Daily New Jersey coronavirus-related deaths surpass New York for a second day

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey recorded more deaths from COVID-19 than New York for the second consecutive day Friday, and Gov. Phil Murphy said he will decide on the remainder of the school year next week.

New Jersey reported 311 deaths on Friday, bringing the state's total to 7,538, Murphy said, while New York tallied 289.

Murphy is also bumping up the day he'll announce what the remainder of the school year will look like. He had set a deadline of May 15, but said at a news conference that he would announce it Monday.

New York's governor said Friday that the state is closing schools for the rest the academic year but continue online learning. Pennsylvania has also announced school buildings will not reopen this academic year.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

A look at other developments:

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CAMDEN TRIES TO OVERCOME LANGUAGE BARRIER IN COVID-19 FIGHT

Community leaders in Camden fear even more people could be at risk because a language barrier is preventing them from getting valuable information about COVID-19.

"We have a very large pocket of people who only speak Spanish," said Camden County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, who also serves as a liaison to the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services.

Pilar Hogan Closkey works with the nonprofit St. Joseph's Carpenter Society in East Camden, near Dudley Grange Park.

She estimates that more than half of the residents in that area of East Camden only speak Spanish. There are also significant numbers of people who are Vietnamese and Cambodian in that area.

Community advocates are worried that a language barrier and fear will prevent residents from getting proper testing, treatment and information.

"These are our undocumented individuals. Many of them live around that area," said Rodriguez. "They are even more vulnerable because they are afraid to access healthcare."

Camden officials have increased their outreach to non-English speaking populations. City and county officials have announced the opening of two new coronavirus testing sites.

"The county and city were able to give us police officers that spoke Vietnamese and Spanish," said Closkey.

Workers have also been canvassing neighborhoods distributing pamphlets in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

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ANTIBODY TESTING

Jersey City and Hoboken will begin offering testing for COVID-19 antibodies, a step that could help with the treatment of those currently afflicted with the virus, officials said Friday.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted that his city will begin testing Monday and has an initial goal of 2,100 tests per week for residents. Front-line workers would be the first to get the tests, followed by the public.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla tweeted that his city will offer the testing for the public at a date to be announced and added that it will allow residents to donate plasma to help current patients.

Blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients carries antibodies that fight the virus. It's experimental, though it's a treatment that has helped fight other diseases, including the 1918 flu pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration last month announced a national study to help more hospitals try the approach.

New Jersey health officials have cautioned that antibody testing shouldn't be used to determine if a person is immune and ready to go back to work.

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TESTING INMATES

New Jersey will begin to test all its inmates and Department of Corrections staff for the coronavirus.

The testing will be done along with Rutgers University's Correctional Healthcare and Accurate Diagnostics Lab and use the university's new saliva test, Murphy's office said Friday.

Current tests are done using invasive nose or throat swabs. The saliva test requires only spitting into a tube, Rutgers has said.

About 8,000 staff and 18,000 inmates will undergo testing, according to the governor. It's unclear when the testing will begin.

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PARKS OPENING

Murphy said state troopers and park police will closely watch parks and golf courses, which are set to reopen Saturday. He advised that even though they'll be open, people must still observe social distancing.

Masks are not required, he said, but are recommended.

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