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Coronavirus update: N.J. census response lags; experts hired to help long-term care facilities

Staff in protective equipment prepare to test people at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Staff in protective equipment prepare to test people at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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On Wednesday, New Jersey reported 1,513 additional coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to 131,890 total positives.

Gov. Phil Murphy said more than 90,000 patients — about two-thirds of the people with confirmed COVID-19 cases — have exited the two-week incubation window and should no longer be battling the disease.

Another 308 people died of complications from COVID-19, which means the state has now lost 8,549 residents to the outbreak.

Census response lags during pandemic

Murphy said New Jersey ranked 21st in the country for its response to the U.S. Census, which can be filled out electronically this year for the first time in the survey’s history.

The response rate was at 56.8% statewide, which needed to increase lest the state face another undercount like it did during the 2010 Census, Murphy said.

“It is the data that the federal government — and quite frankly we in state government — rely upon to make decisions that impact every community in New Jersey,” he said during his Wednesday briefing.

The governor said that if New Jersey’s population is undercounted in the Census, much needed federal funding may instead be directed to other states “like Kentucky.”

“Let’s make sure we get the darn money here,” he added.

Residents can fill out the 2020 Census here.

Experts hired to fix long-term care facility crisis

The Murphy administration will bring on two national experts to help the state get its arms around the rampant spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.

Former Obama administration health official Cindy Mann and Carol Raphael, the past president of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, will conduct a two-to-three week review of the state’s long term care facilities and make long-term recommendations for changes. The pair will also provide immediate support to the Department of Health.

Nearly half of the state’s confirmed deaths from COVID-19 have been associated with long-term care facilities. Some 4,261 have died, and 23,345 have been sickened in nursing homes.

In response to the high number of cases clustered in the facilities and reports that some places were overwhelmed by the outbreak and mishandled the bodies of those who died, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has also opened an investigation into the state’s long-term care facilities and is soliciting tips about misconduct.

Cash tolls will return to South Jersey bridges

The Delaware River Port Authority announced cash tolls will return to the four bridges connecting Philadelphia and New Jersey on Monday, May 11.

The authority said toll collectors on the Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry, Ben Franklin, and Betsy Ross bridges will wear face coverings and use protective plastic shields in the toll booth windows.

DRPA also encouraged drivers to wear a face-covering as they travel through the cash toll lane.

The cashless tolling was implemented on March 26 as part of a safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Drivers who do not have an EZ-Pass account now have a picture taken of their car and license plate, and get a bill in the mail.

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