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Coronavirus update: N.J. gets smattering of faulty ventilators; flags at half-staff

A police officer stands at an intersection on the border between Irvington and Newark, N.J., Friday, April 3, 2020. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

A police officer stands at an intersection on the border between Irvington and Newark, N.J., Friday, April 3, 2020. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced 4,372 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 29,895.

The governor also announced 113 new deaths as a result of the illness, increasing the state’s death toll to 646 total fatalities.

Haddonfield native evacuated from Peru

Thousands of Americans remain stranded overseas as countries restrict travel to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

But for one New Jersey native, the stressful saga is over. U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said Friday that Haddonfield native Kacie Brandenburg was among the Americans aboard a medical flight from Peru, where about 140 travelers had been trapped in a hostel in Cusco.

Local authorities had locked the hostel guests under a mandatory 28-day quarantine after two of them tested positive for COVID-19. The guests reportedly faced threats of imprisonment if they violated the quarantine orders.

Menendez, who helped facilitate the evacuation, called the situation a “nightmare.” It’s unclear how many citizens of other countries remain confined there.

“During this global pandemic, as a father and grandfather, I cannot imagine the incredible anxiety of having a family member trapped overseas,” he said.

N.J. receives small number of faulty ventilators from federal stockpile

Following reports that California received 170 broken ventilators from the federal stockpile, New Jersey officials said Friday the state also received 14 devices that are faulty from among the 850 that the Trump administration has sent so far.

Eight of those have already been repaired to replace missing parts or fix other defects, State Police Supt. Pat Callahan said at an afternoon briefing, with a private-sector vendor working with the state to assess the rest.

The bigger problem remains the overall shortage of ventilators — in New Jersey and nationally. Gov. Murphy has requested a total of 2,500 of the life-saving breathing machines from the federal stockpile as the state scrambles to prepare for an influx of COVID-19 patients.

The 850 ventilators New Jersey has received so far augments the 1,700 it had before the pandemic began.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Friday that 3,016 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 are currently hospitalized in New Jersey, with 1,227 — or roughly 40% — on ventilators.

Cases continue to climb, with health officials anticipating a further “surge” within a couple weeks. Hospitals say they can convert some anesthesia machines into ventilators and are exploring the concept of “co-venting,” or putting two people on the same ventilator.

June 2 primary unlikely

New Jersey is likely to delay its primary election, currently scheduled for June 2, Murphy said Friday.

“I’ll be stunned if we stay June 2,” he said, without providing additional details.

State officials had been hemming and hawing about whether to proceed with an election that day, and if so, whether to let residents vote in person or to allow mail-in ballots only.

But Murphy said the decision Thursday by the Democratic National Committee to delay its nominating convention by a month relieved pressure on New Jersey to abide by its original timeline.

“We have a lot more flexibility than I thought we had two days ago, and we’re going to make a decision on that pretty soon,” Murphy said.

Neighboring Pennsylvania and Delaware delayed their primaries that were scheduled for April 28 and are now planning to vote on June 2. New York was also scheduled to hold a primary that same day in April, but now is pushing it to June 23.

The Democratic National Convention is now set for the week of Aug. 17 in Milwaukee. That’s a week after the Republican National Convention is scheduled in Charlotte, N.C.

Small businesses desperate for relief

A state grant program offering companies with ten or fewer employees up to $5,000 dollars in badly-needed relief received more than 16,000 applications in the first few hours it was open.

“The pain is very real,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. “Obviously, the human suffering is first and foremost in all of our minds. But the pain in the small business part of the economy is very real.”

On Thursday, New Jersey reported that a record-shattering 361,000 residents had applied for unemployment benefits in the second half of March.

Flags to fly at half-staff

Murphy on Friday ordered that flags across the state be lowered to half-staff indefinitely to honor those lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is one of the greatest tragedies to ever hit our state, and our nation indeed, and we must have a constant and visible memorial of the tremendous personal toll COVID-19 is having on our communities,” he said.

“And since families at this time cannot even hold funerals for their lost loved ones,” he added, “this is a way — a small way, but I think an important one — we can make sure that their loss is not forgotten.”

Cumberland County opens testing site

Cumberland is the latest county to open its own testing site, adding to a growing list of locations where New Jersey residents can be tested.

The Cumberland County site is at Rowan College of South Jersey’s Vineland campus and open only to county residents or patients of CompleteCare Health Network with an appointment.

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