Coronavirus update: Murphy says N.J. may lift stay-at-home orders ‘as one state’

Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to outline the broad strokes of the state’s plan to ease social distancing measures on Monday.

Police tape covers park benches in Rutherford, New Jersey, to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, April 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Police tape covers park benches in Rutherford, New Jersey, to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, April 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Updated: 2:40 p.m.

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To date, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported 42,579 total COVID-19 cases (including confirmed and probable cases). There are 109,038 cases in New Jersey and 4,034 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has 12,566 cases.

Pennsylvania’s death toll stands at 1,750, New Jersey’s is at 5,938, and Delaware’s is at 120. Philadelphia’s death toll is 472.

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Note: The Pa. number of total deaths has gone down because the state is no longer including probable deaths in its count, only deaths that are confirmed to be coronavirus-related.

Unlike Pa., N.J. could reopen as one — but not anytime soon

New Jersey may not take the piecemeal approach to lifting its stay-at-home order the way its neighbor Pennsylvania plans to, but Garden State residents shouldn’t expect any changes to social distancing mandates anytime soon.

“I think [the] best understanding of the data right now is that we are still a number of weeks away,” said Gov. Phil Murphy in an appearance on “Meet the Press” Sunday.

The state has not yet announced how it will ease social distancing restrictions, though Murphy said officials would take into account the fact that the northern counties closest to New York City have been the epicenter of the outbreak.

“I suspect … while we haven’t made a decision on that, we’re going to move as one state, recognizing you have density issues in the north you just don’t have in the south,” said Murphy, who is expected to outline the broad strokes of the state’s reopening plan on Monday.

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Data show a handful of positive takeaways, the governor said. The number of new positive tests has flattened and the number of people being hospitalized has started to decline. Murphy added that ICU and ventilator use is also down “a little bit.”

According to Murphy, 6,573 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, 1,804 of which are in critical or intensive care, and 1,418 are on ventilators.

Still, he said the number of daily deaths remains significant in the state with every county in the state reporting COVID-19 fatalities. Over the past two weeks, the state has reported an average of 269 new deaths each day.

“The mandate to stay at home and stay away from each other is still very much in effect,” Murphy said.

Pennsylvania, which has similarly seen its epicenter in the more populated southeast, plans to reopen in phases starting May 8. Some counties in the northwest and north-central parts of the state will be the first to see an easing of social distancing measures.

Congregate settings in Philly continue to be hotspots

Clusters of COVID-19 cases continue to crop up in Philadelphia’s nursing homes, behavioral health facilities and the Department of Prisons.

Six more incarcerated people tested positive for COVID-19, the city said Sunday, bringing the total number of cases inside correctional facilities to 75 — although that total does not count anyone who has tested positive and then recovered or been released.

Residents of long-term care facilities continue to make up more than half of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 fatalities.

The city reported an additional six deaths Sunday, bringing the total to 472.

Philadelphia also reported 237 new COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 cases continue to rack up at Amazon warehouses

Employees at an Amazon warehouse in Gloucester County say at least a dozen of their colleagues have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Gloucester Daily News, employees received text messages notifying them of their sick coworkers at the West Deptford facility, but a company spokesperson would not confirm the total number of cases.

The South Jersey facility is not the only one to have employees test positive. At least one person tested positive in a Bergen County warehouse and more than 30 tested positive in a Middlesex County facility.

David Reimen is the mayor of Carteret, the home of the fulfillment center with more than 30 cases. Reimen is calling on state and county health officials to close the site until Amazon can sanitize the facility and all workers can be tested.

Amazon has experienced a business boost during the pandemic and employees have argued there are not enough worker protections in place. The company has been providing employees with hazard pay during the pandemic, including an additional $2 per hour and two times the base pay for overtime.

More Pa. businesses get financial help

Pennsylvania has awarded an additional $13.5 million in loans to 160 businesses, such as restaurants, consulting firms and salons. To date, the state has given out more than $23 million in $100,000 loans to businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

“These loans will help businesses in the commonwealth quickly access capital to address their critical needs while we continue to follow the governor and health secretary’s orders,” said  Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin in a statement Sunday.

The second round of the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program comes as the state plans to embark on a staggered easing of social distancing measures, which includes reopening some businesses forced to close their doors.

Blue Angels and Thunderbirds plan flyover to thank workers

The Pentagon is sending 12 high-performance aircraft for a flyover in Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon.

The visit from the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels is part of a national “America Strong” tour to thank COVID-19 first responders and essential workers.

Starting in New York City and Newark at noon, the aerospace squadrons will take their formation south, passing Trenton for a 10-minute flyover at 1:45 p.m.

The pilots are expected to reach Philly by 2 p.m.

“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to salute those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response, we are in awe of your strength and resilience,” said Blue Angels flight leader, Commander Brian Kesselring in a statement.

City officials asked residents to observe social distancing guidelines during the flights and avoid congregating at landmarks or hospitals. The Air Force and the Navy said people should be able to see the flyovers from their homes, and are expected to release their specific routes on Monday.

According to The Washington Post, flying the squadrons could cost at least $60,000 per hour, with the money coming out of the Pentagon’s budget.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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