- Associated Press - Friday, March 20, 2020

PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) - Further social distancing measures are likely over the weekend to combat COVID-19, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday, the same day the state’s first federally run drive-through testing center reached capacity after being opened only hours.

Murphy spoke Friday during a news conference at Bergen Community College and said two additional people had died from the virus, bringing the state total to 11. There are nearly 900 positive cases in the state, up from more than 700 on Thursday.

Murphy said he wasn’t ready yet to announce more stringent social distancing orders but expected them as soon as Saturday.

The Bergen Community College testing center operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened at 8 a.m. and was set to stay open until 4 p.m. for New Jersey residents with symptoms to get tested.

But it reached capacity well before 4 p.m. Six hundred people have been tested, Murphy said, and the center will open Saturday for 350 additional tests..



Bergen County has been a hot spot in the state.

Murphy said another FEMA center in Monmouth County at the PNC Bank Arts Center is set to open on Monday at 8 a.m.

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.

A look at other developments:

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MORE HOSPITAL CAPACITY

As many as 500 hospital beds at currently inactive hospitals could become available in the next several weeks, state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

The Inspira Health Center in Woodbury is expected to be ready in three to four weeks once it is cleaned and disinfected, Persichilli said.

She said the Army Corps of Engineers also is reviewing a former hospital in Plainfield that could be brought online in four to five weeks, with approximately 200 beds.

REMOTE LEGISLATURE

Murphy signed a bill late Thursday that allows the state Assembly and Senate to meet at locations other than the statehouse in Trenton, including remotely through the use of technology.

The bill passed the Democrat-led Legislature unanimously.

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TELEHEALTH BILLS

The governor also signed into law two bills aimed at promoting remote health services, or telehealth.

One measure authorizes any health care practitioner to provide telehealth services while the COVID-19 emergency is in effect. The bill waives any regulations or requirements impeding such services.

The other bill lets professional and occupational licensing boards expedite out-of-state professionals during a state of emergency or a public health crisis.

Both measures passed unanimously.

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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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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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