[See UPDATES below]
By JOHN T. WARD
One day after Governor Phil Murphy issued a wide-raging executive order requiring all New Jersey residents to “stay at home,” his administration reported Sunday that the known number of statewide COVID-19 patients rose by 590, to 1,914.
Four new deaths from the coronavirus within the Garden State were also reported.
That put the state’s death toll in the pandemic at 20, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a telephone press conference with Murphy Sunday afternoon.
Monmouth County recorded an increase of 66 positive cases, according to Persichilli, bringing the total to 158. [UPDATE: The Monmouth County Freeholders announced afterward that the county’s total was 156 cases.]
The increase in cases this is not a surprise, now that hundreds of patients are being tested, Murphy said. The state opened a drive-thru test center Friday at Bergen County Community College, where over two days healthcare providers tested some 1,000 visitors in their vehicles.
“The big up here is a result of the testing,” he said.
Salem County reported its first COVID-19 case, so the virus is now present in all 21 counties, Murphy said.
According to Persichilli, the latest four to die included a male in his 90s in Bergen County; a male in his 80s in Passaic County; a female in her 90s in Middlesex County; and a male in his 70s in Somerset County.
The Bergen and Passaic victims had underlying conditions, Persichilli said; information about underlying conditions in the other two was not yet available, she said.
On Saturday, Monmouth County officials reported 98 cases in the county, including three in Little Silver and two in Red Bank. Separately, Fair Haven police Chief Joe McGovern said a borough resident had tested positive.
Working with the Federal Emergency Management Administration Region 2, the state plans to open drive-thru test site at PNC Arts Center in Holmdel Monday.
It will be open daily from 8 a.m. “until it reaches capacity,” Murphy said. “The challenge is we have a limited amount of supplies,” both in terms of testing and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, he said.[UPDATE: “Gates will not open until 8:00 a.m. and individuals will not be permitted to line up along the Garden State Parkway,” the Murphy Administration said in a press release issued later in the afternoon. “The PNC Bank Arts Center Commuter Lots will be closed.”]
In order to be tested, patients must New Jersey residents and have respiratory symptoms associated with the virus.
“We cannot accept the ‘worried well,'” Murphy said. He also asked that residents not show up at the center until Monday morning.
In Sunday’s press conference, Murphy also blasted what he said were “repugnant and repulsive” incidents of bias against Asian-Americans.
“Everyone is fighting the same fight,” he said.
State officials also announced the launch of a mental health counseling help line, at 866-202-HELP.
In addition, blood donations are being sought. “The need right now is becoming increasingly urgent,” Persichilli said.
Under a new executive order signed by Murphy on Saturday, all residents are directed to stay at home until further notice.
The order allows for exceptions, such as shopping for essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities.
The order also required all non-essential retail businesses to shut down.