Governor Phil Murphy: Good afternoon. Sorry to be a couple behind here. You'll hear about the weather when we turn to you, that slowed me down a minute or so. First and foremost, I want to welcome back the woman who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, the woman to my right, Judy Persichilli. Great to have you back. We missed you. To your right, the Department of Health's Communicable Disease Service Director, Dr. Ed Lifshitz. Ed, it's great to have you again. Ed and Tina stepped in mightily over the past week or so. To my left, the guy who needs no introduction, the Superintendent of the State Police, Colonel Patrick Callahan. Also joined by the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Jared Maples, Chief Counsel Parimal Garg and a cast of thousands.
Tomorrow, we've been doing this for many months because tomorrow is the first night of Hanukkah. To all across our Jewish communities up and down the state, we wish you Chag Sameach, a happy Festival of Lights. May the glow of the Menorah help light the way to the better days that are surely ahead.
Today we're going to take a look under the hood, so to speak, at our pandemic modelling. But to put the models into a proper perspective, we should first take a look at the overnight numbers and where we are today. Today we're reporting 4,665 new positive PCR test results for a total of 381,486. As I mentioned before, Judy, Ed and team are working to get as reliable a set of data on the antigen tests at some point going forward as possible. But for the time being, these are PCR tests only.
The positivity rate for those PCR tests recorded on Saturday, December 5th was 13.18%, certainly well above anything that we would deem acceptable. That's based on the total number of tests on Saturday, by the way, of 20,662. Not atypical for a weekend, to have a number that the demand drops off as opposed to our capacity or supply.
Statewide rate of transmission currently rests at 1.1. We're beginning to see the impact on our transmission rate from the recent surge in positive tests. Judy reiterated in our call earlier today something that we've been saying, we should expect, unfortunately, to see that number continue to go up, at least somewhat.
In our hospitals last night, we had a combination of 3,262 confirmed COVID positive patients. In addition, 271 others who are awaiting confirmation of their tests. That's a total of 3,533.
Throughout the day yesterday, and these numbers are not insignificant, so just under 400 live persons walked out of a hospital, 397; unfortunately, 446 walked in. And again, this is apples to oranges because these are not yet confirmed. Judy, I have 59 deaths in the past 24 hours in our hospitals. Our intensive care units counted 630 patients, and 412 of them were requiring a ventilator.
Now, as we have been saying here regularly, I think now for over nine months, but certainly of late, all of these numbers play into each other. There is a direct cause and effect relationship across the board. The more people who contract the virus, the more people who will eventually need hospitalization, a subset intensive care, a subset further ventilators, and sadly, a subset who we will lose. There is no argument in this, as this has been borne out over the past, as I say, nine months.
However, while the numbers of new cases are what provides the shock values for the headlines, and they should, it is the numbers in our hospitals, which are of the greatest concern and the hardest numbers, if you will, when it comes to determining the steps that we need to take as a state. The metrics in our hospitals, and their ability by the way to ensure treatment for those who need it, are the greatest indicators of our on the ground realities.
Now with all that said, let's first look back to April 14th, which is the day when our hospitals were at their peak in the first wave. This is now two days after Easter. On that day, 8,270 patients were being treated in total, with 2,051 of them in an ICU bed and 1,872 ventilators were in use. Judy, you've said this many times, you look at the ratio of ventilators at that point early on to the ICU patients, and it's a much higher rate than we've seen since then. It's crept back up, I have to say, let's not mistake that.
Now when we compare those numbers to today, we're certainly in much better shape but we know that this is a long haul scenario. So using the data at their disposal, both the Department of Health under Judy's leadership and the Office of Innovation under Beth Novak's leadership, have been creating predictive models to help us visualize how this pandemic may play out over the coming months, so we can be better prepared. And by the way, those are two independent analyses, as they should be. You want to get as much of a different set of perspectives, as long as they're reliable, as possible.
As I've said many times before, we make decisions based on a number of data points and a number of viewpoints. And in that, that means that two models built on the same data, but can be independent in their interpretations. To be clear, this is not a competition to see whose model turns out to be more accurate. But having these different views is essential to our ability to long-term plan. We're trying to see the whole field, not just one element of it.
These models are constantly being updated and refined as fresh data comes in. In the spring, not so much was known about the behavior of this virus and we certainly didn't have months' worth of data to build from. Having this knowledge now is invaluable to the modelling effort. And taking into account a series of assumptions about human behavior, as example whether we expect folks to gather and in what format and what size for the holidays, we can build different time series models.
But one thing is constant throughout all of the models. As we look through the remainder of this month and into early 2021, our vaccination rates will not yet be in a place where they will have any significant impact on our path. This is something we have to remember. Yes, we are literally -- and I mean literally -- just days away from the first vaccines being delivered to New Jersey. But we're still months away from the vaccination rates we will need to leave this pandemic behind us. While we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is real and we can begin to envision an end date, also real, we have to hunker down in the meantime and keep our focus. This is no time for any of us to get lax.
So let's first take a look at what may happen if folks do get lax. This is our worst-case scenario. These two models, Department of Health is on the left and the Office of Innovation is on the right. Assume that there is no change among residents in compliance with wearing face masks or social distancing while in public, and that folks are just going to go about their holidays and gatherings with others as they want to and as they traditionally have done. What these two models both show us is that under this scenario, we are in for weeks of significantly increasing cases.
The department's model, again on the left, has us topping out at a whopping 12,595 reported cases on January 14th, probably not a coincidence, Judy, that that is the 14th day after New Year's Eve. The Office of Innovation's model on the right takes us to a high of 9,932 but having to wait until February 1st to reach that peak. So you with me folks? Department of Health peaking -- this is number of cases -- on January 14th, 12,595 and the Office of Innovation peaking basically two-and-a-half weeks later on February 1st, 9,932. Again, a model is a model. It is not static, it moves around. It's based on a whole lot of factors.
The estimates of hospitalizations that flow from these new cases would be similarly jarring. The department's worst case model has our hospitals treating 8,747 patients by January 13th, and the Innovation's model envisions a peak of 8,689 patients on February 5th. Frankly quite strikingly similar numbers. They come in a couple of weeks apart, but the numbers are quite strikingly in within a range. Remember, the peak in the spring on April 14th, that was 8,270. Both of those numbers are several hundred higher than we saw at the worst of it in the spring.
The only solace, at least I can find, and Judy and Ed to chime in on this, in this worst-case scenario is the both models would not see us reach the realized peak in ICU or ventilator accounts, though we shouldn't take much solace in that. And by the way, those numbers have been going up over the past several weeks. The Department of Health still has peak numbers of 1,679 ICU beds, and 1,088 ventilators in use, while the Office of Innovation's model estimates sobering peaks respectively of 1,632 ICU patients and 1,037 ventilators. Again, Judy, strikingly similar numbers, even though they're coming in a couple of weeks apart.
As we've said, protecting the ability of our healthcare system to treat the ill is our paramount concern. If the numbers begin to roll in where the ability to put that into question, as is the case with these models, we will have no choice but to act. You would hope that that would be the case if we have to face those numbers.
Now, a second set of assumptions. Again, Department of Health is on the left, Department of Innovation to the right. These envision a path where all of us do a little more to continue with our masking and social distancing, where more of us use common sense and smart decision-making throughout the holidays to stay among our immediate households and not take part in indoor gatherings where we know this virus loves to hang out. Under these assumptions, we see a path where our hospital metrics, all of them, all of them stay within the safety zone. I don't have off the top of my head the exact differences on the assumptions, maybe you and Ed do, Judy, and we can get into that either today or offline afterward.
Surely, we must prepare for more new cases under both models, we get that. The Department of Health's model on the left, again this is the moderate case scenario, estimates a high of 9,120 reported new cases on January 13th. The Office of Innovation would see us topped out at 7,180. And importantly, earlier, on Christmas Day; 9,120 on January 13th versus 7,180 on Christmas Day. These are still very big numbers and so too are the hospital numbers that these cases would lead to but under both models, the number of hospitalizations, while still significant and concerning, would not overwhelm the capacity of our healthcare system. Again, this is the moderate case scenario. 6,333 on January 14th, which is the Department of Health's model, and 5,752 on January 31st under the Office of Innovations.
Likewise, ICU patients, 1,215 for the Department of Health; 1,080 for the Office of Innovation. Ventilator use respectively 788 and 687. Again, this is what we would consider a moderate scenario, if we all keep up with what we're we've been doing and we all use a little more common sense throughout the next several weeks. Under this scenario, we would not need to reinstate, at least as I sit here today, any of our prior restrictions.
However, and this is an ask for optimism, if we can over perform as we did in the spring and truly recommit to doing the right things, we can push these numbers down even further. A quick timeout. We did this at last minute. This is the Department of Health against the Department of Health: left is worst case scenario, right is moderate scenario. If you flip to the next, you've got the Office of Innovation, both on the left and the right, worst case on the left and moderate case on the right.
The one thing to remember, again, as I said a minute ago, is that these models are just that. They're models. They're not static, they change literally every day, and they improve the more we focus on social distancing, the more we wear our masks, the more we use common sense. The more we can change them for the better, the sooner we can crush the curve of the second wave and get ourselves gliding down the other side. If we do that, we will have put ourselves into a more promising position for when a vaccine becomes widely available in the spring and that means we can envision lifting restrictions that much sooner.
I know we can do this, we know we can do this, because the numbers in the spring did not reach the dire levels we feared from our initial models. And folks, we did that together and we can do this yet again, together. The end of this pandemic is within reach. It's not going to just come to us. We have to reach out and grab it. There's so much we can do to move these models in the right direction and frankly, that includes first and foremost, taking personal responsibility, but there are other things we can do.
For example, we can go and get tested as I did this morning, and add to the data that build stronger models. Across the state there are roughly now 400 locations to get tested. In addition to numerous pop-up testing sites, you can find a site near you at covid19.nj.gov/testing. Three new walkups sites are now operating in Camden City through a partnership among Camden County, Cooper University Medical Center and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and testing is now available First Place 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Monday at the Veterans Memorial School at 800 North 26th Street; every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Cooper Point school at 201 State Street, and on Thursdays at the Dr. Charles Brim Medical Arts High School at 1626 Copewood Street, again 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. All of those, again, are in Camden City. Each of these sites will remain in operation at the dais noted until there is no longer a demand for testing. They do not require an appointment either, and I sincerely thank all the partners for their work in setting these sites up. Again, for a complete list of sites where you can get tested statewide, visit covid19.nj.gov/ testing.
What else can we do? Here's another idea. We can also download the COVID Alert NJ smartphone app that can alert us if we've been potentially exposed to the coronavirus by someone we were next to, someone we don't know, in line at a store or seated next to at a restaurant, or working out in a gym. And if that happens, we can take steps to self-quarantine and get tested to protect others by slowing the spread.
What else? For business owners, it also means making sure your employees have access to the personal protective equipment that can keep them safe and your doors open. And if you haven't yet, I urge all small business owners to visit ppe.covid19.nj.gov and sign up for the New Jersey economic development authorities PPE discount program. This is now a headline due to the strong response, representing a clear need for businesses. We are extending the deadline from tomorrow to next Thursday, December 17th. Your free registration could turn into discounts of up to 70% off the purchase of personal protective equipment.
One of the small business leaders who has already taken advantage of the PPE discount is that guy, Bernard Davidson, the owner/operator of A Whole New World Academy Daycare in Hoboken, Bernard and the team at A Whole New World serve children from six weeks of age right up to pre-kindergarten, so keeping everyone safe and healthy so they can learn and have fun is of paramount importance. Buying PPE supplies was taking up a significant part of the budget, but the EDA's PPE discounts allowed Bernard to purchase what his team and his students needed, including a $600 toy sanitizing machine that ended up costing only about $100 after the discount. Along with significant grant funding from the EDA, Bernard has found a partner to keep A Whole New World open to serve the community.
I checked in with Bernard on Monday, great guy by the way, and thanked him for all that he is doing to keep Hoboken's next generation safe and learning. Check him out, by the way, here's his website, awnwa.com/Hoboken. So again, let's pull that slide back up. Again, if you are the owner of a small business and have not yet registered for this discount program, please, I encourage you to visit ppe.covid19.nj.gov and sign up by the new extended deadline on December 17th.
We also have a weekly update on several different fronts from our schools. First, over the past week we have a total of 18 new in-school outbreaks that have been confirmed. Those are two or more cases, by the way, epidemiologically linked to in-school activity, with a total of 103 subsequent new cases or individuals of coronavirus infection. These 103 new cases came during a week in which, by the way, we take every single one of these cases deadly seriously, but in that same week we reported more than 34,500 positive PCR tests. Since the beginning of the school year, we have recorded 88 total cumulative outbreaks directly linked to in-school transmission, and those outbreaks have impacted 388 humans, whether they be students, educators, administrators, etc. Folks inside the school community.
As we note every week, these are the cases which are directly linked to in-school activities. We know that there are students, faculty and staff who contract coronavirus from out-of-school activities, whether it is a youth sport outing or some kind of a party or gathering. Our work has been to prevent those cases from getting through the schoolhouse door. And for the most part, that effort continues to work as designed and as intended. Certainly not batting 1,000 and let me tell you, this, folks, this is not stress free and I'll get to that in a second. It is highly stressful for everybody involved.
Largely because of the protocols in place, however, the majority of our schools continue to remain open to some form of in-person instruction. 87 are currently fully open for in-person instruction, that's down a couple from last week. 423 are currently offering a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction that has some students in the school building at some point during the day. That's down from about 15 from last week. The number of schools providing all-remote learning has increased by 12 from one week ago to now 258. There are now an increase of five districts that have some mix, depending on the school building, the level of students, whatever it might be, of all remote, in-person or hybrid learning. And again, that number now stands at 43.
And again, we remind districts to remain vigilant in reporting changes to their plans to their executive county superintendents and we thank everyone, educators, bless them, administrators, parents, moms, and dads, students, everyone for continuing to work together under what are incredibly challenging and stressful circumstances. We know this has not been, it is not and it likely will not be easy for anyone or a normal school year.
Before we flip, Mahen, I just want to say I'm making it a habit now of reaching out and calling folks in our educational communities out of the blue. I also spoke with the leadership, senior folks representing educators today. All constructive, really good conversations. My hope is to learn as much as I can on our behalf, on Judy's and Ed's as well as the Department of Education's behalf. Also to make sure folks out there know that we know this is really stressful. And also to run down information that we may hear out there that we're not necessarily getting through the reporting. We had a conversation this morning about one district where there was a lot of concern about both higher numbers of cases than we're noting, as well as folks raising their hand and saying listen, we think we need to do this differently or that differently. And folks not listening or worse yet, ignoring or in fact punishing folks for that. That's not on. That is not on.
I spoke to an educator yesterday who asked very simply, where do I go if I think a school district is not doing everything it needs to do? So we want to make sure that everyone understands that this is high stress. Our focus is first and foremost on safety. Secondly, on a high quality education. We're defending our turf as the number one public education system in America in the midst of a pandemic that is a once in a century, if not longer, phenomenon. And we have to keep in mind the questions of equity as we always do, and wrapped around all of that is flexibility. We'll continue to do everything we can working with our districts, our superintendents, both at the county and local levels, our administrators, our educators, our moms and dads and our extraordinary students.
Now, staying within schools but switching gears. For those schools that remain either all remote or hybrid, the Department of Education has updated its weekly tracking statistics regarding the remote learning digital divide, and these are available online at nj.gov/education. The total number of students who currently lack either the proper device or connectivity for remote learning is now at 31,560. That's down more than 2,000 since last week and down roughly 200,000 since over the summer and that's terrific, but as I've said many times, and I will say until we get that to zero, that's 31,560 students too many.
The biggest sticking point for districts who continue to note an unfulfilled need remains delivery delays, but they are and we are committed to seeing this number continue to fall and get to as close to zero as we can humanly get it.
Now, even with everything we are doing to check the spread and to keep residents out of our hospitals, there are still New Jerseyans who have passed from complications of COVID-19. Today we are reporting an additional, with a heavy, heavy heart, an additional 91 confirmed deaths. To date, 15,674 New Jerseyans have lost their lives confirmed to have passed from COVID-related complications and the number of probable deaths has been revised to 1,868. Let's take a minute and remember three more of the precious lives that we have lost.
Today we remember a couple, look at those million-dollar smiles, huh? Jack and Frances Massa of Cranford. They enjoyed 60 years of marriage. COVID took them exactly one week apart from each other. Fran was a devoted mother and grandmother with an itch for travel and a lifelong thirst for learning. She earned a college degree while in her 60s. Music and performance were a central part of her life, whether it be singing in her church choir or starring in a number of community theater productions. And while her talents made sure her friends and family were always well entertained, her warmth and generosity ensured they were always welcomed and well fed.
Exactly one week after Fran's passing Jack too succumbed to COVID-19. He was, as was I might add retired General Chuck Yeager who passed at the age of 97 on Monday, an American hero. Jack was a proud Air Force veteran. He also enjoyed a good game of poker, playing with a group of friends every Tuesday for more than 50 years. That sounds like a pretty well-established institutional gathering. Jack also owned several race horses over his lifetime and he loved a day at the Jersey Shore. His town was Avon By The Sea. Jack was a successful businessman who own multiple variety stores across the state. He built his career through the same set of values by which he raised his family and lived his life: honesty, dedication, generosity, and faith. And by the way, Jack would have turned 90 this past Monday on December 7th.
Jack and Fran leave behind their surviving children, Michelle with whom I had the great honor of speaking on Monday. She's also a Cranford native. She also had COVID and she is one of the many long haulers in the state. Judy and Ed in particular, in her case, as is the case for so many, it's lung capacity that she is suffering from. So Michelle in Cranford, their daughter, Kristen, who lives in Minnesota and John who's also local in New Jersey, and John also was COVID positive. Jack and Fran were predeceased by their blessed daughter Patricia, who died in 1986 at the age of 33 from complications from diabetes.
They're also being fondly remembered by their 11 grandchildren and a numerous number of siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. We are honored to have had Jack and Fran among our New Jersey family. We thank Jack for his service to our nation and Fran for her tremendous faith. May God bless and watch over each of them and their family.
Thanks to Jared Maples and his wife Mary and their families, we remember today Nutley's Jean Dezarlo. I think that's Jean on the left and her sister Rose on the right. Now Jean was known by many as Aunt Jean, regardless of whether or not they were actually family. Jean spent the majority of her life in Nutley because that's where she could be with her family and friends. She had a more than 40-year career in public service as the payroll supervisor for the Essex County Park Commission, making sure the men and women who looked after the parks, and they're among the best in the state I might add, received what they needed to look after their families.
But more than anything, Jean enjoyed spending time with her family and friends. A good game of bingo, or perhaps a trip to Atlantic City would come in a close second. Jean is survived by her sister Rose on the right, also of Nutley. By the way, Rose and Jean were two of seven. The only surviving sibling is the oldest, Rose, who's 94 years old. Jean, by the way, was the baby. I mentioned that her family kept her close to her hometown and she was not only survived by Rose, but by six nieces and nephews, one of whom is Rose's son Sal, with whom I had also the great honor of speaking. She's survived by 12 great niece and nephews, nine great-great-nieces and nephews, and countless friends. We thank you, Jean, for your years of service to Essex County and may God bless and watch over you, your sister Rose, and the great family you've left behind.
And let us always remember that the best way that we can honor those we have lost is by doing everything possible to keep our families and our communities safe and healthy. Let's work together to save lives.
Before I wrap up, a couple of quick other points. To that point of saving lives, I want to give a huge shout out to Chatham Borough, especially Mayor and dear friend Thad Kobylarz and Police Chief Brian Gibbons, who have implemented what we believe is a first of its kind municipal program in our state, Chatham Borough's COVID Ambassador Program. I want to give a shout out to our friends in Cape May County and the Cape May Chamber who did it on a county basis, but to the best of our knowledge, this is the first municipal-based program of its kind. Throughout Chatham and especially downtown and in front of the borough schools, volunteer COVID ambassadors are working to remind everyone of the importance of masking up and keeping social distances, even distributing masks to those who don't have one. Across the central business district, and it's a magical town by the way, the borough has also stenciled visual reminders on the sidewalk for us all to do our part and that wearing your mask shows that you care about your community and those in it. So to Thad, Mr. Mayor, to you, to Chief Gibbons and everyone in Chatham, thank you for all that you're doing and keep up the great work.
Now finally, as Pat knows, and Jared knows all too well, tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of the hate-inspired attack on the Jewish community in Jersey City which took four lives. While the attack was spurred by anti-Semitic hate, two of the victims were Jewish, the two in the middle, mother and storeowner Mindy Ferencz and a young rabbinical student, Moshe Deutsch. Another on the left was a Latino immigrant, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, working to provide, by the way, for his family and to achieve his American dream. And the guy to the right, a Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey American hero, Detective Joe Seals, Joe was a Christian.
As I noted at the top, tomorrow is also the first night of Hanukkah so it is my fervent hope that the light of the Menorah also leads our work to seek out and remove hate in all of its forms from wherever it lurks. This is not an easy task but as is our fight against COVID, we can win it if we all work together. Remember that Hanukkah is the story of light overcoming darkness despite insurmountable odds; its meaning is universal. It is timeless and it is deeply personal. And may the memory of those lost on that day remain a blessing.
It is now my pleasure, I have not been able to say this in a couple of weeks, to welcome back the woman to my right who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Thank you, Governor and it's good to be back. Quarantining at home for 14 days is challenging even under the best of circumstances. However, I know it is much more difficult for those without resources and support, so I want to remind everyone that there is help to connect individuals with assistance. The Department of Health has funded a social support coordinator in all 21 counties, which is in addition to the local health department staff who specialize in providing this support.
Social support coordinators help individuals connect to facilities for quarantine and isolation, food assistance, childcare, prescription medication access, housing security, rental support, income assistance, health insurance, legal aid, and mental health resources. Recognizing that there are many organizations with strong initiatives to serve vulnerable communities, the department has also collaborated with our four regional health hubs, the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, the Trenton health team, the greater Newark Health Care Coalition, and the Health Coalition of Passaic County. We've collaborated with them to identify and respond to needs such as food security, housing, stability, and coordination of care.
The department has also partnered with NJ 211. NJ 211 will bolster its statewide database with resources to support contact tracers to provide linkages to various local social support programs for those impacted by COVID-19.
We recognize that we need to enhance these services even more to make it easier for those who have been exposed to the virus and those who are positive to isolate effectively. We will continue to work with sister agencies and local health officials to broaden support for our residents in need of assistance during these challenging times. Based on the models shared today, we know that the numbers of residents that need this help will increase.
The models that the Governor shared predict a moderate case scenario and a high case scenario. The Department of Health moderate case scenario suggests 6,300 hospitalized patients with 1,200 in our intensive care units, and 800 of those patients on ventilators. In the high case scenario, we end up back to April 14th, with slightly more, 8,700 patients in hospitals with 1,700 in intensive care and 1,100 of those patients on ventilators. That scenario assumes that the safeguarding practices that we speak about are not adhered to during the holidays.
Unlike last April, we have worked with our hospitals to stockpile PPE and ventilators. We are conferencing weekly with the Hospital Association and regional collaborators and long-term care facilities to determine triggers for access to our strategic stockpile and for decisions for curtailment of admissions and increases in bed capacity. Unlike April, we do have new treatments to lessen the severity of the virus and hasten recovery.
But like the last surge, we continue to be concerned for our healthcare workforce. All of the individuals who experienced the first surge are now anticipating a second one. There are no easily accessed reinforcements. Unlike the first surge, every state in the nation is experiencing the burden of this disease. But together, we can help. Together, we can help to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We can support our frontline workers by not allowing this virus to spread. We can be more vigilant. We can wear a mask at all times. We can socially distance, and we can avoid social gatherings. We can all experience a small, different but joyous holiday season. The joy that you, in your own way, helped to protect others and support the doctors and the nurses and the healthcare workers by stopping the spread of this disease in your communities. And yes, the joy of knowing that you have participated in actually saving lives.
We need to take this very seriously. What happens next is up to all of us. The public's cooperation is vital to protecting our fellow residents and our hospital staff. We need everyone to take this virus seriously. Please mask up. Social distance. Wash your hands frequently. If you've been exposed, get tested and if you don't feel well, stay home. As I mentioned, the state has resources to make this process easier for you. And please, during the holiday season, limit celebrations to those in your immediate household. I know it's hard to be away from family during special occasions, but let's do it this one time. Let's do it to protect yourselves, your loved ones, your own families, and the health of our state.
As the governor said, vaccination is in sight, and that will help our efforts to fight the spread of this virus. It is expected that tomorrow, the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, better known as VARBPAC, will review the Pfizer vaccine data and send recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration. This group, which advises the FDA, include scientists, physicians, infectious disease experts, and a consumer representative. Following these recommendations, the FDA decides whether to issue an emergency use authorization, an EUA. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, known as ACIP, which advises the CDC, will also make recommendations to the CDC, and the CDC will issue guidance based on those recommendations.
As we have covered previously, the initial category of vaccines during phase 1A will be those serving in paid and unpaid capacities in healthcare settings, as well as residents and employees of long-term care facilities. Phase 1A is expected to start this month with hospital-based workers and continue into early 2021. The exact amount of doses delivered to New Jersey is still not confirmed. As soon as it is we will share that with you.
Moving on to my daily report, as the Governor shared, our hospitals are reporting 3,533 hospitalizations, with 630 individuals in critical care and 65% of those individuals are on ventilators. Since 12/7 there are no new cases of multi-inflammatory syndrome in children. There are 64 total cases in the state. The children affected, as you know, have either tested positive for COVID- 19 or have antibody tests that are positive. Two of those children are currently hospitalized.
The Governor reviewed the new cases and deaths reported. In terms of deaths, the breakdown by race and ethnicity stays the same: White 54.4, Black 17.7, Hispanic 20.2, Asian 5.3, and other 2.3.
At the state veterans homes, there's one new positive among residents at the Vineland home. The total cumulative cases among residents at all three of the homes remains at 411. At our state psychiatric hospitals, there is one new positive case among residents at Greystone.
The daily percent positivity as of December 5th in the state is 13.818. The Northern part of the state is 14.03, Central 11.62, and Southern 14.67. That concludes my daily report. I once again encourage you to be careful, to be vigilant, 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. Very good to have you back. We missed you. On behalf of Ed, Tina, Pat and I, we were able to stumble through but we missed you. Good to have you off the IR. Thank you for that. Pat, good to have you. Lots going on, I think, on the compliance front. We got a little bit of a preview of a white Christmas driving over here. Any update you have on compliance, weather, other matters.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. I'll echo your remarks, it is good to have the Commissioner back, although I think she worked harder from 14 day quarantine. I was on the phone or Zoom with her every single day.
Governor Phil Murphy: The impression that I inadvertently was giving was that Judy was able to put her feet up and have a Budweiser and watch some football. That is not what happened. I just want to say for the record.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Correct. With regards to Executive Order compliance, I'll just quickly go through 13 different citations. There were six of them in Plainfield and seven in Newark. In Plainfield, Latino Heat Bar was cited for a violation, not only once but twice, so that makes up two of the six. Also, Hugo's Nightclub was cited, Perone's Nightclub in Plainfield was cited. Pueblo Oviedo was cited in Plainfield, Chez Marie Nightclub. Moving on to the ones in Newark, Miyagi Barbershop was cited for EO violations. Style, another salon, was cited. Also in Newark, Zaluba Bar 437 was cited. Newark Police also responded and cited Sports Bar 865. Also, Ferry Street BBQ in Newark cited, as was Vivo Lounge 167 and Esther's Place 666.
Moving on to the weather, which I just got the update on the way over here, pretty much a northern part of the state event. I know there's slush in Sussex, Warren and Morris, expected potential for two inches of snow in those higher elevations, trace amounts south of us here in Trenton. It is expected to taper off around four o'clock this afternoon. DOT has been in lockstep with us, all over it. They are phenomenal crews, they do have salt trucks on standby from 195 North. I ask that you give them the space and courtesy on the highways while they're out there. I do know that the DOT did brine as well last night in Sussex, Warren, Morris and Somerset. We are just keeping a close eye on the ground and pavement temps because that obviously, once it gets colder, makes for some slick spots and just ask that everybody trying to get from A to B to just slow down and do that safely. Thanks, Governor.
Governor Phil Murphy: Haven't used the word brine in a while. I hear that word and I start to get the yips, as they say. Brendan, we're going to start over here. Before we do, we will be with you virtually tomorrow. We're going to be on the road a little bit on Friday, so we're going to push back. We will still gather on Friday but I think we're going to point toward two o'clock Friday afternoon. Judy and I at least are going to be together on the road earlier than that. And again, we're going to reserve the right if things shift one way or the other, to get back to you in person and we'll stay on the Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. And if that changes, Mahen in the back will get it to us.
We're going to buzz through these if you could help us out. We are a little bit backed up on the scheduling front, so we'll buzz through. Dustin, we'll start with you. Good afternoon.
Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Good afternoon. I'll be quick. I've got three from me and one from Politico. On the models, if hospitalizations get too high or the healthcare system is getting overwhelmed, what kind of steps would you take? Could they be stay at home orders or closures of non-essential businesses? I know you said you'd have no choice but to act but looking for a little clarity on what that could mean.
Can you say whether New Jersey is among the 40 states participating in an antitrust lawsuit expected to be filed today against Facebook?
The Delaware River Basin Commission gave approval for the Gibbstown natural gas project. You had concerns about that in the past so why did your administration vote to approve it? How does that align with your clean energy plans and pledge for a full fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin?
And then the last from Politico is, if we know 74% of people aren't cooperating with contact tracers, how can you be confident of your in-school transmission numbers, since the state's definition of in-school transmission relies on contact tracing? Thanks.
Governor Phil Murphy: Dustin, I'll try to go quickly through these. I think all options remain on the table. You know, one of the options or one of the levers that we pulled in the spring was elective surgery, which was not on your list, but all options remain on the table. And by the way, you hear elective surgery and you think someone's going to get a nose job or something. I had a malignant tumor on my kidney and was told if I had been a week later that would have been deemed to be elective. So when we say elective, it's basically, Judy and Ed, everything except your life is on the line at that moment. But all options would have to remain on the table. We cannot allow our healthcare system to get overrun. It did not in the spring. We stared at the abyss but we did not fall into it, and we cannot at any cost.
And again, the biggest game changer, forget what we decide to do up here. The biggest game changer is personal behavior, especially in the holidays.
I have no insight on the antitrust on Facebook. We'll get back to you, I think, unless Parimal has got a better answer. We're going to come back to you on that.
The Delaware River Basin, listen, I saw the vote as well. I believe Delaware and Pennsylvania also voted affirmatively. My big focus is we need more port capacity, especially in South Jersey, and especially we need more alternatives given the development which will be enormous in the offshore wind industry. I'm not in any way shape or form a proponent of a liquid natural gas element, but we do need as a state more port capacity, and that is important across a whole range of interests.
Judy, I've said this before and Ed, I will say it again, and you'll correct me. Both statements can be true. We're very frustrated with the batting average on contact tracing. In fact, Chief of Staff George Helmi and I had a meeting yesterday with a vendor that believes they can help us improve our batting average, which is finding its way over to you, Judy. But I've also said other than in a hospital setting, the best information we have on who's in the room is our schools. We know exactly who's there. That is not, unless you all have evidence to the contrary, that's not where the weaknesses is. The weakness is in the general ether of the state. Does that sound fair? Let's come down, we'll do Matt front here. Matt, how are you? Hold on one sec.
Matt Arco, Star-Ledger: Good afternoon, Governor. On the models, could you explain why, particularly the DOH model in particular, that peak hospitalizations appears to be either like a day before peak cases or a day right after peak cases, as opposed to a week or two later?
We've also received a number of complaints about people using loopholes in your recent order banning indoor sports. They include hockey rinks running, quote, scale drills that are supposedly unaffiliated organized group team activity where, for example, kids were told to leave their jerseys at home. Another example is of gymnastics classes and things like that. You know, with youth sports not being able to be as closely monitored as college or professional, how do you crack down on these folks that are just finding these loopholes, while also not going after gyms and other venues that are allowed to be open under this indoor ban?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, we had this conversation earlier again too. This is the worst case scenario. Judy and the Department of Health peak of cases, 12,595 on January 14th, peak of hospitalizations at 8,747 the day before. I assume it has to do with who's coming in and who's going out. I don't know if you have any more color on that, you or Ed, on that.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: It's a cumulative effect over time and it has actually started back when we first started opening up certain activities, we've seen a slight peak up then recovery, slight tick up then recovery. But that becomes cumulative, because with every little peak, you have more cases. So it hits.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yep. I was going to say it differently but a similar point. If you looked at any other point along the way, you'd see some anomalies on where the cases are versus the hospitalizations.
Listen, I don't want to put you at risk, Matt but I'd like to know where those places are, those people are, because that does not make me happy. And yes, it's not easy to enforce this stuff. I've said this, Pat I don't think you disagree, there's no amount of law enforcement in any American state that can get into every nook and cranny. If folks out there are willfully behaving badly, shame on you. Shame on you, like leaving your jersey at home. And by the way, you're infecting the kid or the parent. I mean, who do you think you are? Come on. That is completely unacceptable.
There's a good amount, you heard, I was going to ask you, you had a surge of compliance today and folks need to know the enforcement knob is getting turned up higher and higher every day and it will continue to because it has to. But overwhelmingly, no matter how high that gets, we need people to do the right thing. Most everyone is; not everyone apparently is. That's my answer to that. Let's go back to Alex and then we'll come down to Elise. Alex, hello.
Alex Zdan, News 12 New Jersey: Good afternoon. For Commissioner Persichilli and Dr. Lifshitz, can you go a little bit deeper into the models that were produced by the Department and the Office of Innovation? What were the assumptions based on worst case and moderate case? Did you factor in whether it's mask wearing or no social distancing? Restaurants being open? Can you just go a little bit more deeply into what the worst case and the moderate case represents?
I'd like to ask Governor Murphy, Senator Vitale has suggested making the COVID vaccination, when it becomes available, mandatory for students going back to school. I want to know if you would support something like that, mandatory vaccinations of the COVID vaccine for students.
And lastly, this was in your Executive Order last week and you've said it a couple times from the podium here. There's been no evidence that gyms have contributed to an increase in cases. I wanted to know if you feel that keeping gyms closed for as long as you did was a mistake, and if you feel that you owe gym owners an apology.
Governor Phil Murphy: Nice try. They have my sympathy, that's for sure and they have been an extraordinary good group of folks to deal with. Kevin McHugh who runs the Atlantic Health operation, I'll single Kevin out because he speaks on behalf of the industry, overwhelmingly responsible. They get it. They're in a world of hurt, they are in a world of hurt. And for every one or two of those examples that we had in the spring and the summer, you had many multiples of those who were doing the right thing.
I can't say this strongly enough. What we did, we didn't know what we didn't know in the spring and summer. Not just us, but the entirety of the world trying to deal with this virus so the answer is no. And again, I want to give a huge shout out to the overwhelming amount of the operators. Even though they're in a world of pain, this gives me an opportunity to please beg for more federal stimulus. Gyms would be a great place for those stimulus dollars among others, restaurants, unemployed, state and local budgets. They deserve to be high on the list.
Huge fan of Senator Vitale. In fact, I met Judy through Joe Vitale way back when. We are big fans of his. I'm personally of the opinion I'd like folks to be convinced that this is safe, efficacious, it works. They come to it of their own free will. That's my personal bias. But secondly, I don't believe this first round is for kids. It's not for kids, right? The Pfizer, Moderna, neither are. Distinguishing college kids from pre-K through 12. But again, I'm of the opinion they come to that of their own free will but I defer to Judy.
And then Judy, any comments, I think we said earlier, we'd like to get back to you on the whole range of assumptions. Judy and Ed can comment on this but one set of assumptions does not change. This does not assume there's different policies from the state. This is behavior. This isn't one case has indoor dining and one case doesn't. This assumes a static set of policies and really gets to behavior and personal responsibility. Judy, anything you want to add to that?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Just very broadly, when you look at them, I'll look at the Department of Health model of moderate to high cases. In moderate cases, the assumptions are that current hospitalizations and the conversion from PUI to positive is at 75%. It looks at all future holidays, at similar rates as the increase in hospitalizations from prior holidays. So what we saw Labor Day, what we saw Thanksgiving, and it's the cumulative effect of that. And it shows a very minimal impact of vaccinations. We don't expect that vaccinations will have an impact on the model.
If you go over to the high case, it assumes that 100% of the PUI cases will be positive. It also looks at a higher rate of hospitalizations from the largest holidays, which we saw after some of the religious holidays. And again, no impact at all from vaccinations. So it actually looks at the experience that we had, it made some assumptions between the actual experience and then increasing that for the higher.
The Innovation Model is looking at hospital cases and it looks at what the fellow calls oscillating RT. So it looks at the cases and then applies the oscillating RT over time, and how much the transmission then converts to a hospitalization. That's the easiest explanation. And his high and low result is looking at higher and lower RT transmission rates. Cases converted to hospitalizations in the Innovation model. In the DOH model, it's hospitalizations at different rates. Very high level, very high.
Governor Phil Murphy: I just wanted to say it's important that you all look at a range of data and that you look at more than one perspective on this. There is value in getting different dimensions on it. Thank you for that. Elise, good afternoon.
Elise Young, Bloomberg: Good afternoon. I have kind of a series of off-topic/on-topic questions. Millions of people around the country have tuned in to watch briefings by you and Governor Cuomo. Going into it, did you feel a higher burden because of the confusing message coming from the White House. Do you feel as though you're guiding people from beyond New Jersey? And in polls, New Jerseyans have said they weren't all that familiar with you. Do you believe that's changed in part because of these briefings? Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Whether they like it or not, they're probably more familiar with me. I would guess the answer has got to be yes, given that we're all going through this together. I mean, good questions. I mean, we exist for New Jersey, our efforts are for New Jersey, period. If there's some amount of spillage, and there's some amount of good, especially if a life can be saved based on something that we say or do, we'll take that, obviously. And when you have New York and Philadelphia media covering anything in New Jersey, again, we're kind of a unique animal in that respect for a state as populous as we are, where you've got your biggest media markets actually don't even exist, at least on air, don't even exist in the state, you have spillage by definition. And again, we are here for New Jersey period, full stop. But if there's some amount of impact that we can have on folks beyond that, and especially if it keeps somebody healthy or saves a life, Judy, I suspect we'll sign up for that, if that's the case.
Yeah, my answer on the White House is first of all, in fairness, everybody was thrown into this at plus or minus the same time and we were thrown into it with New York and Connecticut as early as anybody. And as I said, early on, I don't think anybody was, other than we didn't know what we didn't know. Thank God we have learned what we've learned, especially in the medical and scientific communities since then.
My answer on the White House is, and there is some amount of evidence that they knew more earlier on than they were letting on, and that sure as heck would have helped us to have that knowledge. There's no question about that. I sort of see this through opposing dimensions. On the one hand, when our fat was in the fire and we were literally running out of beds and ventilators and PPE, we can bemoan the fact we had no real National Stockpile. But the fact of the matter is, we found common ground. I will forever be grateful to the President and the administration for finding that common ground.
And a comment that may sound at odds with that, but I don't believe it is, we have likewise suffered from the get-go with the absence of a national strategy, a national consistent theme that face masks actually are not political, they save lives. That this is what we know, the minute we know it, assuming it's reliable and it's verifiable, that that data is made public and known. That we had a national testing strategy that wasn't, we'll help Governor's get to their objectives, which ends up being kind of a patchwork quilt. That the Defense Production Act getting mobilized early on, whether it be for testing PPE, whatever it might have been for, in our case, our desperate lack early on with ventilators, that thank God is not the case today, all of that would have really helped. It would have helped New Jersey and it would have helped the country.
I think both of those statements, which may seem a little bit at odds with each other, are both true and I will stand by them. Thank you. Going to come across, Brendan. Sir?
Reporter: Thank you. Governor, have you decided on whether New Jersey will be joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative? And if no, why not?
Given what the worst case scenario prediction shows, what metrics specifically will you need to see happen before you increase restrictions?
Governor Phil Murphy: Say that one again, pardon me?
Reporter: Given what the worst-case scenario predictions show, what metrics will you need to see happen before you increase restrictions?
On COVID vaccines, originally DOH indicated shipments would be prepositioned at various hospitals in advance of any FDA approval. Now it seems that the first shipment is not due to arrive until Monday. What does this timeline mean for the process, and is this a concern?
Does New Jersey have a sufficient supply of needles and syringes to administer the COVID vaccines when approved and delivered? Is this something hospitals are procuring on their own or will these items come from the state and/or federal government?
Governor Phil Murphy: Is that it? The concept of TCI is one that we like a lot. We're not there yet, but that doesn't mean we don't like it and we're still working that through. In fact, I had a call on it yesterday. I spoke last week with Governor Baker in Massachusetts about it. It's something in concept directionally we like a lot. There's a little bit if not a very much devil is in the details related to it. I think the metrics, Judy, you tell me, you or Ed tell me if you disagree with this, the metrics that we're most focused on is we cannot allow our healthcare system to get overrun. Is that fair to say? Whether it's hospitalizations, ICU, ventilators, healthcare workers, which continue -- we haven't said a whole lot about that today but you mentioned earlier, the whole country is going through this and that is unlike the spring. That's bad at two levels. One is that we're all going through it again. And secondly, there's no bullpen. So I'd say that's the biggest one that we can't let the healthcare system get overrun.
No, I don't think there's any -- I mentioned this Judy, in your absence, the 76,000 Pfizer doses which we could see as early as Monday, I believe, depending on the EUA and related authorizations. The numbers I had been referring to were the month of December. We expect fully that the week after there'll be a bigger number from Pfizer. We also expect, I believe, that Moderna will get the same approval and they'll start to come online. I don't think there's any -- unless you know of something.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: We don't have the exact number, we made some estimates.
Governor Phil Murphy: I spoke without a license while you were gone and said I thought we would have somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 doses this month. So history is going to prove me either right or wrong. Do we have the supplies? These are coming in fully as packs?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: The administration kits will include the syringes, and they will be released with the doses, with the vaccine.
Governor Phil Murphy: Right, so we got that. Thank you for that. Dave, you're going to take us home. Thank you.
David Matthau, NJ 101.5: Thanks, Governor. Did the models that were developed predict daily or weekly death totals under the worst case and moderate case scenarios?
Governor, in plain language, what do you want New Jersey residents to keep in mind at what would appear to be a very crucial juncture in the ramp up of this second wave here?
And second and final question, Assemblyman Scharffenberger, who says he's pro-vaccine, wants a bill that says there will be no mandatory vaccine order? If such a bill is passed, what would your reaction be? Would you sign it? And would you ever see the pandemic reaching a point where you would mandate a vaccine? Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you. I'm getting hit from all sides here. So Jerry's point, the Assemblyman, a guy comes from, broadly speaking, my hood. I wouldn't comment on a specific bill. As I said earlier, though, I would hope that people of their own free will come to this. This is an adult vaccine, adult non-pregnant person vaccine, both Pfizer and Moderna. I would hope people realize overwhelmingly, that it's safe, it works and they come to that of their own free will.
Do you have fatalities in the model Judy? I don't believe we do. We do not have fatalities in there. Not that we don't expect them, sadly but they're not in there. And your other question, Dave? I'm sorry.
David Matthau, NJ 101.5: In plain language, what do you want New Jersey residents to keep in mind? We're at, sort of like, it seems like a turning point here. We can go one way or another?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah. I mean, I think we've been in it for the past month or so and we're still in it. There's no question about it. And those numbers are pretty, you know, they're pretty stark even take a moderate scenario in either of the models. You get cases a day somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000; hospitalizations, plus or minus 6,000. ICU just over 1,000 and whatnot. I think it is, Dave, that help is coming. However, it's not a light switch. And, you know, let's assume it is 76,000 vials next week, which you have to divide that in two in terms of the number of people that notionally addresses. We have 9 million people. This is going to take a while until it gets through even 1A with healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff. That's many, many, many hundreds of thousands of people in 1A alone, which is that first trance. So therefore, we're left with the basics.
The hand we're playing is a basic hand. It's putting these on, which I will put on. It's keeping away from each other. It's washing hands with soap and water. It's taking yourself off the field for the reasons we've discussed. It's getting tested. I would say especially right now, Dave, is these cannot be normal holidays. There's just no way they can be normal holidays, regardless of which ones you celebrate. It can't be a normal Hanukkah, Advent, Kwanzaa, Christmas or New Year's. There's just no room for that. Which stinks, right? No one wants to hear that and I don't blame them but that's what it is.
But with the optimism that we have, that help is on the way, we'll get through the worst of the weather, the epidemiological curve will do what it does, please God not the worst case, but the pig will get through the python, as they say, one way or another. The vaccines are coming. You turn the clock forward to April, May and we're in a whole different ballgame.
There was a very interesting article by David Leonhard in the New York Times yesterday, I'll leave you with this, which is a little sobering but I think also a good reminder in the context of what will be good news. He was trying to compare the efficacy of the vaccination with the size of the pandemic, just like you'd compare, you may have seen this, with the strength of a fire hose up against a fire. The punch line is you'd rather a smaller fire than a bigger fire. And even if your vaccines were less potent, you'd still rather, more people will survive if we can get the infection rates back down to where they were a few months ago.
That's one other thing I'll leave you with. The vaccines are coming but if the fire continues to grow even great vaccines, in big numbers, you're still dealing with a big surge. So the job I think for us is to let's get the magnitude of the surge down so it's much more manageable and then as the vaccines come online, that combination is then a really good, positive, lethal combination of a lower infection spread, a lower scale of the pandemic, and then vaccines coming in in tranches, measured what I think by January will be hundreds of thousands, if not more doses a week that are coming in.
Ed, we've got to pull you in from the bullpen here. Does that sound reasonable? You I'm sure saw that analogy. Did we get that largely right?
DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: I think so. What I would add and to kind of go with one of the Governor's sports analogies, New Jerseyans have worked too long and too hard to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I mean, it's kind of like we're in the sixth inning of a tight game here and we know they've got Mariano out in the bullpen waiting to come in to close it out for us, but we've got to get the game to him. We got to keep doing what we're doing until the vaccine comes in and really begins to take effect. Yes.
Governor Phil Murphy: I want to thank Judy, welcome back. And Ed, thank you for that. Pat, as always, Jared, Parimal, Mahen. We will be with you virtually tomorrow, two o'clock on Friday, unless you hear otherwise. Bless you all and to carry on in Ed's theme, Enter Sandman.