A Jersey City councilman and two prison nurses were among the recent victims of COVID-19 noted by Gov. Phil Murphy at his Monday daily briefing.

Their deaths were highlighted as New Jersey passed a grim milestone — more than 1,000 known deaths from the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in New Jersey at the start of March.

The statewide count of known cases is now 41,090, growing by thousands each day as testing capacity ramps up. More than 40 locations throughout the state now offer testing, those most only by appointment and for symptomatic individuals. It's assumed the number of infections, including people who'll never be tested because their symptoms are mild or non-existent, or because they don't have easy access to testing, is higher.

Even so, at his daily press conference Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy signaled small signs of hope, even as he warned the worst of the pandemic is still ahead of New Jersey.

Under a best-case projection the governor presented, using the same CHIME modeling New Jersey has principally used throughout the outbreak, cases in New Jersey could peak at 86,000 around April 19. Under a worst-case scenario, New Jersey hits 509,000 around May 11. Either is far better than what state officials estimate would have happened without social distancing, the closure of schools and severe limits on business operations. They say their math shows more than 3 million infections by early May, hitting about a third of the state population.

“The curve is flattening, but this is no time to spike any footballs or take our foot off the gas," Murphy said.

New Jersey saw its new cases rise by 3,663 in the last day, a bit above that seen Sunday but significantly below that seen in the two days earlier. Its count of new deaths, at 86, was also the least seen in the last few days. On Saturday alone, New Jersey had announced 200 newly confirmed deaths.

The virus continues to overwhelmingly hit older populations the hardest. About 45 percent of New Jersey's deaths have been individuals over age 80, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. 32 percent are people ages 65 to 79.

In New Jersey's best-case models, the state sees its most hospitalizations at a single time around April 10, with 9,000 people needing hospital beds — enough to be served by the state's usual capacity. In its worst-case scenario, New Jersey needs about 36,000 — roughly twice its typical capacity — around April 28.

Persichilli said through the planned opening of three FEMA-backed field hospitals, through reopening closed hospitals, through use of empty long-term care facilities, through reopening closed wings of existing hospitals and through renting hotel rooms for patients in recovery, New Jersey has identified 26,000 "care spaces" beyond its normal capacity of about 18,000. That's not counting additional beds existing hospitals are ramping up to provide, or any availability on the USNS Comfort Mercy-class hospital ship.

New Jersey officials and health providers have similarly greatly increased the state's critical care capacity in anticipation of a coming surge. They've received about half of the 2,300 ventilators they've requested from the federal stockpile, but made plans for multiple patients to share ventilators and to convert other equipment. Their greatest concerns, they say, are for available medical personnel and protective equipment.

But Murphy said if New Jersey returns to normal life too quickly, it risks new spikes in cases, even once numbers eventually start to come down. He's previously said he expects novel coronavirus to continue having a significant impact on New Jersey life well into May, and has more recently suggested New Jersey could see restrictions beyond that.

Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun

The governor, who has taken to spotlighting several people who have died from the virus, said he had exchanged notes less than a week ago with Michael Yun, who was first elected to the Jersey City city council in 2013 from Ward D.

"He was a respected leader not just in Jersey City but in Hudson County — a good man, a great professional, a terrific husband, father, grandfather. We stand with Jersey City and with Hudson County in mourning his loss. We send our deepest prayers and thoughts to his family," Murphy said.

Yun was the owner and operator of Garden State News along with his wife, according to his biography on the Jersey City website. He first came to the United States in 1979 and moved to Jersey City in 1981. Yun served as president of the Jersey City Merchant’s Council for 20 years, representing more than 3,000 Jersey City small-business owners and operators.

"We are beyond saddened by the passing of Councilman Michael Yun. He was a family man, a great businessman, and a tireless advocate for Jersey City throughout his nearly 3 decades of public service," Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement. "More than that though, he was a great husband, father, and grandfather as he never missed a chance to share how proud he was of his family. This is devastating for all of us here, as Michael was part of our Jersey City family. We will miss him and we will continue to aggressively fight against this pandemic, now in his honor."

Colette Lamothe-Galette

The governor on Monday also mentioned Colette Lamothe-Galette, a senior program officer for the Nicholson Foundation and a former employee of the state Department of Health.

"Colette was raised in Newark, educated at Yale and dedicated her life to eliminating health disparities and improving the health and well being of vulnerable populations across New Jersey," Murphy said, adding that she was working working with his wife Tammy on finding solutions to the infant mortality crisis among African-Americans in New Jersey.

Daisy Doronilla

Daisy Doronilla (Daisy Doronilla via Facebook)

Daisy Doronilla — third death of Hudson jail staff

Daisy Doronilla, a nurse at the Hudson County Correctional Center for more than 20 years, was also mentioned by Murphy, who remembered her a single mom, a longtime resident of Nutley, a member of District 1199J AFSCME and a "heroic healthcare worker."

"I spoke with her daughter, Denise, and I came away with a deep appreciation for how much she gave to her family and her community," Murphy said.

She is the third person associated with the facility to die from COVID-19. Hudson County Correctional Police Officer Bernard Waddell Sr. died after contracting the virus, according to a tweet by the New Jersey State PBA.

Registered nurse Susan Cicala also died from COVID-19, according to the governor, who said she had worked for 37 years at Clara Maas Medical Center in Belleville and Northern State Prison. Murphy displayed a picture of Cicala holding a picture of her first grandchild, Justin.

Murphy also mentioned Weehawken Board of Education President Richard Barsa and Javiera Rodriguez, a member of the child study team at Becton Regional High School in East Rutherford.

Murphy has stressed that while he looks to put a human face on the impact of the coronavirus by highlighting deaths of active community members, those he descrbibes represent only a small fraction of the state's death toll.

On Saturday, Murphy mentioned:

  • Retired Col. Samuel Fuoco of Eatontown, who served in the Army and Army Reserves for more than 37 years, and had been awarded the bronze medal for his service in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Fuoco also received the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal and led the Monmouth Chapter of the Association of the United States Army.
  • Jesus Villaluz, 75, was a patient transport worker at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck for 27 years.
  • Perry Rosenstein founded of both the Puffin Foundation in Teaneck and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. He was the uncle of CWA New Jersey Director Hetty Rosenstein.
  •  Gerald Carlson, 88, was a lifelong design draftsman who worked on both the space shuttles Columbia and Challenger
  • James Brown, 48, was principal of the Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell
  • Bucky Pizzarelli, 94, was jazz guitarist from Paterson and a member of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

 

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