Murphy Secures Commitment from Trump for 4 Pop-Up Hospitals in New Jersey

Posted on March 23, 2020 by Politico

Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he’s received a commitment from President Donald Trump for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to operate four pop-up field hospitals in New Jersey as the state‘s health system prepares for a surge of coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Murphy said members of his team had relayed the president’s commitment to the leadership of FEMA‘s Region II shortly before the start of his coronavirus briefing at noon.

“We are clearly going to need these field hospitals and I want to thank, again, FEMA Region II for their partnership as well as President Trump personally for his support,” Murphy said during his daily coronavirus briefing.

The number of patients to test positive for coronavirus in New Jersey climbed to 2,844, Murphy said, representing an increase of 935 from the total reported Sunday afternoon. The number of deaths climbed by seven, bringing the total statewide by 27.

The spike in positives was the result of more community spread and broader availability of coronavirus tests, the governor said. State officials are strongly discouraging residents who aren’t exhibiting symptoms from seeking tests.

The increase of community spread underscores the state’s growing need for medical supplies and hospital capacity as the global pandemic spreads across New Jersey.

Murphy effectively shut down huge swaths of the state’s retail sector over the weekend with his “stay-at-home” order.

Even with mitigation strategies ramping up, the expected surge in coronavirus hospitalizations has grown serious enough for Murphy to order the state’s acute-care hospitals to suspend elective surgeries and invasive procedures after 5 p.m. Friday — a measure that’s already been taken by many medical centers across the state.

And while the state’s capacity for testing has expanded, “sooner rather than later, I’d guess … we’re going to come to a fork in the road between resources and manpower dedicated to testing, versus manpower and resources dedicated to care,” Murphy said.

“That’s a balance we’re going to have to get right,” he said. “As much as we want to be a leader in testing in our country, the fact of the matter is, we have to, in a limited resource world, in a limited manpower world, we may have to tilt the machine more toward the care side.”

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and other state health officials have been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and hospital systems to reopen closed hospitals and shuttered wings of active hospitals. Persichilli also said hotels are now being considered among the growing list of facilities — including dormitories and closed nursing homes —  that could accommodate a medical surge.

“We’re looking at the whole continuum so that the patients in New Jersey will be taken care of at the same level of care. It just might be at a different venue,” Persichilli said during Monday’s briefing, later adding that the state is also seeking around 400 ventilators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to distribute across the state’s health system.

In addition to securing Trump’s approval of pop-up hospitals in the state, Murphy said he told the president the state continues to face shortfalls in critical medical supplies — most desperately, personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers — as well as financial resources.

On Sunday, New Jersey received a donation of 153,000 face masks, including 75,000 N95 respirators, from an emergency stockpile held by the Newark-based insurance giant Prudential Financial. Murphy says he’s had discussions with Goldman Sachs, where he spent the bulk of his professional career before entering politics, about obtaining supplies from that bank’s strategic reserve.

Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said he’s also sent out requests to the state’s public school districts for any PPE they may have stockpiled in anticipation of a possible Ebola outbreak several years ago.

Earlier this month, the state received 84,000 N95 respirator masks, 200,000 face masks and 38,000 face shields from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, though Murphy said that represented only a fraction of what the state had requested.

Even with incoming federal support in expanding the state’s hospital capacity, that doesn’t take into account the resources New Jersey will likely need to restore its balance sheet and provide services to residents as the economy continues its slide. Congress has so far been able to pass a $1.8 trillion stimulus package over unemployment provisions and regulations for how businesses could use the federal government’s cash assistance.

“We are desperate for direct state cash assistance,” Murphy said, repeating his claim that New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut will need at least $100 billion to shore up their finances amid the pandemic. “We need the federal government to come in with a big bucket of money to continue to do that [respond to the crisis].”

While Trump offered few other specifics on how the federal government would be assisting New Jersey moving forward, he did take a few moments in the five- to 10-minute phone call to tell Murphy about his belief that an anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, could prevent Covid-19.

“He talked for a minute about some of these malaria drugs he’s very focused on, and that he believes can change some people’s outcomes even those who are very sick,” Murphy said. “I’m not a health expert so, I don’t have an opinion on that.”

“I’m not sure I walked away from the call with anything specific on PPE,” Murphy said. “In fact I know I didn’t.

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Murphy Secures Commitment from Trump for 4 Pop-Up Hospitals in New Jersey