Deaths hit 10K: NJ to start allowing elective surgeries, mail-in primary voting
TRENTON — New Jersey's coronavirus death toll surpassed 10,000 people, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday, even as data show trends heading in the right direction.
Murphy reported 201 deaths overnight, bringing the death toll to 10,138. There are more than 143,000 positive cases.
“We have crossed the number of 10,000 fatalities," Murphy said. “Think about that for a moment. That is a staggering number.”
Despite the number of fatalities, Murphy said other figures show the virus' curve coming down, including the number of hospitalizations falling, along with the use of ventilators and intensive care units to treat coronavirus patients.
Elective surgeries in New Jersey can return on May 26 under an executive order Murphy signed. The announcement comes a day after Murphy said beaches would be open — with restrictions — for Memorial Day.
He also said the state is sending out mail-in ballots with return postage paid to Republican and Democratic voters ahead of the July 7 primary and that only one polling place in each town and city in the state will be opened for in-person voting
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.
There were about 4,000 people in hospitals across the state, down nearly 50% from the peak last month, Murphy said. Patients on ventilators are also down about 50% since the same time, while the number of people in intensive care is down roughly 40%, according to the governor.
Still, New Jersey has more patients in the hospital for COVID-19 per 100,000 people than any other state, Murphy said. It also has the highest death rate per 100,000 people, at 1.8.
The state stopped elective surgeries early in the outbreak to increase capacity at hospitals to confront coronavirus, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said, but data indicate they can start again.
Murphy pointed to his own March 4 surgery that would have been considered elective to remove a cancerous tumor on his kidney.
“Elective surgery makes it sound like it's all a bunch of folks who want to get a nose job lined up,” he said. “This covers ... a broad range of procedures that are in some cases quite serious.”
JULY 7 PRIMARY
New Jersey's closed primary, which means only Democrats and Republicans, is set to go forward July 7, moved from June 2, and Murphy said he's ordering all voters registered with a party to get postage-paid mail-in ballots. He said unaffiliated voters will get an application sent to them so they can register with a party if they want to vote in the primary.
New Jersey already has no-excuse voting by mail, but Murphy said the July 7 election will see just one in-person polling place per town, with the aim of decreasing any gathering at the ballot box.
CASH FOR SMALL BUSINESS
The state will set aside $50 million in federal funds for small businesses, Murphy said. Most of the money will be for grants, he added. It's unclear when the money will be available or how businesses can apply for it, but the governor said the funds would go through the state's Economic Development Authority.