NJ adopts ‘unified’ effort to handout masks, gear amid COVID-19
With the novel coronavirus now in all of New Jersey's 21 counties, the state has moved to a "unified command" in receiving and distributing personal protective equipment, including masks, for health care workers.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Sunday the new, centralized efforts being coordinated through the state Office of Emergency Management. He said supplies need to be used in the "most prudent way," as the state works to meet the crucial needs of hospital staff, long term health care workers, first responders and others helping treat and care for others in NJ.
On Sunday, New Jersey announced another 590 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 1,914 cases based on test results.
Another four deaths also were confirmed overnight, for a statewide total of 20 deaths from COVID-19.
Murphy and other state officials, including Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, also repeated the need for sizable federal support, both monetary and in further shipments of such protective gear.
A similar call to action was delivered by members of New Jersey's congressional delegation.
"As COVID-19 continues to spread in communities throughout the country, frontline health care workers, including those who work in hospitals, clinics, and in emergency medical services, are experiencing a severe shortage of essential equipment, including ventilators, gowns, gloves, masks, respirators, face shields, and diagnostic supplies," New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker wrote in a letter sent Saturday to President Donald Trump.
New Jersey so far had received a fraction of PPE requested from the federal government, as listed in a March 16 letter signed by nearly every congressional delegate for NJ:
- N95 Respirators: 84,578 received, about 34% of a total requested 2,880,000
- Face/Surgical Masks: 201,479, or roughly 25% of a total requested 864,000
- Face Shields: 38,365 received, or less than 5% of a total requested 864,000
- Surgical Gowns: 31,280 received, or less than 4% or a total requested 864,000
- Coveralls: 160 received, less than 1% of the requested amount of 864,000
- Gloves: 111,378 received, or less than 4% or a total requested 2,880,000
“The American people and those fighting this battle in our communities need clarity and need these supplies. What they’re getting is contradictory statements from the president and the FEMA Director on what steps have been taken to ramp up supply," Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) said in his own statement Sunday, calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to deliver more critical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Kim, a Democrat who represents parts of Burlington and Ocean Counties, said the administration should fully enact the Defense Production Act and put out "an immediate order for personal protective equipment, ventilators, and testing kits."
He also called for an immediate survey of all companies capable of helping create suitable protective gear and creating a "state-by-state tracking system for demand to ensure that orders are being made in line with demand from those closest to the ground."
During the statewide briefing Sunday, Persichilli said that the state's need for blood donations was "increasingly urgent," adding the "last thing we want is to add to the crisis."
She said for those feeling well, a concrete way for residents feeling helpless amid the COVID-19 pandemic to contribute was to roll up their sleeves and donate blood.
"I have spoken with countless healthcare workers who fear they will run out of PPE in weeks, if not earlier, which will not only put them at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 themselves and spreading the disease to patients and others, but it will also reduce our health care workforce at a time when it is most needed," Booker continued in his letter.
Booker also described in his letter "extreme measures" he'd been told about, "including washing and reusing face shields, using masks that are intended for construction, and making PPE themselves out of office supplies."
When asked to weigh in on reports of some New Jersey hospitals holding fundraisers as a way of securing more certified respirators or face masks, among other supplies in high demand, Murphy said such efforts likely were rooted in the good intentions of community members looking to help. He again repeated the most necessary support needed to come from the federal government.
Murphy also noted significant corporate donors toward securing needed supplies, mentioning Prudential, Comcast, Verizon and Home Depot as active partners in that regard.
Amid reports of some people not heeding Saturday's increased Stay Home directive, the governor said he was “really damned unhappy and we’re going to take action."
Murphy also said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal would be joining Monday's state briefing, to talk about coordinated efforts involving all county prosecutor's offices to step up enforcement of the new rules, among people who continue to ignore them.