Coronavirus update: Murphy gets high marks in poll; plasma therapy at Virtua

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker tour the field hospital in Edison, N.J. on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (Office of the Attorney General/Tim Larsen)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker tour the field hospital in Edison, N.J. on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (Office of the Attorney General/Tim Larsen)

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New Jersey reported an additional 3,643 cases of the coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the state total to 92,387.

Another 379 people died as a result of COVID-19, which means the state has seen a total of 4,753 fatalities.

Central Jersey sees signs of a surge

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said hospitals in Central Jersey were beginning to see a surge in COVID-19 patients, as infections move from the hardest-hit northern counties further south.

She said five of the nine hospitals on “divert” status Monday were in Central Jersey, and that most of the critical care beds in the central part of the state were full.

“We are seeing the increase in COVID-19 individuals and persons under investigation — we’ve seen that increase come from the north and it is now hitting Central [Jersey],” Persichilli suggested.

Gov. Phil Murphy said state officials had been anticipating that an uptick in cases in Central Jersey would follow the initial surge in North Jersey, and that is why they set up the second FEMA field hospital in Edison, in Middlesex County.

“God willing — because this hit us like a ton of bricks — we’ve learned lessons in the northern counties that we’re applying and being as proactive as possible as it migrates,” Murphy added.

Persichilli said that because the state largely flattened the curve of new COVID-19 infections and kept hospitals below capacity, the state could send patients to South Jersey hospitals if the need arose.

She added that she expects the “heavy hospitalization” of coronavirus patients to continue through mid-May.

Murphy gets high marks from residents for COVID-19 response

Murphy is seeing a major spike in support for the job he is doing as New Jersey governor as he continues to helm the state’s coronavirus response efforts, according to a new survey.

The Monmouth University Poll released Tuesday shows the first-term governor with a 71% approval rating, while just 21% of respondents disapprove of the overall job he is doing.

That is a significant bump from the 41% approval rating Murphy had in September, and it’s in line with a national trend of governors across the country seeing their popularity rise as they combat the public health crisis in their individual states.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents specifically said Murphy is doing a good job combatting the state’s sizable COVID-19 outbreak, while just 10% said he was failing.

“Leadership becomes much more relevant in a crisis and Murphy is getting solid reviews for his response,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

All of Murphy’s key efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus also received support from a majority of residents who responded to the poll.

Ninety-seven percent of people approved of the six-foot social distancing guideline, 95% percent said requiring residents to wear masks in public was a good idea, and 88% backed the state’s ban on gatherings and parties. Even 70% of respondents approved of Murphy’s decision to close state and county parks — one of the governor’s more controversial coronavirus measures.

“The nation has seen sporadic protests against these restrictions, including one in Trenton on Friday. The poll shows, though, that these protestors represent an incredibly small sliver of all state residents,” Murray said. “The vast majority are united in their support for social distancing measures to protect the health of their fellow New Jerseyans.”

However just 27% of respondents said New Jersey was offering enough testing for COVID-19, while 67% said it was not enough. Those who believed that testing was lacking were split on whether it was the fault of the Murphy administration or beyond its control.

President Trump’s approval rating also inched up but by a far smaller margin than Murphy’s major bump. Some 41% of New Jersey residents polled approve of the job Trump is doing while 56% disapprove. Back in September, he had 37% favorable, 55% unfavorable.

Patients make ‘remarkable’ recoveries after plasma therapy

Two COVID-19 patients who were treated with plasma transfusions at a South Jersey hospital earlier this month are now recovering.

Virtua Voorhees Hospital announced that the two patients — 63-year-old Renee Bannister and 61-year-old Andy Fei — both had severe cases of COVID-19 but responded well to the novel treatment and are expected to recover fully.

“We are incredibly excited about these remarkable recoveries,” said Dr. Eric Sztejman, a medical director for Virtua Health. “We performed the transfusions just days after the clinical trial was announced, so it is gratifying to be among the first in the nation to explore this promising approach to combating the coronavirus.”

The federal Food and Drug Administration began approving plasma transfusions to treat COVID-19 late last month, and Virtua was the first hospital in New Jersey to use the therapy to treat patients in the absence of a vaccine.

According to the hospital, people who have recovered from the illness have protective antibodies, and their plasma can be used to treat patients who are facing severe cases of COVID-19.

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