- Associated Press - Thursday, March 19, 2020

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A total of nine people in New Jersey have died from the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday, including three who lived in nursing home facilities.

The increasing death toll came as the number of confirmed cases rose to more than 700, a total Murphy said likely will rise into the “many thousands.”

New Jersey’s health commissioner said coronavirus cases have been found in six nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The three deaths announced Thursday occurred at nursing homes in Hudson and Essex counties.

“It’s a concern,” Murphy said. “This is an eventuality that I don’t know if we expected it but we were prepared for it. We anticipated it would hit nursing homes.”

Federal officials believe staff members who worked while sick at multiple long-term care facilities in the Seattle area contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable elderly patients there.



Murphy also said he signed an order postponing a special elections across the state, including in Atlantic City, and New Jersey’s biggest city, Newark, has instituted an 8 p.m. curfew in response to the outbreak.

A look at other developments:

MORE TESTING

A drive-through testing center will begin daily Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bergen Community College. Bergen County has been the state’s hardest-hit area.

Murphy said only those with symptoms should get in line, and not those whom he called the “worried well,” people who are feeling well but are concerned they could be infected.

The facility will have the capacity to conduct 2,500 tests a week, according to the governor.

Another testing center would be opening soon in Holmdel, Monmouth County, he said.

The state Health Department said it’s compiling a list of other places throughout New Jersey where people can get tested.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The vast majority of people recover over a period a weeks.

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ATLANTIC CITY ELECTION

Murphy signed an executive order postponing numerous elections until May 12.

They include fire district elections in Old Bridge that had been set for March 21, special municipal elections in Atlantic City and West Amwell Township set for March 31, as well as all school board elections scheduled for April 21.

These elections will also be conducted solely by mail-in balloting. The Atlantic City election will ask voters whether to eliminate an elected mayor position in favor of an appointed city manager, and would shrink the size of the City Council.

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MORE CLOSURES

Murphy also expanded the state’s shutdown of certain businesses, saying that barber shops, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors would be closed starting at 8 p.m.

The state has already shuttered gyms, casinos and theaters, along with racetracks.

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EVICTION MORATORIUM

Murphy on Thursday also signed legislation aimed at preventing the removal of people from their homes because of foreclosure or eviction.

The bill authorized the governor to sign an executive order declaring a prohibition on removing people from their homes after an eviction or foreclosure proceeding. The governor signed such an executive order shortly after approving the legislation.

Murphy says the order will ensure that no renter or homeowner is removed from their residence.

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NJ TRANSIT SUFFERING

New Jersey Transit’s ridership plummeted almost 90% in the last week with little improvement in sight, the agency wrote Thursday in a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation asking members to seek $1.25 billion in federal aid. In addition to the significant drop in fare revenue, the agency’s operating costs are rising as workers perform enhanced cleaning of stations and rolling stock.

In a conference call Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez stressed that federal aid, which he said should be upward of $1 trillion nationwide, would have to include significant aid to shore up NJ Transit.

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WHAT TO DO

State health officials have recommended calling your health care provider if you have symptoms, including fever and shortness of breath. Officials also point people to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which recommends people stay home except to get medical care.

On Wednesday, the state announced a new number residents can call with coronavirus-related questions, to augment the existing hotline operated by the New Jersey Poison Control Center.

The new 211 number is operated by the United Ways of New Jersey and provides information and referral services. Residents also can text NJCOVID to 898-211.

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This story was first published on March 19, 2020. It was updated on March 20, 2020, to correct that Sen. Bob Menendez said federal aid should be upward of $1 trillion nationwide, not upward of $8 trillion.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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