sisters, Eddy and Ann and many nieces and nephews. Issy was 79 years old. We thank you, Issy, for your years of dedication to the students in your classroom. May God bless and watch over you and all who you have left behind.
Next, we're going to travel up to the opposite part of the state, Bergen County, to remember Saddle Brook's Carol Ann Siano. She too was an elementary school educator, a teacher at both St. Philip the Apostle School in Saddle Brook and St. Anne School in Fairlawn, and she was a parishioner at St. Anne Roman Catholic Church as well. But no matter where she taught, she instilled in her students a lifetime love of learning.
As much as she loved her students, her family was always her first pride and joy. She and her late husband Anthony, he passed by the way in 2011, raised two children, Nicole with whom I had the great honor of speaking, and her brother James, who have their own families, including Carol Ann's granddaughters Miranda and Rebecca, right there right before your very eyes, two precious young ladies. May God bless Carol Ann, and I know she has been reunited with her beloved Anthony. We thank her too for dedicating herself to the education of others, and may God bless and watch over her.
Finally, we're going to ping pong back south to South Jersey to remember Hammonton original Salvatore Silipino Sr. Sal was 87 years old and had called Hammonton home for his entire life. Sal served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War, and when he returned home, embarked on a life that would include work as a self-employed lumberjack at Whitehall Laboratories and at the Vision Property Group, all of it while never leaving his hometown. As any good South Jerseyan and would be, Sal was a loyal fan of both the Eagles and the Phillies and I said to his family the other day, the only silver lining -- and there is no silver lining for the loss of any life -- Sal did not live to see the Eagles season so far. He also enjoyed horse racing and going to the casinos across the expressway in Atlantic City.
For more than 50 years, Sal shared his life with his wife, Mickey, who sadly passed in the year 2000. Together they had three children and boy, I spoke to a lot of Silipinos the other day, Sal Jr., his wife Nancy was there and their daughter Nikki, who is 20 years old. Sal and Mickey's daughter, Debbie, son Ronald, we all spoke at the same time and it was quite a conversation. All three survive him today along with their families, including Sal's -- Nikki was one of nine grandchildren and six great grand-children. Sal also leaves his sister Rita and many nieces, nephews and cousins, and he also leaves his companion later in life, Beatrice, as well as countless friends. A full life worthy of remembering and celebrating. We thank Sal for his service to our nation and his commitment to his hometown, and may God bless and watch over him.
And may God bless every soul we have lost to this pandemic and may their memories and stories be a comfort to the families and friends they have left behind.
Let's switch gears briefly, as we do at this time, to highlight another of the small businesses working with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to receive the financial support they need to remain open in the face of these uncertain times. Today we're going to East Windsor in Mercer County, where you'll find the Vietnamese restaurant Baguette Bistro, run by the husband and wife duo, and you see them right there, of Vi and Rosa Trieu. Since its opening in 2018, Baguette Bistro has been the only Vietnamese restaurant in its area, welcoming diners ready to enjoy a deep bowl of traditional Vietnamese pho, spring rolls and handcrafted bunmi sandwiches made on the bread that gives Baguette Bistro its name.
When the pandemic hit and Vi and Rosa had to close their doors to their diners and shift to takeout orders only, they looked to the EDA for help. Working together, Baguette Bistro received a grant that helped them cover their expenses and keep serving their customers. I had the real pleasure of checking in with Vi and Rosa earlier in the week and as I often travel through East Windsor on my way to and from the state capitol, I know I'll be stopping in. I might invite the extraordinary Mayor Janice Mironov to join me for a bite.
They wanted me to say they relied on the love and support from their regular customers. I have to say this, I think Vi is from the north in Vietnam. Rosa is from the south. They are living the American dream, folks. They have three kids, one of who has graduated just this last spring from NJIT, two of them at Rutgers. These are exactly the sort of families we need to celebrate not just in our state, but in our nation. I asked them how they met, because I stupidly thought they perhaps had met in Vietnam. They met here, and I'm not making this up. I asked them where, and they said on the New Jersey Turnpike, Exit 5. And I said, at a rest area? And they said no, literally on the turnpike they agreed to meet. I think Vi was headed out of Jersey and they met on the highway, on the turnpike at Exit 5 and I think he literally turned his car around and it sounds like may have turned his life back toward New Jersey, so go check them out. Please throw some business their way.
Finally, for today, a reminder that with Halloween on Saturday, we want everyone across the state to have an enjoyable yet safe day and night. By the way, the rain will pass but it's going to be really cold on Saturday, unusually cold, even for October 31st. So as a first reminder, while we encourage everyone to wear a mask that covers both nose and mouth, a costume mask does not count because it cannot provide the necessary level of protection.
Secondly, if you're giving out treats to trick-or-treaters, we ask you to arrange your treats in such a way that they can be quickly and safely accessed without multiple pieces being touched. Please don't use the big bowl where everybody has to stick their hand in.
And finally, please keep all of your Halloween activities outdoors, even though it will be cold. Our Halloween guidance is available, Judy talked to it a couple of weeks ago, but it is available to everyone. Please go to covid19.nj.gov and click on the link near the top of the page under "What You Need to Know." We want everybody to have a safe Halloween. Please use your common sense though, at all times. While you may wish to dress up as a knucklehead on Saturday night, we don't want anyone to act as one. So with that, whether it's Halloween or any other day, please keep smart. Keep a social distance. Keep washing your hands. Keep wearing your masks.
With that, please allow me to welcome 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. Well as cases begin to rise in the state, the department created hotspot teams to support communities that need help responding to an increase in cases locally. These teams are focused on increasing testing, contact tracing capacity, education and awareness, and ensuring places are available to isolate and quarantine. Working together with the Ocean County Health Department and the community and religious leaders in Lakewood, we have developed a plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in that area. We found sites to stand up testing quickly that are convenient to the community. Since the end of September, the department stood up 33 pop-up testing sites in Lakewood. These sites included Blueclaw Stadium, Monmouth Medical Center's parking lot, a municipal lot, a public school, various yeshiva schools, and two federally qualified health centers, Comed and Ocean Health Initiatives. The department also deployed a nursing team to both the FQHCs to assist and train them on the Binax Now rapid testing process. Comed in Lakewood has performed 33,634 total tests. According to the data we have, that is more tests than any other FQHC in the state.
The department also sent 21 contact tracers to Ocean County and worked to expand their hours into the evenings and weekends. The staff helped the local health departments interview individuals and notify contacts during that surge. The department has worked with local community and religious leaders to increase public messaging and raise awareness of the important public health prevention practices, such as isolating when you are sick. We have provided educational materials in both English and Spanish on contact tracing, wearing a mask, social distancing, COVID facts and symptoms, to the FQHCs and to the county health department.
With this support, and the cooperation of the Lakewood residents, we have seen a dramatic decline in the spread of the virus. In Lakewood, percent positivity went from a high of 36% in late September to 5.64% as of last Friday. When we all work together, wearing masks, social distancing, washing your hands frequently, staying home when you are sick, getting tested. answering the call, we can do better. We can beat this virus.
In addition to Ocean County, the hotspot teams are monitoring and working with other communities. For example, we received a call over the weekend to support the Newark community whose positivity on a seven-day rolling average spiked to 11.6%. Newark has been extremely resilient in responding to COVID-19, but they needed a little more support. We deployed contact tracers, and we're working with the health department to enhance testing and isolation capacity.
Additionally, we're working with the following counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, Monmouth, Middlesex and Union. Hotspot teams are working to increase testing in these communities, pushing out educational materials and ensuring that quarantine space is available for those who need it. The department evaluates contact tracing needs of our local health departments on a daily basis and shifts existing staff to hotspots as they are available.
Some of the staff that helped Ocean and Monmouth health departments during their surges have been reassigned to Essex, Hudson, Bergen and Union. So far, about 20 contact tracers are providing support to those counties. And as the governor shared, 100 new contact tracers are being on-boarded this week and completing training, and will be distributed to the counties as soon as their training is complete.
Moving on to my daily report, as the Governor shared, our hospitals reported 1,072 hospitalizations of COVID-19 positive patients and PUIs under investigation. A short six weeks ago, the seven-day rolling average of the census in our hospitals was 420. There are 217 individuals in critical care and 36% of those patients are on ventilators.
Fortunately, there are no new reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. There are a total of 60 cases in our state. The ages of the children affected range from 1 to 18. There are no deaths reported at this time, and none of these children are currently hospitalized.
At the state veteran homes, the numbers remain the same, as they do with our psychiatric hospitals.
The state's percent positivity as of October 25th is 6.54%. The Northern part of the state is reporting 6.76%, the Central part of the state 6.85%, and the Southern part of the state 5.66%. That concludes my daily report. Stay safe and remember for each other, for us all, please take the call and download the COVID Alert NJ app. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you. Quick question for you, a couple of quickies here. I alluded to this in your comments. I see we've been joined by Chief Counsel Parimal Garg, great to have you, Parimal. You confirmed this, the positivity rates by region a little bit lower in the south but for the most part, it's pretty tight, even though we know that the cases, the big numbers are in the Northern part, right? Any color on that? Are you surprised that the Central and South are as high as they are? Or conversely, that the North is not higher?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I think if we look at, putting Lakewood aside in Ocean County, if we look at the trend over the last six weeks, it followed exactly what we saw back in March and April, where the North got hit. Back in March and April, it slowly went to Central and then South. I think we're just seeing it move more quickly and the community spread is basically throughout.
Governor Phil Murphy: Secondly, I wanted to underscore what I'm calling the Lakewood model. I don't want to pat ourselves – I know you're not intending to either -- on the back that we've got all this figured out. But it's pretty clear a combination of working with community leadership, as we are with Mayor Ras Baraka and his team right now in Newark; in Lakewood's case especially, working with faith leaders, although faith leaders are important not just there, but around the state; plussing up testing, plussing up tracing; plussing up enforcement and then plussing up our bullhorn. And in Newark's case, including in Portuguese in the East Ward as an example, that combination feels like that's sort of a hand that we can play elsewhere. Is that fair to say?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Exactly. With our local health departments, our local health departments, talk about unsung heroes, they are working day and night to pull all this together.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, it's a mistake for me to leave the impression that it's just the state level. It is the state, but it's working with the local health departments. We were very cautious, knowing that we'd get hit again, and Tony Fauci said the silver lining here is New Jersey enters whatever surge we're going to see this fall and winter in a good place. And, again, I think that's partly due to the fact that we were very incremental in our opening strategy. Even today, we're trying like heck to get, for instance, restaurants more support. We're still only at 25% of capacity. That's an outlier at the low end relative to other states. And again, it gives me no joy on behalf of the restaurant business, but it also means that we have not seen, you know, Joe's Bar and Grill with an outbreak of 23 cases, which you are seeing in other states.
Secondly, you've seen the school numbers, the way that's gone. Those are still relatively modest numbers which brings me back to the point we've been making a lot over the past number of weeks. It's people's private behavior, behind the doors that we have a hard time getting to, regulating or enforcing compliance, which feels like the fatigue is having the biggest impact. For all of that, Judy, many, many thanks.
Pat, so again, hats off on OEM's great leadership on the stockpile. What do you have for compliance? I was on last night with both California Governor Gavin Newsome, asking him about the Orange County fires, reached out to John Bel Edwards, Governor of Louisiana to say that we were here for them, getting I think their fifth storm of the season. I also know you had a call up and down with the state police chiefs this morning. Any or all of the above, good to have you.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you. With regards to the various disasters around the country, Governor, OEM is monitoring any of those Emergency Management Assistance requests that come in, regardless whether it's from the Gulf states, from California, we continue to monitor those to make sure that we're at the ready to support them too.
With regard to compliance, again, we didn't have any Executive Order compliance violations reported to the ROIC, but this morning, although we discussed many topics on the phone call with law enforcement, federal, state and local partners, when you hear Commissioner Persichilli talk about that positivity rate and that trending in the wrong way, and you lay that up against no Executive Order violations, I think it speaks to your point that these are happening in small gatherings, behind closed doors in private residences that aren't as visible or as easily reported. It's not that overcrowded restaurant or bar or nightclub. I really just would ask law enforcement throughout the state to remain vigilant on the enforcement and we just can't rest on what we have done in the past.
So I just, again to your point, I thought the positivity rate wasn't correlating with Executive Order violations. You know, we're glad that EO violations are down but it was just a point that we stressed and discussed on this morning's call. Which, again, I think we just need to remain vigilant.
With regard to the weather in our own state, that Tropical Storm Zeta, which went from a hurricane back down is a fast mover. This afternoon and tonight is going to be some serious rain, upwards of four inches, wind gusts that speaks to those tents and things that are set up outdoors. Just again, although we messaged it on our social media, to make sure that those areas, the we batten down the hatches on those because those wind gusts, especially along the coast and south of 195, we're going to see a lot of rain and certainly a lot of wind along the coast. But by Saturday, the high pressure system is going to move in. It's going to be cold, but it's going to be nothing but sun.
And just really to the PPE distribution, I appreciate you mentioning the effort that went there. It's a tremendous team and the three people that I would just mentioned by name is Sergeant Dan Cunning, and civilians Kevin Palmer and Josh Matteron, I think is his last name. It's just seven days a week, just inventory ordering, distributing, just a phenomenal effort. I just would be remiss if I didn't mention them.
Actually, just to your point of Vi and Rosa, I have heard a lot of war stories about the Jersey Turnpike but I have yet to hear a love story about the Jersey Turnpike, so I thank you for that. It's a great story. That's all I got, Gov.
Governor Phil Murphy: I'm with you, Pat. I probed because I assumed it was at a rest stop, but it wasn't. They may make a movie of that. Again, hats off on the OEM front and to the three guys you mentioned and the whole team.
Weather, clearly it's nasty and we're going to get soaked, we are getting soaked. Winds are going to pick up. One of the prognosticators said maybe as much as four inches of rain so folks, be careful out there. Flash flooding is clearly a potential here. I think Pat, you said it, but south of 195 is more exposed than North, but it's still the whole state is exposed.
We've not gotten to -- just to close this out before we take some questions. Am I right in saying we've not gotten either from the feds or from California, Louisiana, Mississippi, any of the states, either California, amazingly has now got raging fires again, in this case in Orange County, and the storm in the Gulf. Am I right in saying we have not gotten requests?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: We have not and I get those, they come directly to my email so I know when those EMAC requests pop up and that's when we start going back and forth with the requesting state's Offices of Emergency Management.
Governor Phil Murphy: Got it, thank you for that. With that, again, I predicted Dan Bryan is directing today, he'll probably correct the record but please do, Dan, and shoot me a note but I think we're going to be virtual here for the foreseeable future. Not forever and always, but I think this is the format we're going to stick with, at least for the foreseeable future. What we will do is we'll still stay with the Monday-Thursday reality. I've been pretty virtual myself, even though I got back on the field after my fourth negative test in a week on Monday. I've done very few things that are what you'd call in-person. I'll probably do something tomorrow, one item but it will be outdoors. We'll be with you electronically unless you hear otherwise, for the most part, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. We will be back in this format on Monday.
Obviously the election is on Tuesday. Mahen Gunaratna has just given me the update as of one o'clock, 2,996,383 ballots are in. That's 75.72% of the entire vote in 2016, which is well ahead of any expectation we had. With that, let's take some questions. Please try to be economical. We'll try to stay with you until 10 past, maybe even quarter past, if we can squeeze that amount in.
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Hello, everyone. So with you sounding the alarm on a second wave, are you definitely not planning to increase indoor dining or relax anymore restrictions anytime soon? Are you thinking of putting any more restrictions in place, like reducing gathering limits?
You hold up Lakewood as a success story, but what data are you using to support that, since there's no public reporting on rapid test data that has flooded the area as part of the plussing up strategy? How many tests were conducted in Lakewood, PCR, rapid in the weeks after the spike, and how many were positive for both? What advice is the state health department giving families in nursing homes about taking loved ones out of the nursing home for the Thanksgiving holiday? Will returning residents need to be isolated 14 days? And if yes, how should nursing homes handle that if residents share a room and space is tight?
What was your reaction to Governor Chris Christie being unwittingly used for a Cameo message in the Montana gubernatorial election? Were you and the DGA aware?
Governor Phil Murphy: On the last one, I was not aware. I'd like to claim credit for that but I was not aware. I thought it was quite humorous. I did speak to Mike Cooney yesterday and Chris Christie didn't come up, but that race is on the knife's edge, as there are many others.
I'm going in reverse order, I guess. This is me, so I'm going to speak for myself and I'm going to ask Judy to come in behind me on both the long-term care question, Brent, as well as on Lakewood. I would not take them out. I would not take a loved one out of long-term care. If it were my mom or dad, had they still been living, I think it's a mistake. I know that sounds callous, but we're in a tough spot right now. Again, not remotely like we were in the spring but we know a lot more than we did in the spring, and we know enough to draw that conclusion. That's my personal opinion. I'll let Judy talk about the process. Contrary to the myths that were out there in the spring and crazy people who just spread lies, Judy was unequivocal about cohorting, meaning separating patients between COVID positives and the rest of the population, including staff, by floor, by wing, by building if possible.
On Lakewood, I think the evidence, I don't know the amount of tests, Judy might know that but the evidence is in the spot positivity. Judy, I can't recall whether -- I know you have said this to me privately but we know what the spot positivity is now in Lakewood and what it was at the end of September and it's dramatically different and better, period. Judy can address that.
On indoor dining or any other steps, I think we are right now and I don't say this with any glee, by any means, and we're trying to be as creative as humanly possible with what we can do with our restaurants. We are in a holding pattern. I think it would be irresponsible to be otherwise right now. And again, we have the benefit, I think as a state and again, this brings me no glee as a business matter, but we didn't go wild and open up like a lot of other states.
I want to say something, Judy, you and I heard this in a conversation we had with Rich Besser, I can't remember when that was but it was last week sometime. There's no evidence, and I want to repeat this. There's no smoking gun evidence that at Restaurant X, there was an outbreak of Y people. We just don't have that.
But what we do know, and this is not just specific to indoor dining, this is applying to any indoor activities. Nationally, this is not New Jersey, but nationally, studies and research being done when they asked people what their habits are, if on their habits there is a series of indoor experiences, versus someone who does not have a set of indoor experiences on their recent habits, the chances are higher that they've been either exposed or they test positive. That is a fact.
But having said that, we opened things up on the inside knowing we're taking on some amount of risk, so that doesn't really surprise us. But it doesn't give us the fact pattern that you want to continue the opening up steps.
Judy, anything else on long-term care, taking loved ones out for the holidays, and/or evidence that the Lakewood approach has worked or is working?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure. First, on long-term care, I don't think there's been anything more difficult than trying to balance the mental wellbeing, emotional wellbeing of residents in long-term care and the visitation. But as I sit here today, there's 160 long-term care facilities that are identified as having active outbreaks. It's coming in from the community. We know that our communities are seeing a rise throughout all of the regions. We keep a close eye on that. It's a risk, bringing your loved one home. It's a risk from our perspective. We don't think it's very positive. It's not a risk that I think you want to take.
However, if you do decide to do that and the individual comes back into the home, they're going to have to quarantine for 14 days. There's no question about it. They will be quarantined by themselves. We cannot suggest that anything short of that would be a safe thing to do.
On Lakewood, you know, the positivity is just one indicator. We obviously look at hospitalizations from the Lakewood area. So it's new cases, hospitalization, positivity, we keep a close eye on syndromic surveillance in our hospitals, COVID-like illness in our emergency rooms, and track back to Lakewood and Ocean County to determine how effective all of our actions are in Lakewood and Ocean County. So, too soon to tell. Positivity is one thing that we look at and I think with the cooperation that we saw, we're very hopeful that the virus has slowed down a bit.
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: In terms of rolling back restrictions though, are we not seeing anything before Thanksgiving, Christmas? Not just indoor dining in general. Are we expecting to see anything change in the next few weeks? Is there a date we have?
Governor Phil Murphy: Brent, all options are on the table. Judy, one other comment I want to make is that you and I had the great honor last week virtually to sign – God, was it this week or last week? Two big bills, one of which addressed staffing ratios in long-term care, and the other addressed the very point you're talking about in terms of the stress. I want to make sure that folks not only know that we acknowledge the mental health challenges of both residents and loved ones, but we've done something about it, obligating facilities to actually have programs to address this. I want to make sure we say that, because my answer may sound callous, but I do want folks to know that we care deeply about the mental health realities here as well.
Daniel Munoz, NJBIZ: Hi, Governor, thanks for doing this. Have any of the field hospitals been brought back online? Are they still inactive? Are they preparing, the same with any of the retrofitted medical facilities that were brought back online or redone over the spring?
Regarding marijuana, should voters approve the ballot, what exactly do you need to see in the enabling legislation for legalization and decriminalization before you would sign it?
And this is a bit of a broader question but you know, it's raining outside. It's been raining for the past week or so and it's pretty freezing. People still want to get together with their loved ones and you mentioned that with weather like this, people still can't be gathering indoors. Just where are they going to go? They had these options over the summer with creative outdoor dining arrangements done in coordination with the local towns like closing off streets. Do they just not have anything like that anymore?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, all good questions. On field medical stations, unless Pat or Judy disagree with me, those still are mothballed. We still have them. Remember, we had at one point 8,300 people in hospital beds, I believe, at the peak. We are now at about 1,100 so we are not, thank God, at this point we are not near that number, but they still are there if we need them.
I expect and want for social justice reasons that referendum to pass on Tuesday. The legislation, I would guess -- I don't comment typically about legislation, enabling or otherwise, but I would expect that the enabling legislation, plus or minus, looks a lot like the legislation that we had tried to pass a year-and-a-half ago. If Parimal disagrees with me he will weigh in. It looks like he's nodding yes. And again, I'm not marrying myself to particular words or paragraphs, but plus or minus, it would seem to me that's what it would look like.
Thirdly, there's no good answer. There's no good answer. It's cold, it's rainy, our numbers are up. It gives me no joy to say you can't bring mom or dad out of the nursing home. It gives me no joy to say that you can't have your normal Thanksgiving. You've got to boil it down. It gives me no joy to say that at 3:30 on Saturday, you can't have all your buddies over to watch Rutgers Indiana, go RU. None of that brings me or us any joy, but this is, we're at war. We are at war and we knew that cold weather would be our enemy, never mind cold, driving rain, Daniel, to your very good question. We knew that we'd have another surge, just a question of when and what it would look like, and to what extent. We know that we have to keep all of our options on the table. There's no good, perfect answer here.
I was having a conversation about schools with somebody yesterday. I have to say what I haven't said in a couple of weeks. This is not a normal school year. I would just drop the word school from that, this is not a normal year. Please God, we get therapeutics sooner than later. We get a vaccine sooner than later. I believe we will, but it's probably next year at this point until we're reaching everybody. And until then, the weapons we have at our disposal are really basic: social distancing, face coverings, washing hands with soap, take yourself off the field if you don't feel well or if you've been exposed to somebody. After a few days get tested.
I'd say the other thing, which I think we say implicitly but we don't say explicitly enough, capacity management, even inside your own house. To this day, my wife and I do not sit at the same table as our kids when we're indoors at a meal. We'll do it outdoors, but we won't do that indoors. Not a lot of fun. We're in the same room, windows are open, doors are open. It's getting really cold, but we're not sitting next to each other and that's really unusual. It's not a lot of fun. Forget about us, no sympathy for us. But the fact of the matter is, that's the sort of stuff that is not normal that we have to continue to do. Thank you for that. Let's keep plowing through a few more, please. Hello, Brenda.
Brenda Flanagan, NJTV: We've spoken to many unemployed Jersey residents who have not gotten that lump sum FEMA Lost Wages Assistance Payment from the Department of Labor. There was apparently a lot of confusion over a requirement about checking the box to attest that they were eligible, and so they missed an October 16th deadline. They're telling us they're desperate, they need this money. They qualify for it. So the question is, is there any chance that there could be a reconsideration of that October 16th deadline? Is there any more money to be handed out to these applicants?
Governor Phil Murphy: I don't want to get this wrong so Dan, I'm going to ask that you follow up with Rob Asaro Angelo and Brenda right after this call, if that's possible. Parimal, anything you have, any insight you have on this?
Chief Counsel Parimal Garg: I'm not aware of that, the specifics of this Governor, but we'll circle back.
Governor Phil Murphy: Brenda, we're going to come back to you on this. If we can extend the deadline, count me all in. We want to make sure anybody who's eligible gets what they need. So I will get Rob to follow up with you but I do want to say this, you've given me an opportunity to give a public service announcement which I want to give again. I mentioned this earlier. We need the feds to act. We need Congress to pass a big stimulus bill, the President to sign it, and job number one as part of that bill has to be extending the regular way unemployment benefits that come from the federal government. I'm not making light of trying to track down the 300 bucks for every person we can, every penny of that matters. I commit to you, we'll do everything we can to deal with the deadline to track these cases down.
One other thing, Brenda, we'd love to, as a private matter and I don't want to blow up people's privacy here but when you speak with Rob, we'd love to get name, rank and serial number. That will help us get that but this cannot be in lieu of the federal government acting, Congress acting, the President acting and extending the regular way, $600 benefit that was a lifesaver for so many. Putting money out for our restaurants that we've talked about, small businesses, yes, state and local entities, but there's so many areas of need right now and it can be a bridge over this troubled water until we get to the therapeutic, the vaccines, and we can get back on our feet. We need it right now.
I've said this before, history will not be unkind to our country if we overshoot; it will be devastatingly unkind and the pain will be devastating if we undershoot and don't meet this moment. Brenda, we will follow up. Thank you. Hi, Meg.
Meg Baker, CBS: Hi, Governor. Federal officials are warning about cyber ransomware attacks on US hospitals. Are New Jersey hospitals prepared for possible attacks during this second wave of the pandemic?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, you may have seen Meg, the feds put a statement out. I'm not sure, was it from the FBI, Pat, or was it from the US Attorney General? But they apprehended a number of folks, I believe with Chinese interests yesterday, including in New Jersey. Their statement, Meg, spoke specifically to cyber-attacks on healthcare and hospital systems. I will let the statement stand where it is. But I promise you, I was back and forth with the Director of our Homeland Security and Preparedness Office, Jared Maples. We are all over this working with our health systems. I think it's FBI and Department of Homeland Security, in fact, who put the joint statement out.
Jared Maple is saying he can't speak. If I get any more from him, Meg, in the next 10 minutes I will call an audible. Otherwise, we'll get him to follow up with Dan Bryan after this. But suffice it to say, the feds are all over it, as are we. Thank you. Hi, Dave.
David Matthau, NJ 101.5: Hey, Governor, thanks for taking the question here. A couple of things. As you've been mentioning today, we know that COVID cases keep rising, along with hospitalizations, the spot positivity is up, RT up slightly. The second wave is here and yet, you know, this death total is still very low, all things considered. We touched on this briefly a few days ago. What are we expecting to see in the coming weeks? Is it going to be a big COVID death spike? And if not, why not? And how important do you think these hotspot teams are going to be in battling down the virus? Perhaps the Commissioner who does not need any introduction at all could weigh in on this as well. And by the way, she looks marvelous in the top screen that we're looking at.
Governor, do you support barring police officers from polling places unless they're specifically called there? Some legislators, as you know, and organizations say it's necessary to avoid voter intimidation, and these lawmakers intend to get the change enacted and in effect before next week's election.
Finally, as you do know as well, Governor, the minimum wage is scheduled to go up $1 July 1st. Some lawmakers and business groups are calling on you to freeze the increase, to block it for the time being, because they point out many small businesses are struggling so badly and facing pandemic bankruptcy. Would you consider this? Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you, Dave. I'll give you some thoughts and then Judy, we will turn it to you. After the compliment Dave sent your way, you have to respond to this in some form or another. Listen, the death toll is lower and I guess there's no silver lining to a loss of life, but there are realities today on October 29th that were not in place in March, April and May.
Number one, our medical communities know a heck of a lot more about how to treat this than we did eight months ago. There's just no question about that.
Secondly, we have capacities, as we went through earlier today, that are light years deeper than they were eight months ago.
Thirdly, the virus is migrating toward a different demographic. Not completely, so this is not we can all let our hair down with grandma and grandpa, and that it's only impacting younger people but there's no question that migration has happened, to some extent. All of that, I think Judy and Tina, would contribute to not surprisingly a lower death toll. Do we expect it to go up? I don't know how you couldn't, even with a lower percentage of folks going into the hospital or into ICU or on vents, you're still going to have -- unfortunately, part of this is math. When you have 1,072 folks in the hospital right now, unless Judy tells me otherwise, that's going to lead, sadly, to some number of fatalities down the road. Please God, it is not a spike.
How important are the hotspot teams? They're really important. I think we've seen their work and we're making a lot out of what Lakewood looks like but it's worth reiterating that. They're doing their work right now, working with the local health authorities, with Mayor Baraka and his team right now in Newark. There's no question about it.
I think you mentioned, on the barring police officers related to legislation, I'm not going to comment on any legislation but I think the Secretary of State, the Division of elections, the county clerks, as you know, we're plussing up as we did in the primary in civilian dress, our National Guard units to I think 18 of the 21 counties. We've added more equipment. We are committed to a safe and secure election process that does not have folks in any way, shape, or form intimidated. I think we've got a plan in place that will lead us to that.
And listen, I have enormous sympathy on the small business front. How could you not? And again, please God, we need more federal money, now. I have unending sympathy. I also have unending sympathy for folks who are in poverty wages. It's New Jersey, it's the year 2020. We put this law into place, I signed it for a reason, and that is to get as many people out from under the poverty line as possible. There are no plans at all to change the schedule on minimum wage.
Judy, could you talk for a second about any observations you or Tina have about the death toll and what we can expect? And also, about the local hotspot and local hotspot teams?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Yeah, I think the demographic has changed. The increase in new cases are between 18 and 24, 25 and 40. But our concern is the people entering the hospital are older individuals, and they're obviously getting exposed by younger individuals. As the cases increase, the incidents and the risk of exposure increases so I would expect that unfortunately, the death rate would increase as well.
Governor Phil Murphy: And any comment on the efficacy of the local hotspot teams that David also asked about?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Well, as explained in Lakewood, you know, there's no victory laps. The only tools we have in our toolkit are these non-therapeutic interventions that help us decrease the transmission. That's why it's so important that we work with the residents of New Jersey, because we can't do it by ourselves. The hotspot team cannot do it by themselves. The increased testing finds the cases, the local health department does the case investigation, the contact tracers find out who's been exposed, and provides the appropriate safeguarding at that point. That's what we have, and it can work. It has worked in the past. These are not new interventions. They're decades old public health interventions. It worked with measles, it can work with COVID-19.
Governor Phil Murphy: That's a good point. We haven't made that in a while. The contact tracing notion didn't just get invented in March, right Judy? The hotspot reality is a reality that we've been living with, largely successfully I have to say, forever and always, so great point. Okay, Michelle, before we go to our last question, can we pull up Jared? I'm told he can speak and quickly address Meg Baker's question about cyber ransom and our healthcare systems. Jared, fire away.
Director of Homeland Security and Preparedness Jared Maples: All right, Governor, can you hear me?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yes.
Director of Homeland Security and Preparedness Jared Maples: So it's actually two separate cases. One is the People's Republic of China involved in some influence cases. That's federal, out of the Southern District of New York jurisdiction. We are actively participating and supporting our federal partners in that investigation, which is essentially not tied to the healthcare system.
The second case is the one that Meg is referencing, which is there was an advisory that was put out yesterday, it was a joint advisory from the FBI and federal DHS, along with the HHS, the Health and Human Services Department at the federal level, and that is essentially there is an active threat against the healthcare systems in general, providers in particular, that is trying to get ransomware into the system itself. It is not attributed officially and publicly right now, but we are again actively involved in that not only the investigation, but in securing the systems.
I was in contact with Commissioner Persichilli last night, along with, of course, you in making sure that you were all aware that the threat was out there. Also we, supported by the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, pushed out statewide to our public and private sector partners, the specific threat, what they can do about the threat, and then where to report if, God forbid, something like that were to happen in New Jersey,
Governor Phil Murphy: Well said, and I'm getting a secure briefing, in fact, on this tomorrow from Jared and team. Thank you, Jared, and I think we lost Pat. But he's back on, at least on audio. Hey, Tracy.
Reporter: Hi, there, Governor. Just circling back on the schools, you listed each of the -- you know, how many schools are in each basket. What is it going to take for more schools that are hybrid to go fully in person? Much like the schools that the smallest bucket of schools are doing. Are those schools maintaining six feet of distance? Have they somehow been able to do that? How are the private schools doing it? Has DOE provided some sort of modeling for schools that are even all remote to try to get them back in some form of in-person learning?
Lastly, how many kids are still without computer access statewide? What sort of incentive and/or carrot is DOE using to try to bring more schools, as was your stated goal many months ago, to bring more kids back in person for at least some time?
Governor Phil Murphy: Okay, all good questions. I don't have a specific number of how many kids are still suffering from the digital divide but we can get you that answer, Tracy. Dan Bryan, please help me follow up. Kevin Deemer, I know, is doing a statewide audit of what exactly that number looks like. As you all recall, a couple of months ago in a lot warmer weather in Irvington, we made the announcement that we had found the money to close that digital divide. We're committed to that. We have corporate and philanthropic partners, to some extent, as well and we thank them for their support.
I think the biggest factor, back up to the top of your question, so we've been saying this for quite some time. Let me back up, because your question sort of begs, how did we get here? We put general guidance out in June. We tweaked that as we learned more through the summer and then we reviewed, just as we did when school districts closed, we reviewed every single plan on their reopening.
If you weren't going to be at a minimum in a hybrid mode, you had to delineate why that was the case, what the gap was, what was your plan for remediation, what you needed from us or the feds and give us a reasonable date by which you believed that you could be back up and running, at least in some form of hybrid fashion.
I mentioned for some time that a lot of those plans, not all of them and you've seen some slippage to January in some of the school districts. But a lot of these remote plans had a date associated with them, which was plus or minus the end of the first marking period. When you look at the numbers I referred to today, you'll see exactly that's what's happening. You've got a significant migration toward a hybrid. Hybrid is now 505, remote is down to 169, all in person is 94. The answer is I can't speak, because I'm not looking at every plan and I'm not in every school building, but schools had to submit a plan that DOE, with DOH's input, approved. That included some very specific safety protocols, and that included social distance protocols.
Without knowing, getting on the inside of each one of these districts, by definition, they would be violating our overall health and safety standards if they were not adhering to social distancing. Those 94 districts, I would say, apparently have been able to solve the riddle on social distancing, which I assume is a big amount of using gymnasiums and common spaces and whatnot.
I'm not sure it's a carrot or a stick, but it's pretty clear what the remote districts need to do. And if they're not at least in a hybrid mode, they've got to have a good reason for it. This is not a free pass. They've got to be able to outline why they are not at least in a hybrid mode. It's not a static thing, Tracy. It's not a static hey, we looked at your plan on August 28th and we'll see you at graduation. This is a constant, ongoing dialogue, principally between DOE and the districts.
And then lastly, what's preventing more of the hybrids going to the full in person? I think largely footprint. I think it's largely footprint. That tells me we'll have a bulk of districts in hybrid mode for the foreseeable future. I hope that's wrong. Clearly, clearly, clearly, what are game changers? If we get the Abbott Binax test to every school nurse in the state, that's a game changer on what I just said. You've got therapeutics available? Game changer. Certainly a vaccine, a game changer. None of this is static, all of it is iterative.
I'll leave you with this. We just crossed 3 million votes that have been cast as of two o'clock. 3,006,541. Pretty remarkable here with five days to go to election day. And again, I don't care who you vote for, but we do care, it's now 76% of all the votes that were cast in 2016. Folks, please vote. Mail it in, drop it into a secure box, hand it to your county clerk, hand it to a poll worker, or show up next Tuesday and vote in person.
To Judy and Tina, thank you as always. To Pat and Jared, Parimal, Dan, the rest of the team, thanks to everybody. I'm going to mask up as we would if we were in the same room. We're going to be with you again, I think electronically over the next few days. I think I'll have at least one public outing and hopefully we can attach a press gaggle, socially distanced press gaggle to that in the next couple of days. Otherwise, we'll be back with you unless you hear otherwise Monday at one o'clock. Assume it's this virtual format unless you hear otherwise, and I wish everybody a great weekend. Please stay safe with this weather and please, please be safe on Halloween. We normally say that but add to that, please do it right as it relates to COVID-19. Take care, God bless everybody.