New Jersey schools will remain closed until at least May 15, Gov. Phil Murphy said at his Thursday news conference on the state’s efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
“We need to be guided by where the facts on the ground, science, and public health take us,” Murphy said. “That means it will not be safe to reopen our schools for at least another four weeks.”
The state’s stay-at-home order has no end date. Murphy is working with six other states on a regional plan to reopen the economy.
He appointed Dr. Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Jeh Johnson, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, to serve on the regional council. The governor’s chief of staff, George Helmy, will also serve on the council.
The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Financing Authority is suspending all rent increases, which will affect about 36,000 properties to help families who are struggling due to the pandemic, Murphy announced.
The governor also announced he asked Attorney General Gubir Grewal to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II and any long-term care facilities with a “disproportionate number of deaths” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His announcement came after reports from law enforcement officials that 18 bodies were found in a makeshift morgue at the Andover long-term care facilities over the weekend.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said her department received a call Saturday about 28 bodies stored in the facilities. A health inspector visited there early Sunday morning and found five, she reported.
So far, 28 residents’ deaths have been reported at the two facilities, and 14 are tied to COVID-19. The facilities have a combined 84 patients with the virus, and 99 have respiratory or flu-like symptoms, Persichilli said. The facility has two sections; one is licensed for 514 residents and has 419 while the other is licensed for 159 residents and has 120.
“I am outraged that the bodies of the dead were allowed to pile up in a makeshift morgue at the facility,” Murphy said.
An additional 364 COVID-19 related deaths were reported Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus to 3,518. That’s more than the number of New Jersey residents killed in World War I, Murphy said. The number of New Jersey residents that tested positive for the virus is 75,371 as 4,391 new cases were reported Thursday.