N.J. Governor Urges Protesters to Wear Masks, Keep Distance

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(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy pleaded with people demonstrating in response to the death of George Floyd to wear masks and keep proper social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Protest peacefully, side by side,” Murphy said at a news briefing.

Thousands of demonstrators in recent days have marched without incident in places including Newark, Asbury Park and Princeton. Violence and looting by a small number of people broke out in Atlantic City, the oceanside casino resort, and Trenton, the state capital.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday said the state is moving toward licensing the state’s 36,000 New Jersey troopers and local police officers. It will also update a use-of-force policy for the first time in 20 years and create a database to track such tactics.

Of 107 coronavirus patients admitted to hospitals in the prior 24 hours, just one was in Northern New Jersey, where the state’s first case was reported on March 4, and which rapidly became the state’s caseload epicenter. In all, hospitals reported 2,250 virus patients, with 459 relying on ventilators -- the fifth-straight day that fewer than 500 such machines were in use.

Of the state’s 11,880 deaths, 5,232 were linked to nursing homes. Long-term facilities have reported 33,626 of the state’s 162,068 coronavirus cases.

“There remains a disproportionate share of the strain on these facilities,” Murphy said.

A consulting firm that reviewed New Jersey’s response to nursing-home cases interviewed more than 50 people, Murphy said as he announced its findings. The report, he said, found that the virus “exacerbated longstanding, underlying systemic issues affecting nursing home care.”

The report called for establishing an emergency operations center for long-term care homes, boosting staffing and increasing transparency on ownership. About one-third of nursing homes in 2017 were cited for infection-control deficiencies, underscoring the consultant’s recommendation to have specialists in the homes, Murphy said.

Murphy also announced that liquor-license holders can apply for a permit to expand outdoor service areas, potentially to sidewalks, although perimeters will be set by local officials. Outdoor dining and liquor service may resume June 15, with social-distancing restrictions.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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