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(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy extended the state’s stay-at-home order until further notice as he announced six principles for reopening the state. Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 15.56.23

The first four principles address public health and begins with sustained reduction in the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“We need to ensure we have a robust and fully functioning health care system ready to meet the challenges ahead,” Murphy said. “And, it’s not just our hospitals, but also ambulatory facilities, long term care facilities, provider practices – everywhere health care is delivered.”

 

Next, the state needs to at least double its diagnostic testing capacity, the governor said.

“We will have a flexible testing plan that is accessible to all residents who need it whether it be through walk-up and drive-thru sites, tests at local pharmacies, or even at-home testing capabilities,” Murphy said.

Expanding testing will require federal assistance, and Murphy said the White House has agreed to partner with the state.

The third focus is on contact tracing.

“Whenever a new positive COVID-19 test is returned, we must be able to leverage not just that individual’s recollections, but also employ new technologies to help identify those with whom that individual may have come into contact,” Murphy said.

Between 1,300 to 7,000 people may be needed for contract tracing, but the state is in talks with technology companies who could make the work more efficient, Murphy said.

 

The final health principle involves creating safe places and resources for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

Once the four health bench marks are met, the state will begin reopening. Murphy is creating the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission and will announce its members Tuesday.

“I will ask the commission to give the highest priority for reopening using a clear standard of 'essential and safe' beginning with businesses, industries, and activities which are not only essential to our economy, but which provide the lowest risk of disease transmission,” Murphy said.

The final principle will take the lessons learned from the pandemic and prepare for another outbreak. This will involve strengthening hospitals and their inventory of personal protective equipment.

"We cannot find ourselves in another situation where we must rely on the federal government, or our corporate and philanthropic partners, to source what we need,” Murphy said. “We must build our resiliency now.”

Murphy said he will be working with the multistate council when planning.

“For us to rush ahead of either Pennsylvania or New York, or any of our other four state partners, or vice versa, would risk returning our entire region back into lockdown mode,” Murphy said. “This doesn’t mean that we will, or even can, take every step at the exact same time, or in the exact same way, as our neighbors. But, we will share information and make decisions based on the guidance of our public health and security experts, and with an eye on our north star, which is to protect lives across our seven states and across our nation.”

Another 106 COVID-19 related deaths were reported, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to 6,044. Hospitalizations due to the virus continued to decline with 314 reported during the 24-hour period that ended at 10 p.m. Sunday. Four hundred and eighty people who had COVID-19 were discharged.

published here with permission of thecentersquare.com/

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