As coronavirus deaths top 4K, signs of hope as hospital discharges begin to top admissions
Governor Murphy answers questions on New Jersey's response to COVID-19, in this segment focusing on demographic disparity, social distancing, and more. NorthJersey.com
Gov. Phil Murphy released data Saturday that showed the intensive lockdown of New Jersey is working to tamp down the coronavirus outbreak, even as deaths counted over the last six weeks climbed to 4,070.
Hospitalizations were down with 377 admissions Friday representing a dramatic drop from days and weeks before. And in another hopeful sign, 814 patients were discharged from hospitals in the 24 hours that ended at 10 p.m Friday, with 40% — or 1,655 — coming from long-term care facilities.
"We are flattening the curve," Murphy said. "This is a credit to each and every one of you who has taken to heart our aggressive social distancing measures.
"We are now reporting more people leaving the hospital than entering," he said at his 1 p.m. press conference in Trenton. "Please God, let it stay that way."
Murphy, however, cautioned against people calling for the state to reopen prematurely. In particular, he called out Atlantic County surrogate Jim Curcio, who posted a message on his Facebook page calling for the state to reopen immediately without restrictions.
"Atlantic County officials need to sound the alarm," wrote Curcio, a Republican. "Reopen New Jersey immediately without restrictions. Trust American freedom ingenuity and the US Constitution. Untie the hands of the Private Sector so it can rescue NJ from this nightmare."
Murphy blasted the post as irresponsible and referenced the 19 people from Atlantic County who have died from coronavirus.
"We untie the system right now, there will be blood on our hands," Murphy said. "This is literally life and death. What we need now is responsible leadership. We do not need irresponsible leadership."
Story continues below the Facebook post.
Any return to normalcy must be preceded by a significant ramp-up in testing, Murphy said. Nationwide, estimates are that a minimum of at least three times the current amount of testing for the virus must be done.
The lack of widespread testing has undoubtedly led to an undercount of deaths caused by the virus, according to federal and state health officials. For instance, some 3,700 deaths in New York were recently attributed to the disease even though they did not have a test result.
"We know have lost a total of 4,070 blessed souls," Murphy said. "It's a number that takes your breath away."
In New Jersey, more and rapid testing must be in place before a loosening of restrictions is considered, officials said Saturday.
"In an absolutely ideal world ... you would want to test almost everybody almost every single day to see whether they were exposed and possibly infected," said Dr. Edward Lifshitz, medical director for the state Department of Health. "That's just not going to be possible.
"We need to have enough testing so that those people that are ill can be tested easily and reliably and get results back fast," Lifshitz said, adding that more testing needs to be done of health care workers and that a certain amount of testing of the public must be done as "background surveillance."
Murphy said both an increase in the speed and quantity of testing must occur before the state can reopen.
"A rapid response on those tests is going to be as important as how many we have," he said. "It's going to have to be before we can confidently reopen. I hope that's sooner or later."
Daniel Sforza is the Executive Editor of The Record and NorthJersey.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org