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Coronavirus update: N.J. unemployment claims soar, hospitalizations dip

People wait in line to be tested for the new coronavirus at a testing site in Jersey City, N.J., Monday, May 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

People wait in line to be tested for the new coronavirus at a testing site in Jersey City, N.J., Monday, May 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced 1,827 new coronavirus diagnoses Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 133,635 total cases. In the last seven days, the state has had 12,445 new cases, which is down from the peak of more than 22,000 cases at its worst point in April.

The governor said another 254 people died of complications from COVID-19. The state has now lost 8,801 residents to the pandemic.

Unemployment claims continue to soar

Another 83,326 residents filed for unemployment claims during the week ending May 2, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak financial havoc on the state’s economy.

The state has now seen 1,018,785 applications for unemployment benefits in the seven weeks since the coronavirus outbreak started, an all-time high for any other similar period, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development said.

“As we pass the milestone of 1 million claims filed — a number so staggering, we never thought we would come close to reaching it in such a compressed period of time — I’m incredibly proud of the tireless work of our staff to get nearly $2 billion into the bank accounts of so many New Jersey workers, to support their families,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.

Some applicants have reported long delays on the state’s phone line to apply for benefits as well as technical glitches with the department’s website. Murphy said he sympathizes with those residents but that state officials are doing their best to handle an unprecedented demand for unemployment benefits.

National Guard to be deployed to long-term care facilities

Murphy announced he would deploy New Jersey National Guard members to the state’s long-term care facilities, which have become hotspots for COVID-19 infections.

A total of 120 guard soldiers will be deployed in the first wave, Murphy said, including nearly two dozen members who are set to arrive at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center on Friday.

“We don’t take this step lightly, but we take it knowing that the crisis at our long-term care facilities requires us to take it,” he said.

More than half of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities. Some 4,556 patients have passed away, and a total of 24,874 cases have been linked to the sites.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the guardsmen will act as nurse aid assistants, execute janitorial duties, work in culinary services, and also handle some logistics, including managing supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).

She said the New Jersey National Guard is also in discussions with other nursing homes that may need their help.

“We are extremely appreciative of their services during this time of need,” Persichilli said, “and any additional support from them — be it direct care or direct caring and comforting of the residents — is appreciated.”

Hospitalizations dip below 5K, lowest since peak

Hospitals across the state are currently treating 4,996 coronavirus patients, the lowest number since the peak of hospitalizations three weeks ago.

Murphy said the state’s stay-at-home order and strict social distancing guidelines have helped bring the hospitalizations below 5,000.

“There was a time when we were speaking to a possibility of 36,000 [hospitalizations], and the reason why it peaked at 8,270 was because of you,” he said.

Murphy said it means the stress on the state’s hospitals was lessening, allowing doctors and nurses to better treat those with the most severe cases of COVID-19.

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