VIRUS UPDATE: DEATH TOLL & CASELOAD RISE

Flowers in bloom alongside a nearly vehicle-free Harding Road in Fair Haven Wednesday morning. (Photo by Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The COVID-19 pandemic toll continue to rise, as Governor Phil Murphy announced 18 new deaths in New Jersey Wednesday.

The “stark” loss of life associated with the fast-spreading coronavirus now totals 62 state residents, Murphy said at his daily briefing, this one from the War Memorial in Trenton.

Two deaths occurred in Monmouth County, said said state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. No further information was immediately released.

Of the 62 who’ve died, 65 percent were male, and 76 percent were above 60 years old, she said. Half had an underlying condition that may have contributed to their death, and 26 percent were “associated with” longterm care facilities, Persichilli said.

No one under age 30 has died, she said.

Expanded testing also identified 736 additional positive COVID-19 tests in the 24 hours since his last update, bringing the total to 4,402, Murphy said.

Persichilli said the Monmouth County positive caseload rose by 26, to 313.

Of the 14,000 or so residents who have been tested, about 4,000 have tested positive, or 29 percent, said state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan.

Persichilli said she expects northern New Jersey’s infection “peak” to follow New York’s, which she said is expected to occur in 14 to 21 days.

Other announcements:

• Bolstering an unprecedented and wide-ranging lockdown order issued Saturday, Murphy ordered all childcare facilities to certify by Friday that they are only serving the children of essential workers or cease operations by next Wednesday.

• Murphy also said he had reiterated to Vice President Mike Pence the state’s “desperate need” for personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

• A website set up to accept complaints about businesses that continue to require non-essential employees to show up at workplaces, rather than work from home “crashed” Tuesday because of volume, Murphy said.