Murphy extends health emergency into June as NJ keeps improving
Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday extended New Jersey's public health emergency for the second time since he first declared one in March.
Murphy said that the extension — which has to be done every 30 days so that it does not expire — will have no impact on existing shut-down or social-distancing orders.
Murphy first extended the emergency declaration on April 7, about a week before New Jersey hospitalizations from COVID-19 hit its peak. Since then, the infection rate and the number of people being admitted to hospitals or being placed on life support has been declining and holding steady.
"We are seeing good signs — without a question — but we cannot lull ourselves into thinking all is well," Murphy said Wednesday, adding that New Jersey residents should continue "social distancing, wearing a face covering when in public and doing all the other seemingly little things that can make a huge difference."
As of Tuesday night, New Jersey hospitals were treating 5,221 patients with COVID-19, with 1,549 in intensive or critical care and 1,146 of those on ventilators.
As of Wednesday night, hospitals admitted 439 new patients but discharged 435.
New Jersey's death toll since March has reached at least 8,549.
The positive trends for New Jersey come as the rest of the nation braces for as many as 3,000 daily deaths by June and as governors face pressure from President Donald Trump and small but vocal groups to hasten measures for reopening.
Murphy said Wednesday that his administration is "working morning, noon and night but we also don't have all the answers. Nobody does."
Schools in New Jersey will remain closed for in-person instruction through the end of the school year. On Tuesday, Murphy said he was looking at starting to allow non-essential businesses to reopen but added that he had no timeline for that decision.
"Public health creates economic health and data determines dates," he said, adding that "in the absence of either a vaccine or a proven therapy … our only cure" remains social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing hands.
Murphy's chief counsel, Matt Platkin, said that the state of emergency and public health emergency, which are based on the Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act and the Emergency Health Powers Act, respectively, can be extended and continued when the facts giving rise to the emergencies continue to exist.
"Clearly, the facts that created the emergency based on the presentation today continue to exist," Platkin said Wednesday during Murphy's daily briefing announcing the new executive order.
Murphy also announced a panel of experts that would examine practices at long-term care facilities, which have accounted for more than half of the state's COVID-19 deaths. The panel will make recommendations to keep residents and staff safe and compare the state's oversight to best practices in other states. This review is in addition to a state Attorney General's Office investigation into potential wrongdoing at these facilities.