Murphy says there’s no need to hoard as NJ coronavirus cases climb to 69
Gov. Phil Murphy's message on Saturday to an increasingly anxious state in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak was that there was no need to panic or to hoard.
Supermarket shelves across the state and country have become bare in recent days, with long lines of shoppers extending out to the parking lot in some cases. Not only have stores been running out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but also dry pasta, canned goods and bread.
Retailers told New Jersey 101.5 this week that they were expecting shipments of goods soon and some markets have taken to limiting the number of items that customers can buy in one trip.
Murphy on Saturday said that the supermarket situation should continue to improve after the federal government loosened safety regulations for truckers, who deliver the goods to the market.
State Police Col. Patrick Callahan said troopers would still be making necessary safety checks at truck stations but giving drivers slack on their logged hours of service.
Murphy also pointed out that New Jersey is "the warehouse state," meaning we're first in line for new shipments.
"We completely understand the anxiety," he said during an afternoon phone briefing with reporters. "But there is no reason to hoard."
"Be smart, be prudent, be prepared — don't panic."
The state's positive test results for COVID-19 increased by at least 19 cases on Saturday, bringing the state's total to 69.
The new cases involved 13 women and six men ages 18 to 80.
The new cases on Saturday:
Bergen County — 7
Middlesex County — 7
Essex County — 2
Hudson County — 2
Monmouth County — 1
The state also announced that they would begin widespread testing Monday in Bergen County, which has 25 confirmed cases, including the state's only death. The testing center would be set up at Bergen County Community College and would prioritize the most at-risk people, including symptomatic health care workers, medically fragile patients and people tied to clusters of positive cases.
In Bergen County, all public schools have been closed for the month and the county government was closing many of its offices. Theaters and some malls, including the American Dream retail and entertainment complex in East Rutherford, also were closing.
The state Department of Corrections also suspended all visitations to prisoners except for lawyers. Inmates would be provided additional free phone calls and free postage during the 30-day suspension. The rule does not apply to county jails but it was expected that local facilities would follow suit.
A day after the state's private hospitals announced severe restrictions on visitations, the state Saturday that all visitations would be suspended at nursing homes, pediatric residential facilities and dementia wards except for end-of-life cases.
Authorities have been imposing increasingly dramatic restrictions as health officials seek to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which presents mild to severe symptoms that could include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The virus tends to be more deadly among older people and those with underlying medical conditions. There is no vaccine and only the symptoms of the disease can be treated.
Health officials say the risk of getting COVID-19 remains low is most of the state but the effort to lessen its spread is important so that medical facilities are not overwhelmed with a spike of patients.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and Murphy said Saturday that the state had begun to receive shipments of thousands of faces masks, face shield and other supplies for healthcare workers.
Murphy said he had spoken to Vice President Mike Pence on Friday and pressed the need for more supplies.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.