Coronavirus update: N.J. to issue emergency licenses to immigrant doctors

Dr. Clenton Coleman adjusts his mask inside the ICU of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey,  March 19, 2020. (Jeff Rhode /Holy Name Medical Center)

Dr. Clenton Coleman adjusts his mask inside the ICU of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, March 19, 2020. (Jeff Rhode /Holy Name Medical Center)

Updated 3:44 p.m.

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New Jersey officials reported another 3,250 cases of coronavirus cases on Friday, with the state’s total now at 78,467.

Gov. Phil Murphy also said another 323 people have died, bringing the state’s total number of fatalities to 3,840.

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Immigrant doctors to get emergency licenses

New Jersey will be the first state to issue temporary, emergency licenses to doctors who are currently licensed to practice medicine only in other countries, Murphy said Friday, calling the decision “entirely fitting.”

“This is a state where the immigrant experience is writ large in our collective history,” the governor said. “Every member of our New Jersey family has a role to play.”

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The move seeks to shore up staff at health care systems that have been thinned out due to large numbers of frontline workers falling sick with COVID-19 or quarantining.

The state is also looking for volunteers with medical experience, who can enroll through the state’s website. Murphy said more than 22,000 people had already signed up, but there remains a need for respiratory therapists, doctors, nurses and EMTs.

Volunteer opportunities near you

New Jersey launched a separate webpage on Friday for those without medical experience but who are still looking for ways to help during the pandemic.

“Our most immediate needs are for people who help deliver meals to elderly or otherwise vulnerable residents and to assist us at our food pantries,” he said.

Murphy endorses Trump’s economic reopening plan

After a week of acrimony in which governors chafed at President Trump’s assertion he had “total” authority to reopen the country, Murphy on Friday reacted positively to the president’s newly released three-phase plan that largely leaves it up to states when to lift stay-at-home restrictions.

“The most gratifying part of it is that they’re basically saying that the governors are the ones who determine a lot of this, and we agree with that,” the Democrat said, adding he had a “good discussion” via video conference with the White House on Thursday.

The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations. They make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak.

Murphy said Friday that widespread testing and contract tracing will also be critical to preventing new outbreaks and, in turn, making people feel comfortable about slowly returning to public life.

“That will give you all and will give us the confidence that we need to begin turning that dimmer up on the light switch,” he said. “It’s not going to be a flip.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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