Coronavirus update: COVID-19 in nearly all N.J. long-term care facilities

Ranvir Singh, a registered nurse in the  intensive care unit at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, tends to a patient March 19. 2020. (Jeff Rhode/Holy Name Medical Center.)

Ranvir Singh, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, tends to a patient March 19. 2020. (Jeff Rhode/Holy Name Medical Center.)

Are you on the front lines of the coronavirus? Help us report on the pandemic.

Updated: 3:15 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reported an additional 2,625 cases of coronavirus Wednesday, upping the state’s total to 71,030 sickened residents.

Murphy also announced 351 new deaths that occurred over the past several days, bringing the state’s total fatalities to 3,156.

There were 8,270 residents hospitalized with COVID-19, including 1,980 in critical care. Murphy said 709 patients were discharged between Monday and Tuesday nights.

Since April 4th, 6,300 hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected of having the illness were discharged, the state announced.

“While the numbers we report everyday are grim,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, “over 6,000 discharges serve as a reminder that people are getting better and they are overcoming this illness.”

COVID-19 in nearly all long-term care facilities

Persicihilli also announced Wednesday that 358 of the state’s 375 long-term care facilities had at least one case of COVID-19.

State officials have suggested for weeks that they are especially concerned about the virus spreading in long-term care facilities and nursing homes because elderly residents — especially those with underlying medical conditions — are more likely to develop severe cases.

The state reported a total of 6,815 coronavirus cases associated with long-term care facilities, including an additional 55 new deaths announced Wednesday.

“We continue … pounding away on these operators to do everything they can in their power,” Gov. Murphy said of the long-term care facilities. He said the administration was urging facilities to fulfill their legal obligations to inform residents of contagious disease outbreaks, following criticism that some families were left in the dark about COVID-19 cases.

Murphy said the state was also trying to help long-term care facilities “address a huge shortage of” personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Star-studded fundraiser to feature Bruce Springsteen, Whoopi Goldberg

Some of New Jersey’s top entertainers will take part in a one-night broadcast fundraiser next week to benefit those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and remind residents how they can help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Jersey 4 Jersey special, organized by the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund (NJPRF), will feature such Garden State icons as Bruce Springsteen, Whoopi Goldberg, Halsey, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, SZA, Saquon Barkley, Jon Bon Jovi, Danny DeVito, and Charlie Puth — all taking part from their homes.

It will also include first-hand accounts from front-line health care workers and first responders as well as residents impacted by the coronavirus, the organizers said.

“New Jersey is on the front lines of this pandemic, making it more important than ever for us to do what Jersey does best – take care of one another,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “That’s why we’re asking everyone in our state to join the NJPRF and some of New Jersey’s finest for some much-needed musical entertainment, levity and Jersey Pride during these unprecedented times.”

The special will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April, 22. It will be carried on Apple Music and AppleTV apps and broadcast live on WABC Channel 7, WPVI 6ABC, WPIX, News12, NJTV as well as radio outlets including the E Street Radio channel on SiriusXM (which is currently free on the SiriusXM app), 1010 WINS, WCBS 880, CBS-FM, WFAN, New York’s Country 94.7, Alt 92.3, Q104.3, and others.

Proceeds from the benefit show will go to the state’s pandemic relief fund, which provides donations “to fight the medical, social, and economic impact of COVID-19 on New Jersey’s most vulnerable, supporting organizations that provide essential services and aiding those on the front line of the pandemic.”

Revenues were up in March but now “falling off the cliff”

The state Treasury reported Wednesday that March revenue collections for the state’s major taxes were up 3.6% over last March.

But state officials warned that would likely be the last positive financial news for a while.

“The revenues — I don’t have the numbers for you — but they’re falling off the cliff,” Murphy said during the daily press briefing.

Like many states, New Jersey had already been bracing for the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic to spawn an economic crisis like none in recent memory.

Nearly 577,000 New Jersey residents have applied for unemployment benefits since the crisis escalated, and thousands of small businesses have applied for grants and other financial assistance to account for a steep drop-off in business. The state delayed its income tax filing deadline by three months.

Murphy said he spoke to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday and again pressed for “direct cash assistance” to state governments bearing the brunt of the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s expenses going this way and revenues going that way,” Murphy said.

N.J. law shields health care workers from malpractice claims

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law Tuesday night that will shield health care workers from liability under certain malpractice claims made during the state’s current public health emergency.

Health care workers would be protected against allegations they caused injury or death while providing care to patients suffering from COVID-19, the legislative sponsors said.

“Our health care facilities and the dedicated doctors and nurses who provide critical care to patients have stepped up to respond to this emergent public health crisis, often without the resources they need to do their jobs effectively,” said state Sen. Tom Kean, R-Union.

“Many of the challenges they face, including shortages of life-saving ventilators, are not the result of negligence but of a massive surge in need and limited national supply,” Kean added. “They deserve the assurance that they will not be punished for trying to save lives under these unbelievably difficult circumstances.”

The immunity is retroactive to March 9, 2020, and it does not protect workers accused of “acts or omissions constituting a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct.”

The law, S-2333, also authorized Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli to reactivate paramedics whose licenses have expired or are inactive and grant temporary reciprocity for EMTs licensed in other states to work in New Jersey.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal