New Jersey deaths spike as Murphy says Trump summit yields results

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey reported 460 deaths from coronavirus, the biggest jump yet, on Thursday, the same day Gov. Phil Murphy had a friendly meeting with President Donald Trump, who promised to send the state testing materials, according to the governor.

The jump brings the death toll to 7,228 and surpasses the previous record of 402 deaths set earlier this week. It outpaces far-larger New York's daily death toll of 306 and also coincides with discussions about reopening the state, which has been largely shuttered for more than a month.

"They are not and they should never be seen as just numbers on a chart," Murphy said. "It is for them that we will continue this fight."

The jump in deaths reflects the fact that some people had died who had not yet been confirmed positive for COVID-19, according to Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the medical director of the state's Communicable Disease Service.

Murphy also announced at a news conference in Trenton after flying back to New Jersey from Washington that the Trump administration would be sending 550,000 new tests as well as 750,000 swabs to New Jersey. The materials would go a long way in reaching Murphy's goal of doubling testing from about 9,000 tests a day, he said.

Increasing testing is a precondition for reopening, the governor has said.

Murphy, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, had kind words for one another. At his afternoon news conference, Murphy flashed a thank-you message to the president on the TV screens that accompany his daily updates.

"You can't have a better representative than this man. That I can tell you," Trump said,, while sitting alongside Murphy earlier in the Oval Office.

Murphy also told the president the state would need $20 billion to $30 billion in assistance to deal with COVID-19 fallout.

The cash would "keep firefighters, teachers, police, EMS, on the payroll serving the communities in their hour of need," Murphy said,

Trump touted the number of ventilators the federal government acquired for New Jersey, which has seen their use declining in recent days, so much so that Murphy said they've begun turning them over to other states.

Trump also spoke warmly of Murphy's having jumped into the coronavirus crisis just days after surgery to remove cancer from his kidney in March.

Unlike some Democratic officials, Murphy has largely praised the president's response. The cross-party friendship called to mind the 2012 meeting between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whose near-embrace after Superstorm Sandy generated numerous headlines.

The cash Murphy is seeking represents a huge chunk of the budget he unveiled this year, from 50% to more than 75% of the proposed spending plan.

Murphy has called for direct cash assistance from Congress and the president for weeks, citing the state's drop-off in revenue because of the virus.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had earlier suggested he would consider legislation to let states declare bankruptcy, but has shifted his tone and says he's open to talking about aid to states.

New Jersey is among the hardest-hit states, with about 118,000 positive cases.

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:

JOBLESS CLAIMS

Unemployment claims surpassed 900,000 in New Jersey since the outbreak was first detected in the state, though new claims last week fell by roughly half compared with the week before.

The state Labor and Workforce Development Department said Thursday that 930,000 claims have been filed since mid-March. About 71,000 new claims were filed for the week that ended April 25. That's down from about 141,000 the previous week.

So far, $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits have been paid out.

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CASINOS

While no timeline has been released for reopening most businesses, the Casino Association of New Jersey is getting ready, announcing it will work with AtlantiCare to develop a plan to reopen Atlantic City casinos.

Steve Callender, the president of the association said, "We want Atlantic City to be ready to open as soon as the government determines it is appropriate to do so. That is why we are working with our regional healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive plan that ensures our properties are prepared and ready to reopen when the stay-at-home order is lifted."

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DOCTORS HELPING WITH VA HOME

Physicians from several northern New Jersey hospitals that have treated patients with COVID-19 over the past several weeks will consult with medical staff at a veterans' home in Paramus that has seen an outbreak of the virus.

The offices of Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell Jr. announced the development Thursday with New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Brigadier General Jemal Beale. In an email, Gottheimer and Pascrell said the doctors and infectious disease experts from Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health, Holy Name Medical Center and Valley Hospital will review protocols and best practices and help triage residents with urgent medical needs.

More than 100 residents of New Jersey's three veterans' homes had died from COVID-19 through Wednesday afternoon, including 59 at Paramus, according to statistics provided by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

"This assistance and guidance from some of the top coronavirus experts and doctors in the country will be critical to fight this outbreak, help limit further loss of life, and protect these veterans and the facility's staff," Gottheimer said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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