Gov. Phil Murphy tours Atlantic City medical site as state sees deadliest day from coronavirus

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey's COVID-19 death toll saw its biggest spike yet, climbing by 379 deaths, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday.

The spike comes as the number of new cases has been leveling off, the first-term Democrat said at a news conference.

New Jersey has had 4,753 deaths from the virus. More than 92,000 cases, up from about 89,000, according to the governor. That means more than 1% of the state's population tested positive for the virus.

Despite some positive signs, like the leveling off of cases and the increasing time it takes for the number of people with COVID-19 to double, Murphy said there are still weeks to go of social distancing.

"We cannot rush to reopen anything and risk undoing all the extraordinary work you've done so far," Murphy said.

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Murphy toured a Field Medical Station at the site of the Atlantic City Convention Center on Tuesday.

The new field station is meant for non-COVID-19 patients. However, officials said this could change quickly if necessary. The first patient was expected to arrive Tuesday afternoon.

The purpose of the pop-up site is to help alleviate pressure on local hospitals. There are currently more than 250 beds blocked off by white curtains, five nurses stations, a pharmacy and a lab testing center.

"By working collaboratively with our partners at the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, New Jersey State Police, and the Office of Emergency Management, we've significantly expanded our hospital beds, sourcing capabilities, and health care workforce to prepare New Jersey for a surge in COVID-19 cases," said Governor Murphy. "This whole-of-government approach will relieve pressure on New Jersey's health care delivery system and save lives."
Areas throughout the facility will be split up into zones, where healthcare workers must wear a certain level of PPE.

The facility is more than half a million square feet, with officials stating it will be able to expand to 3,000 hospital beds if needed.

As the pandemic and statewide shutdown rage on, South Jersey residents are torn over whether or not tourists should be allowed to visit in time for the summer season.

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"I love that time of year and I love to see all of my customers, but I think that we need to wait until there's testing, traceability and some kind of treatment," said Pamela Shuman, owner of Pamela's Health and Harmony store in Margate.

However, the economic despair is taking its toll and some residents think shore businesses should be allowed to open their doors sooner.

"I think so only because its sad for the other businesses that are losing so much," said Ali McMahan, manager of Downbeach Deli in Margate.

After touring the field hospital, Governor Murphy met with Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron to assess storm damage from last week. Byron fielded questions about the pandemic today, stating he and other officials will re-evaluate where things stand in two weeks.

"I understand the importance of economics and why people are worried about that, but I don't think that we should put economics in front of health and safety right now," said Byron.


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