First person dies of COVID-19 in New Jersey, governor says

Posted at 11:59 AM, Mar 10, 2020

BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. – The governor of New Jersey has announced the state’s first death from the new coronavirus.

“We are sad to report the first death in a case of COVID-19 in New Jersey," said Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement Tuesday. "Our prayers are with the family during this difficult time. We remain vigilant to doing all we can — across all levels of government — to protect the people of New Jersey.”

The deceased is a man in his 60s from Bergen County who had a history of traveling between New Jersey and New York and had a history of working New York, according to Department of Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli. He was admitted to Hackensack University Medical Center on March 6. He eventually suffered two cardiac arrests.

Including the deceased, New Jersey now has 16 cases of the novel coronavirus. Officials said 31 people are "under investigation."

This death brings the U.S. death toll from the virus to 28. According to Johns Hopkins University, 23 others have died in Washington state, two have died in California and two have died in Florida.

Johns Hopkins says more than 700 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease associated with the virus. Worldwide, over 116,000 cases have been reported with around 4,000 deaths. A majority of the cases are out of mainland China, where the virus is believed to have originated.

Gov. Murphy declared a state of emergency Monday night in response to the outbreak.

“The State of New Jersey is committed to deploying every available resource, across all levels of government, to help respond to the spread of COVID-19 and keep our residents informed,” said Murphy. “My administration will continue to work closely with our federal partners to ensure that local health agencies on the front lines of the state’s response are equipped with the resources needed to further prepare our health care system for a broader spread of COVID-19.”

The state's epidemiologist said Tuesday that they do not think widespread community transmission of the virus is occurring yet in New Jersey, as most infected patients have come in close contact with an infected person.

Persichilli said people should prepare to self-quarantine by keeping a two week supply of food and water, as well as any needed prescriptions.

Several New Jersey schools have announced closures to prepare staff for remote schooling and to disinfect classrooms.

WATCH New Jersey officials speak on the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak:

This story was originally published by Stephen M. Lepore at WPIX.