Governor Phil Murphy: Good afternoon. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today. With me is the woman to my right who needs no introduction – welcome back, by the way – the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli. I thought you may be still testifying, but I see you’ve come up for air, as well as to Judy’s right, another familiar face, the Department of Health Communicable Disease Service Director, Dr. Ed Lifshitz. Ed, great to have you back with us. We’re going to hear from you in a few minutes as well. Guy to my left, who needs no introduction, the Superintendent of the State Police Colonel Pat Callahan. We have Jared Maples, the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Parimal Garg, Chief Counsel, and a cast of thousands.
Before we jump in, I just got off the phone with the Indian ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Sandhu, and the ambassador has been posted in the United States since February 3rd, 2020, so you can imagine the 15 months that this guy has had, and the tragedy in India right now with COVID-19 and the variants is unspeakable. It’s beyond words. I pledged to him whatever we could do in New Jersey with one of the largest Indian diaspora in the United States that we would do on behalf of ourselves and our teams. It’s not clear yet what that is, but I wanted to make sure he knew that in their hour of need that we were standing with them in support including in our prayers. Keep them in your hearts and prayers. I had a conversation or a text exchange with one of our colleagues. I’ll leave it unnamed, but she lost a relative over the weekend in India, and again, we’ve got the top three or four largest Indian communities in America, but the concentration per capita, we are number one off the charts, and given our density, the Indian community in our state is not just large, but it’s deeply felt, and so these are our neighbors and their relatives, and so please, please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.
As I mentioned, we’ve got a full session today. I do want to run through before we get to some announcements some of our numbers because we’re only able to make the announcements we’re making today because of the improving numbers we continue to see across metrics. First, we continue to see forward progress in our vaccination program. I think you’re going ahead – you jumped ahead there. As of this morning’s report, we have administered a total of nearly 6.7 million doses, and more than 2.8 million New Jerseyans are now fully vaccinated. We are 60% of our way – of the way to our goal of 4.7 million fully vaccinated adults by the end of June. By the way, I was told virtually as I was coming over here that the Meadowlands mega-site went through 500,000 shots today when you think about that from day one at one site alone.
Additionally, in our long-term care centers, we’re now at nearly 85% of all residents statewide being fully vaccinated along with a number that’s improving but not nearly where it needs to be, nearly 56% of staff. The resumption of the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following a rigorous scientific review of a rare blood clot. With that, we once again have all three tools back in our toolbox, so our confidence levels were restored by that announcement, and we are seeing as well all the right trends emerging from our hospitals.
Last night’s reporting period had a total of 1,797 patients in our 71 hospitals, 1689 of whom, by the way, were confirmed tested COVID positive. The statewide hospital census, by the way, Judy, dropped below 2,000 on Thursday, and it’s kept trending downward over the past five days. You and I had a good stop together with UFCW employees and the Perlmutter family ShopRite in Toms River on Friday, and that was the second day under 2,000. We’ve now got five in a row, and clearly, that’s a big deal. In fact, hospitalizations are down nearly 25% from April 7th when they peaked at 2,378, which was the high point of our spring uptick. Additionally, yesterday we saw 209 live COVID patients discharged statewide, 170 new admissions. As you can see, not yet confirmed, but 30 losses of life reported, and again, over the past several days, we’ve seen these numbers, particularly the discharged and admitted numbers, working in the right direction with more days where discharges have outnumbered admissions, and those are the kind of days we want to see more of.
The number of patients in both our ICUs and on ventilators have also begun to decline. 398 folks in ICU and 246 ventilators in use. Certainly, we want to see these numbers falling more quickly, but the fact that they’re going in the right direction is a positive sign. While we continue to count newly reported cases a total 1,558, the statewide rate of transmission is below 1, and is today at .90, which notes a decreasing rate of spread, and that is going slowly but surely in the right direction. The positivity rate from all of Thursday’s 38,732 recorded PCR tests was 6.44%. Now 6.44 is not a number we love, but it is important to know it’s the fourth consecutive weekday where the spot positivity was below 7%, and this also signifies an ebbing of the tide in terms of newly reported cases. Ed, after Judy makes her comments, I know you want to have a couple of comments on a data true up on case numbers, so we’ll get back to those numbers if that’s okay with everybody in a few minutes.
Folks, because of everything you’re doing whether it is continuing to wear your masks and social distancing or getting vaccinated, you are helping us crush these curves yet again. Because of that, we are pleased to be able to take more steps forward in our reopening process. As we have said from day one, we have been eager to relax our restrictions as soon as the numbers gave us confidence that we could do so safely and responsibly, and that time has come, and I would hope that this – these are the first set of announcements of I hope many sets of announcements over the next number of weeks. The actions we are announcing today will be reflected in an executive order that we will issue next week and will take effect two weeks from today on Monday, May 10th.
Now, we’re doing this both because we are expecting the downward trend to continue over the next two weeks and because we want to give businesses the ability to plan ahead – not just businesses, by the way, schools among others – the ability to plan ahead and fully prepare. To be sure, looking at the trend in our numbers over the past couple of weeks, we fully expect to continue our streak of announcing expansions as I said and sticking to them, and by the way, if there’s one thing you can do out there other than socially distancing and wearing your face covering, it’s to get vaccinated. If you’ve been vaccinated and you know somebody who hasn’t been vaccinated, that’s the other thing you can do. Get them, convince them to go get a vaccine shot.
First up, on May 10th, the room capacities for indoor catered events, and that includes wedding receptions, and yes, it includes school proms, will increase up to 50% up to a maximum of 250 individuals. This is an increase from the current 35%, 150-person limitation. Additionally – Pat, pay attention – dance floors will be allowed to open at such events. However, a reminder that the requirement for wearing a face mask and keeping a social distance from other groups on a dance floor will be maintained and enforced. This allowance for dance floors is only applicable to these closed and closely supervised events. Dance floors, for instance, at bars and other businesses such as nightclubs will remain closed at this time. As we know, they are less controlled and more hospitable, unfortunately, for this virus.
This increase to 50% room capacities and 250 persons will also be effective for all indoor political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and indoor performances, and Parimal would want me to remind everyone that indoor religious services have a 50% capacity limit but no restriction on that number. We know that this move to a 50%, 250-person limit will be especially helpful for schools currently planning student proms, and as we know, graduations will quickly follow those proms, and we are hopeful that schools and colleges and universities will be able to lean on either the outdoor gathering limit or the large venue capacities, which I’ll turn to in just a second. Both the Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education are prepared to issue their specific prom and graduation guidance later today.
Next, and moving things outdoors now, on May 10th – again, two weeks from today – the general outdoor gathering limit will increase to 500 from its current 200, and should our public health metrics continue to trend as they have been, we would hope to increase this yet again before Memorial Day perhaps substantially, so everyone should look at this 500-person limit as a new floor, but that requires all of us to continue doing the right thing including getting vaccinated. Additionally, and I want to say this in memory of Steve Kalafer who died at the end of the week, owner of the Somerset Patriots, a car dealer, a successful businessman, philanthropist and most importantly husband and dad – and I spoke to his widow Suzanne, his great sons Josh and Josh – Jon and Josh, rather, and I promised to Suzanne in Steve’s memory that we would make this announcement today and attach his name rightfully to it. God Bless you, Steve.
For our large outdoor venues, which we are now defining as those with 1,000 or more fixed seats, on Monday, May 10th, they may move to host crowds at 50% capacity so long as they can maintain six feet of social distance between seated groups. While this may preclude some stadiums including, like the Patriots, the minor league baseball stadiums from their ability to get to 50% given the six-feet requirement, we know that this is a welcome step and an advance from the current 30% capacity limitation and for venues with less seating that were previously excluded from this category, so we’re really doing two things here. We’re increasing the outdoor capacity from 30% to 50% for large venues, and we’re redefining what a large venue is. We used to say it was 2500 seats. We’re now dropping that to 1,000 seats. Further, when it comes to outdoor – and this is an important point. When it comes to outdoor venues, we are aware that the CDC is currently reviewing its outdoor guidelines more generally, and we will be prepared to relax the six-foot requirements outdoors accordingly should – and I say should – the CDC move in that direction.
Additionally, outdoor amusement businesses can currently operate at 50% capacity. We are stating today that carnivals and fairs are permitted to operate at that amusement capacity starting May 10th. This means that county and other fairs including the New Jersey State Fair can enjoy the same 50% capacity limit that an establishment say like Six Flag Great Adventure does. We think this is only fair, no pun intended, and will allow our county organizations to move forward confidently with planning for their summer events.
Now, two more quick notes. First, also looking forward to Wednesday, we’re currently putting final work on an executive order and follow-up guidance for the safe operations of both day- and overnight summer camps, and we’ll have those details to you in a couple of days. Judy and your team, thank you for the help there. A reminder to our restaurants, who we know are anxious to expand dining capacities as the weather continues to get warmer, that outdoor dining is not subject to any numerical capacity limitation, unlike indoor dining which remains at 50% capacity at the moment. The only limitation for outdoor dining is physical space, is the number of groups that you can place outdoors that can be placed six feet apart.
We’ve noted here before how many of our restaurants and their host communities have gotten incredibly creative and flexible in allowing for outdoor dining. Many of the steps we took last summer in support of our restaurants are now a matter of state law. We know increased outdoor dining is here to stay. I certainly look forward to our ability increase indoor dining capacities in the near future, but until that time, we want to make sure that our dining establishments though they can go forward to maximize their outdoor footprints. I continue to urge everyone – I know my colleagues join me – to engage in activities outside wherever possible, particularly as the weather warms up – and Pat, thank you for a couple warm days coming up this week. We know that this virus is much less dangerous outdoors than indoors. Let’s utilize this knowledge wherever possible, and even as we relax restrictions for indoor weddings and proms, I applaud all the couples and the school districts who have taken creative steps to plan their events outdoors, which is the safest place we could be right now.
Again, the only reason we’re able to announce all of these steps today is because of the tremendous work that millions of you are doing to help us crush the curves and end this pandemic. Keep getting vaccinated. That’s an incredibly important step we need to pursue. If you know someone who may be nervous, reach out to them and help them understand that our vaccines are safe and effective, and in fact, it’s much riskier to not get vaccinated than it is to get vaccinated, and it’s not even close. Keep masking up. Keep being smart and using common sense. The more you keep doing all of these above, the sooner we can look forward to reopenings, and I’m optimistic that that time will come very soon.
Before I leave this, people ask me this all the time. What is your policy on outdoor masking? Before I get asked the question, it’s the same as it’s been since I think March of last year. If you’re outside and you cannot socially distance, you need to wear a mask. If you’re outside and you can socially distance, you don’t need to wear a mask. It’s that simple. Inside, you’ve got to wear them. I wear two of them, but you’ve got to wear them on the inside. Secondly, we may get the following question: we’ve increased the outdoor gathering limit from 200 to 500, and we’ve increased the capacity at a large-seating venue from 30% to 50%, but we’ve also dropped the definition of what a large-seat venue is down to 1,000 seats. That’s going to include a lot of, for instance, high school football stadiums.
The question is if you’ve got a 1,000-seat high school stadium and you can successfully get to 50% capacity and be six feet apart by doing so, other than your own families, how many people can you have at your graduation? You can have 1,000 people. 500 in the stands and 500 on the field. Everybody got that? That, hopefully, is going to allow most places in the state to be able to get to where they want to get to. Again, on behalf of Judy, Ed, Pat and myself, if the numbers keep going in the right direction and people keep continuing to do the right thing including especially getting vaccinated, our capacities will continue to open up as sure as we’re sitting here.
Okay, speaking of opening up, let’s get back to numbers and take a quick look at our schools, and I’m going to let you just look at this for a second and digest. The only thing I want to add to this is the following. I do a little bit of math every time I get the student reports, and I make an assumption about what that last group looks like. I split that group in two, which is the combination group. We’re up now to 82.4% of our kids are either in a hybrid or an all in-person mode, and we had as an objective this school year to get to 85% at least hybrid and all in-person. I’m now completely convinced, Judy, that we’ll exceed that in this school year. Hats off to everybody. I speak to educators all the time, moms and dads, kids, all the educational communities. Everyone is doing an incredible job under extraordinarily stressful circumstances.
This is good news. I know we’ve seen this kick into high gear. I won’t go through this, but the swings are dramatic into both hybrid and then from hybrid into all in-person. It’s good news, I know, for many, many parents. Again, I thank all the members of the educational communities, school officials, educators, ESPs, parents, all the stakeholders for their continued partnership throughout the past weeks and months, and our commitment to getting our kids and educators safely and responsibly back into their familiar classrooms is paying off.
Now of course, we have the tough job today, as we do every time we gather, to announce that we've lost another number of blessed souls from our New Jersey family, in this case 19 residents, to COVID-19 complications. They are mothers, and fathers, neighbors, and friends, and they are our fellow New Jerseyans. Let's take a couple minutes to honor the lives of three of those we have lost recently.
Want to begin today by remembering this guy, Thomas Walsh, of Howell. Any question which country he loved there, right? I love that shot. He was Brooklyn-born but New Jersey is where he made his life-long home. He was just my age, 63, when he passed away earlier this month. Thomas was an easily recognizable face across East Brunswick Township for his many years of service as the municipal plumbing inspector working alongside developers and individual homeowners, and I want to thank my friend, the mayor of East Brunswick, Dr. Brad Cohen, for bringing Thomas's extraordinary life to our attention. He was a proud member of both the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and the New Jersey Alliance of Master Plumbers among other professional organizations. A devoted father when he wasn't on the clock. He would spend his time with his children and other family members. He had a deep love of music and played the drums. He also could be found working on and riding his motorcycle Thomas was a man of faith who devoted much of his time to the Calvary Chapel Cross Fields in Jamesburg where he served in the music and children's ministries.
Thomas leaves behind his two beloved children, his daughter Rachael with whom I had the great honor of speaking on Wednesday, and his son, Christian, who's only 16 years old, as well as his five siblings, Diane, Kathy, Kenny, Michael, and Scott. We thank Thomas for his years of service to the East Brunswick community. May God bless and watch over him and his children and his family.
Next up, let's honor the life of Carteret's Edward Scott-Bey, Jr. The salutorian of Newark Central High School's class of 1968, Eddie would go on to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic University in upstate New York. He made his way back to his home state and began what would be a 35-year career at the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. He started as a security official but by the time he retired, he had worked his way up to the position of Appeals Examiner. His time at the department was not all work as it was there that he met his wife, Darlene. A proud and giving member of the New Zion Baptist Church of Elizabeth, Eddie served as a church ambassador and was a member of the Mighty Warriors of Zion male chorus. Whether at church, at work, or on the street, he was known for offering – and I spoke to his wife about this – a cheerful Merry Christmas to everyone he met regardless of the time of year. That's how deep the spirit was within him.
Eddie now leaves behind his wife, Darlene, herself a minister, by the way. I had the great honor of speaking with her on Wednesday, and she said sure enough it was Merry Christmas year-round, and he would stop people in their tracks when he said so, say for instance, in the middle of July. They were married for 35 years. He also leaves behind his children, Edward, III, Brianna, and Lashell as well as his eight grandchildren, Naomi, Travis, Jr., Shana, Aaliyah, Timia, Hannah, Timothy, Jr., and Eli, and great-grandchildren Bella, Deandre, and Seven. Eddie's also survived by his brothers, John, Kenneth, and Dennis, his sister Deborah, along with many nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends, and of course his former family at the Department of Labor and at the New Zion Baptist Church family. Eddie was just 70 years old. We thank him for his years of service to the people of New Jersey and his community, and may God bless him for a life well-lived in the service of others and watch over his family.
Finally for today, let's remember this woman, Rosa Benites of Highland Park. She was known by many as Amalia. Amalia and her husband, Juan, came to the United States together decades again for the same reason as many others, to make a better life for themselves and their family. As Juan worked hard at the New Brunswick restaurant he owned and operated, Polleria Don Carlos, Amalia made sure their four children always had a warm, loving, and welcoming home to return to after school each day. She was a patient and hard-working woman in her own right always ready to give whatever she needed to her family, even if it was just a hearty laugh.
Amalia was 71 years old when she passed, leaving Juan Carlos and their children, Isabelle, Patricia, Natalie, and Carlos, along with a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I had the honor of speaking with Patricia's daughter, Marinda, on Wednesday about her grandmother. We prayed God's blessings on Amalia and as Juan, too, fought his battle with COVID, we also prayed for his continued recovery. We are honored they chose to make New Jersey the home from where they would find their American dream.
Even as we continue to reopen our state, let's never forget those who will not be with us to celebrate the good times we know lay ahead. Thomas, Eddie, Amalia, and the more than 25,000 others whose lives this virus has now claimed, let's never forget them and let's honor them as best we can together as one family by winning this fight and ending this pandemic.
Now let's switch gears to recognize another of the tremendous community-based organizations working hard to keep our families fed and healthy. Today, I want to give a huge shout-out to Toni's Kitchen, the food ministry associated with St. Luke's Church in Montclair. Toni's Kitchen is run by that woman, Anne Mernin, and countless volunteers. Toni's Kitchen started as a soup kitchen in 1982 but has grown over the past nearly 40 years to fight food insecurity in numerous ways. Anne and her team – and I have to say with the steadfast support of St. Luke's community and leadership, especially Reverend John Mennell have leveraged the great resources available to them in Montclair. They operate a Toni's Cafe food truck that brings meals directly to the community, a healthy backpack program for local schoolkids, and a food program for college programs who we know are facing food insecurity at a growing rate, among many other vital social supports.
This is a number that – this is – you ready for this one, folks? This is a number that should make us all realize the impact of the pandemic. In 2019, Toni's Kitchen provided roughly 227,000 meals. In 2020, they delivered more than 1 million. Unbelievable. To be able to maintain their critical community services and supports Anne and Toni's Kitchen turn to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority which provided a grant totaling more than $650,000 through its Sustain and Serve New Jersey program. This means Toni's Kitchen can partner with Montclair's famous restaurant scene to help them provide the meals their community needs.
I had the chance to thank Anne last Wednesday for all the great work she and the entire team of volunteers and supporters are doing every day. Toni's Kitchen represents some of the very best of our state. Check them out. I'll give you two ways: website, toniskitchen.org, or go visit them at St. Luke's, 73 South Fullerton Avenue in Montclair.
That's a good place to leave things today. As a reminder, the expansions we announced today will go into effect in two weeks, on Monday, May 10th, and our ability to keep moving forward relies entirely on each of you continuing to do the right things to get us through this and get us to end this pandemic together. Making sure we meet our targets in vaccinations is so very key. We know that as much as we can say from this platform that the vaccines are safe and effective, we know for many residents who have not yet made the decision, the most effective outreach will be from family and friends who have gotten successfully vaccinated. All the information you need is at that website and that is covid19.nj.gov/vaccine.
Let's reach out to our family, friends, and neighbors together. Let's reach our goals together and let's keep moving forward as one state together. With that, please help me welcome the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. Nationally and in New Jersey, we are seeing demand for the COVID-19 vaccine slowing a bit with more appointments now open to the public. If you haven't been vaccinated yet, we encourage all residents 16 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It will not only protect you but it will help us drive down community spread so we can reopen the state further. It also will allow you to start doing some things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic. As you know, eligibility opened to all residents 16 and older last Monday. Coinciding with that expansion, the department has brought its vaccine promotional campaign to all audiences.
Similar to how we rolled out the vaccine campaign in a phased process, we took the same approach with advertising. We began with ads targeted just to healthcare workers in December and added more audiences based on the parts of our population that were eligible. We hope this wider messaging to all audiences who are now eligible will help move them to take action. We know we also need more strategic approaches to reach all residents. Coupled with messaging, we, as you know, partner with church leaders and community leaders to create pop-up vaccination events to bring vaccine closer to where people are.
We are also working to make sure our residents return for their second dose to complete their vaccination series. So far, 91% of individuals in the state that received their first dose have also received their second dose. Over time, this improves to 93% beyond six weeks. This is higher than what is being seen nationally. CDC has reported that among individuals who received a first dose and for whom sufficient time has elapsed to receive the second dose, 88% had completed their series. All vaccinators are expected to follow best practices and schedule second dose appointments at the time of the first dose and then to send reminders. Also, the call center, our call center, will be conducting outreach to remind residents to get their second dose and provide assistance on how to schedule for a second dose if they missed their previous appointment. It is vital residents get both doses so that they have full protection that the vaccines offer against COVID-19.
As you know, following a thorough safety review, the CDC and FDA recommended that the pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be lifted and that the use of this vaccine can resume. The FDA and CDC have confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. The FDA has determined that the available data shows that the vaccine's known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older. At this time, the available data suggests that the chance of thrombosis, thrombocytopenia syndrome, in other words, blood clots and the presence of low platelets – that that syndrome occurring is very low. These agencies will remain vigilant in studying the safety of all three vaccines on an ongoing basis.
Vaccination sites in New Jersey that have the J&J inventory were able to resume administration of the vaccine. We know over the weekend, approximately 19 doses were reported as administered, but we also know that it takes time for reports to come in, so that number is likely higher. As we have talked about before, the flexibility of the one-dose J&J vaccine will help us vaccinate hard-to-reach individuals. Healthcare providers administering the vaccine and vaccine recipients or caregivers should review the revised fact sheets issued which now includes information about the risk of this syndrome which has occurred in a very small number of people who have received the vaccine. For any resident with concerns about this vaccine, they should speak to their healthcare provider.
The department continues to work with vaccination sites to ensure seniors, those most at risk, have the opportunity to get vaccinated, and we have seen great progress in getting the senior population vaccinated. Eighty-five percent of those 65 to 79 years of age have received at least one dose, and 88% of those 80 and older have received one dose. We continue to work to present more data on the COVID-19 hub dashboard as well. The department has published data on staff COVID-19 cases reported by hospitals. Staff cases in the last 30 days are available by individual hospital on this new tab on the dashboard.
Onto my daily report, as the Governor shared, our hospitals reported 1,797 hospitalizations of COVID-19 positive patients in PUIs. Hospitalizations have been declining, but 62% of COVID patients are in the intensive care unit, and they are on ventilators. There are a total of 2,753 reports of the CDC variants of concern in New Jersey; 2,735 of those reports are the UK variant B-117. Additionally, there are 76 reports of the P-1, otherwise known as the Brazilian variant; 6 reports of the South African variant B-1.351; and 136 reports of the California variants, of which there are two, B-1.427 and B-1.429.
Fortunately, there are no new reports of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children Cumulatively, we have experienced 115 cases in New Jersey. One of these children are hospitalized. There are no new cases among residents at the veterans' homes, and no new cases among patients at the psychiatric hospitals.
As of April 22nd, our daily percent positivity in the state is 6.44%. The northern part of the state, 6.46; the central, 5.61; and the southern part of the state, 7.85. That concludes my daily report. Please continue to stay safe, mask up, physically distance, stay home when you're sick, get tested, and let's get vaccinated. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you. Either you read two places in the world jumped out at me today. We mentioned India, which is a complete tragedy and an overwhelming one in terms of numbers. The other's Michigan still in our country, and the point that really jumped out for Michigan – for India to me, it was variants, and maybe they let their guard down a little bit early on; I can't tell. Michigan, it was how this is really striking a younger demographic, and we're seeing some of that; thank God nothing like that. So thank you for all of that.
I previewed this a minute ago. Ed has been incredibly important, period, but especially at making sure every step of the way through the arduous process of getting the losses of life to be as precise and accurate as possible including a constant vetting of the probable losses of life, which I assume we will update on Wednesday as we normally do. Also Ed has spent a significant amount of time trying to true up the positive test case and overall test results, and it's in that vein we'd love to ask Ed to make a few comments today. Thank you.
Medical Director Edward Lifshitz: Thank you. Yes, every day, thousand of entries related to COVID-19 are made into the department's database. Reports are processed from literally hundreds and sometimes thousands of laboratories, local health departments, and healthcare providers. While checks are in place to minimize errors, inevitable a small number of inappropriate cases, overwhelmingly duplicate cases, are created. As part of an ongoing process, the Communicable Disease Service routinely reviews the database to correct these errors. This is reflected in our daily numbers where we typically subtract out a small number, usually in the double digits, from our previously reported total cumulative cases.
Today, we are subtracting 10,442 confirmed cases, leaving today's total confirmed cumulative cases actually lower than yesterday. I just wanted to take a moment to explain this one-time drop. Cleaning of data, a process by which we continually review cases and data in our system for duplicates and errors, has been performed by the Communicable Disease Service since the beginning of the outbreak. Duplicates are identified and the cases are merged into one. This cleaning has been done manually, and it has been effective. However, given the large number of cases in the system, it has not been possible to identify all duplicate entries and manually correct them each day. CDS has worked with health information technology staff to develop an automated method to manually correct them each day. We applied this automated method to the database yesterday, and this one-time drop of approximately 1.2% in the cumulative number of cases was the result. Moving forward, this automated process will be performed on a weekly basis to supplement the manual daily data cleaning. Since this cleaning will happen weekly together with the ongoing manual data cleaning, variation in the cumulative case counts will be small. That's it. thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Ed, so we should – should we expect each week an update like we have gotten on probable deaths, but your point is you've now just updated this all the way back to March 4, 2020. For instance, next week's number update will be a handful of cases likely, right?
Medical Director Edward Lifshitz: Absolutely correct.
Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you for that, and thanks for all your great work. Pat, several things. Would love to know where you came out in terms of applications to become a New Jersey State Trooper. Thank you for some better weather. I’m seeing it may be in the 80s on Wednesday. I know it’s going to shift down after that, but that’s good news. Compliance, I know ABC was out in a couple of counties. Any or all of the above, great to have you.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you, Governor, good afternoon. Since we last met, as the Governor stated, ABC investigators were out in Union County on Friday. They conducted 66 COVID-19 compliance inspections of which they observed apparent violations of executive orders at 11 licensed establishments, which are as follows: Vinhus Restaurant & Lounge in Roselle Park, La Catena Restaurant in Roselle Park, Costa’s Restaurant and Pizzeria Roselle Park, New Station Lounge in Elizabeth, New World Bar & Restaurant in Elizabeth, Jersey Lanes in Linden, Mike’s Tavern in Linden, Linden Lanes Linden, Tapas Bar & Grill also in Linden, Nuno’s Pavilion in Linden and Cheeque’s also in Linden, and then on Saturday, Absecon Police and ABC did a joint investigation where they observed apparent violations at the Hi-Point Pub in Absecon.
With regards to where we landed, that application process as you said, Governor, closed at 11:59 Friday night, and although somewhat low, we were still positive with the outcome, just under 3200 qualified candidates, and I think it’s important to note of those qualified candidates the gender and ethnicity. Women made up 14% of that, which is a huge step forward for us in our historical recruitment, and with regards to the demographics of those qualified candidates, 44% white, 28% Hispanic, 18% black, and 5% Asian, so that, too – certainly when we discuss trying to have a state police force that looks like the people that we serve, we thought that, too, Governor, was a huge step forward for us, and we hope to get at least two classes out of this pool in the year or two that lie ahead. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Well done. Well done. Are those numbers off the top of your head records in terms of diversity?
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: I think they probably rank fairly high with regards to the qualified candidates, and then we’ll see where – as far as the process, they have a tendency with attrition to somewhat get a little bit lower, so that’s why as important that they are as high and as diverse as they are at this front end.
Governor Phil Murphy: What’s the phrase? The efforts you made in so many different arenas, WBLS in faith, in houses of worship and whatnot seems to have borne fruit, so hats off to you and your colleagues for that, and thank you for the weather. I think we’ll start over here with Brent. Before we do, I think we’re going to be in the same rhythm that we’ve been in in the past month or so. I think we’ll be with you virtually tomorrow. We’ll be back here. Unless you hear otherwise, Wednesday at 1 o’clock, and we’ll see how it goes from there. With that, Dante’s got the mic.
Brent, good afternoon.
Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: Good afternoon. When can restaurants expect indoor capacities to increase? If an outdoor summer festival like the balloon festival sits on a hundreds of acres of land, is it still only 150 people – still only 500 people allowed? Is there any indication why people are missing their second vaccination dose? Is it hesitancy or are people forgetting? If someone does miss their second dose, should they call the vaccine center to reschedule?
Governor Phil Murphy: I’m going to ask Parimal to help me out with one of these. I think restaurants – if the numbers keep going like they’ve been going, all I will say it will be sooner than later, so stay tuned on that. I don’t have any news to report on that front. The balloon festival. I know for instance a parade can proceed on Memorial Day – we should say this. A Memorial Day parade can proceed as long as folks are masked up, and they’re staying away – six feet away from each other, but if there’s an event around the parades like you get at the end and there’s a bandstand or something, that’s subject to – that part’s subject to the 500 persons. How bout the balloon fest? I think you have to turn that on there. Not working? Okay. Dante is racing. At the risk of pulling a hamstring, Dante’s coming to the rescue here.
Chief Counsel Parimal Garg: Sorry about that. I think we need to know a little bit more about the specific event, but the Governor is right when he mentions that if there’s any particular location where people are congregating, that would be subject to the outdoor gathering limit. If it’s something much larger such as a fair or a carnival where people are generally dispersed throughout then, as the Governor mentioned, it would be subject to the 50% limit such as amusement parks.
Governor Phil Murphy: I think on something like that we’d probably want to have a specific reaction to it I would think, right? Do you have a second mic? Is that working? Judy, in terms of second doses, a couple things to repeat. We’re ahead of the national average, and as a general matter, I think we’re number six right now in the country in terms of getting – we get the shots, we get them into arms. We’re the only big state consistently in the top ten, so there is a little bit of an if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but what’s your sense? Is it people who feel invincible after one dose? Is it I forgot to go? I think your other question is what happens they miss it and they realize hey, wait a minute, I missed my appointment, what do I do? I think on that last one, you go back to the place you got your first dose, I believe is the –
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Second doses are reserved at the places where you received your first dose, so we encourage you to make those appointments even if you’re outside the window of the 21 days and 28 days. It can go as far as six weeks. If you’re past the six weeks – and there’s lots of reasons for that. We’re finding that some people are out of the state. Some people have expired. Some people have been hospitalized just recently with a surgical event, so they missed their second dose, and they called. We do encourage you to call the call center if you have any questions, and they will help make the second dose vaccination appointment based on the type of vaccine you got for your first dose. It may be that they’ll send you to a local pharmacy if that’s more convenient for you. I think vaccine hesitancy, there is an element of that, and we, again, encourage people to seek out guidance from their healthcare professionals, to call the call center and try to talk it through. We want to listen to every single person because it’s so important that you fulfill all of the vaccine regimen.
Governor Phil Murphy: As a personal matter, we’re going back for our second on Friday. I’m not sure you’re observing this time around, Judy, but either way, you’ll be with us in spirit. By the way, that was – you know this because you were with me. We didn’t have a choice. We were sitting there in the 15-minute cool down period, and a member of the National Guard came over, so right away, they’re in camo, and so you just got up. It’s like a member of the state police walking over. You have to have your A-game. We were not asked about our second appointment. I was listen, this is the day. Give me the time during this day that you think you can be back here to get your second appointment. That was it. Thank you. Dustin, good afternoon.
Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Good afternoon. Can you –
Governor Phil Murphy: You okay?
Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: My computer just died. I’m going to go from memory. Can you explain the rationale –
Governor Phil Murphy: You want me to come back to you? Would that help you?
Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: No, the battery just died. Bear with me. Can you just explain the rationale behind allowing dance floors to be open at private events but not in other settings? Is there a difference there?
Governor Phil Murphy: Yep.
Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: On the state of emergency and the public health emergency, you recently said that keeping those enacted allows you to do more things for people. Can you explain what those are, what the rationale is for keeping those in place, and the reason I’m asking that is because when the emergency is extended, that keeps the immunity in place – the immunity law in place for nursing homes and hospitals and advocates and lawyers think that that is not needed any longer. I wonder if you think that that – if the hospitals and the nursing homes still need immunity. If so, why, because at this point, it seems as if the state is simply protecting hospitals and nursing homes while families have really no legal recourse unless they have – they reach that high bar threshold of criminal negligence or some sort of criminal activity. Thanks.
Governor Phil Murphy Thank you. Good recovery. Computer crashing. I think on dance floors, it’s a simple calculus. By the way, this is the step we're not taking without a little bit of risk here. This is an homage to, A, the numbers going in the right direction and B, you're only a senior in high school once. You're only getting married – well, perhaps not once, but these are big deal events. The theory, Dustin, is that we believe and we are mandating this or asking these organizations, catering halls and others – events that are being catered have a – we believe a higher ability to police what's going on than just opening it up more broadly to everybody including bars and nightclubs. It is admittedly somewhat of a fine line, but it's one that we feel comfortable coming down on. That's also, by the way, not taking into account – but I hope we get this everywhere eventually, so it's really, I think, going to be a question of timing. I assume you're okay with that.
There is a whole list of reasons why the state of emergency and the public health declaration are incredibly important to our efforts, not entirely in Judy's arena but overwhelmingly what she is able to do in terms of mandating things like information from hospitals, vaccine – the whole vaccine infrastructure to some extent as well, and Pat's arena. By the way, I think we may want to – Mahen, I think we may want to literally get that to you because it's a pretty significant data dump on my list, but I'll ask Parimal to weigh in here. It's never been in terms of keeping immunity in place. That's never been an animating reason for me. It's not been on my list. Parimal, anything you want to add to that?
Chief Counsel Parimal Garg: Yeah, so there's a whole host of legislation and regulations that are tied to the duration of the public health emergency. Where the public health emergency, to have it be lifted, then you would have a whole bunch of things happening at once in the absence of legislative action and accounting for those consequences.
Governor Phil Murphy: I would just ask Judy if she would give a couple of examples of things that she is able to do with that. By the way, we've had really good conversations – I have to say this – with legislative leadership on this. It must be said. We don't want these to last any longer than they have to. I think I could speak on our behalf. We are really hoping we can bring all of this to a safe, responsible, timely sunset. We're just not there yet, but we do, without question, want to get there. Judy?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: We have a whole host of things that we're able to do because of the public health emergency. Most important is over a hundred waivers that we put out to be prepared in a moment's notice, for example, for our hospitals to increase their intensive care capacity over their licensed levels, to be able to bring in extra help if they need it, to be able to have CNAs be certified more quickly to go into long-term care facilities if they need it, to be able to move beds around, which you couldn't do under any other circumstance. You have your license complement. It's on your license, and gosh, you would get surveyed and fined if you went over your number. Now we're pretty much kept in place by our waivers, which we were allowed to do through the public health emergency, to allow hospitals to meet the need of their community by moving critical care, licensed complement, etc.
For as long as the pandemic's in place, those waivers are so important. If the public health emergency goes away, so does the waivers. That's the most important aspect of it from my perspective, the ability for long-term care and hospitals and most providers to be able to meet the needs as we've seen them change over time.
Governor Phil Murphy: Dustin, I'll ask Mahen to get you a list just to a bunch of things that are on that. Thank you for that. Mike, is that you? How are you?
Mike Catalini, Associated Press: Good, Governor, thanks. Good afternoon. I was wondering if you had an explanation for why demand was dropping for vaccines. Commissioner, you mentioned you saw it was coming down a little bit. Is there a way to quantify that or just put any numbers on that? I was also curious if you had an update on how many vaccines and by brand the state is getting this week. Finally, Governor, I was wondering if you had any timeline or an update on the Edna Mahen investigation that Matt Boxer is conducting. When can we expect to see results of that, and is there anything more you can say in light of the fact that I believe there's a court appearance later this week in that case. Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, Mike, nothing on Edna Mahen updating on that front. Obviously when we've got news there, we will – I continue to be appalled by what happened on January 11 and a lot of other noise in and around that institution but no update specifics on that. Judy can give you a few if she's got the weekly update. Judy, I think you got a couple of reasons. First of all, someone used the word plummet, which is just not the right verb. It is – clearly demand is off and we are taking and will take a whole series of actions. I'm not sure we'll get into all of them today, but we will I think sooner than later want to walk you through all the proactive steps we're taking. They come in a variety of six or eight different initiatives. Think about Judy's push to the 75 year olds and up and then the 65 year old and up, a proactive – we always knew we would get to where we started to get to last week, right? This is less the anti-vaxxer block and this is much more a series of factors where we just – folks, you know what? A combination, Mike, I think of the weather's getting warmer; the numbers are going the right direction. I feel good. I haven't gotten sick yet. I say with all due respect to all of that, those are not reasons enough. We need folks to get vaccinated. We need to get to 4.7 million adult New Jerseyans fully vaccinated by the end of June. We think based on the proactive steps that we either are taking with public service announcements to other outreach, or will take that we will accomplish that goal. We do believe we'll have the supplies we need.
Judy, any color on this week's numbers and/or your thoughts as to why there's been somewhat of a slacking off of vaccine demand?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Sure, this week's numbers, we – the vaccines are – that enter our state come from two directions, one directly through us; we never see it. it's directly to the points of dispensing. We get about four – we are getting about 440,000 doses, and that's been steady for the last two weeks. It was higher the week prior because we got a lot more – the week of April 4th, that's when we got a lot more J&J. I don't know what we're getting next week.
Then there's also –
Governor Phil Murphy: We find out on Tuesdays. Am I right? Yeah, so we'll know that tomorrow, sorry.
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: By Wednesday, we'll know. We also then – the federal government sends directly to retail and independent pharmacies and FQHCs, and that's about another 300,000 doses. We're getting an awful lot more vaccine into the state and at the same time that we see the demand decrease a bit because we've really vaccinated everybody that was really lined up, that first 3.6 million who registered That demand has been pretty well satisfied. Now we need to focus on specific cohorts. I hope that we – we're going to be looking at schools, particularly colleges and universities.
Governor Phil Murphy: Again, we've got a number of steps I know that you and we are cooking up in terms of proactive outreach. I don't see this, though, as the anti-vax reason. We know that that's a group that is 20 to 25%, but remember, our number has to get to 70, so that's inside of the margin of error, right?
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: Not only is it inside the margin of error, we are vaccinating in numbers far greater than we saw with flu and pneumonia in our state, way above what we've seen previously. People are still wanting to be vaccinated.
Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, it's just harder to reach populations, and there's no one population; there's no one magic wand. You mentioned college students; that's one of several. Equity continues to be a journey that we're on. We're not yet where we want to be, and there's a number of different weapons. I think, Mahen, maybe Wednesday or Monday, we should probably hit a discussion about the comprehensive package of things that we're doing that we believe that will – along with a sufficient supply will get us to our objective before the end of June.
Thank you, Judy. Got West Orange in the house, I see. Good afternoon.
Reporter, West Orange: Afternoon, Governor. A few on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, what is the state's plan for administering the J&J vaccine now that it can resume, and has the state started getting shipments again yet? How do you plan to address the uncertainty surrounding the vaccine following the pause, and how do you think that uncertainty can affect the state's push to 70%? Second, we asked last week about the differences in reporting vaccines received and shots given between what the CDC and the NJDOA reports each day. We didn't get an answer on that, and do you have an update on that? Then finally, do you have an update on the mobile vans or the “triplets,” when they'll be up and running?
Governor Phil Murphy: Triplets are all doing well, by the way. Judy, you can hit J&J. I personally think the system worked and I'm saying this with two medical experts to my right. The US CDC and the related organizations saw a small number but a small number of very concerning cases and did what we would want them to do. They called time out. They had an independent group assess it, and then they came back and ultimately this was blessed by the CDC that it could go forward but with very specific warnings about this very small likelihood but nonetheless an eventuality. I personally think the system worked, and I think that should give us confidence, not take confidence away. I'll defer to my colleagues.
I've got no update on the number discrepancy unless you all do. Mahen, can we follow up on this? Again, this is slight differences of numbers between the CDC reporting and the DOH reporting. That's a follow-up we owe you. Mahen, you'll help me out there.
Judy, any comments on J&J, the plan generally, reaction to the uncertainties question, and then how are the triplets doing?
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli: The first thing on J&J, as you know, the UA has been revised. If you've been vaccinated, you know that you get that information before you get vaccinated. We feel very strongly that people should be able to make a choice if they feel uncomfortable with the J&J vaccine. They should be able to make a choice, although we do know that the J&J vaccine is really a good choice for hard-to-reach individuals who may not be able to come for a second dose or be difficult to track the second dose. We just need to be aware and vigilant and open to the discussions but allow people to make their own choice about J&J.
The triplets are in training. Their staff is in training with Atlantic Health System, and we expect that they'll be released fairly soon.
Governor Phil Murphy: That'll be – Mahen, let's make sure, and Judy, let's – that's part of this proactive suite of different steps that we're either taking or will take. Than you for that.
Dave, good afternoon.
David Matthau, NJ 101.5: Hi, Governor. I'm going to try to not repeat questions here because both of mine were about different elements of what you guys are already talking about. One thing, Commissioner, I'm a little confused. You said 91% of Jersey residents have gotten both shots so we're better than the national average, but I thought 8% of people across the country have not gotten their second shot, which would mean 92 had. Can you please explain how this is shaking out?
Governor Phil Murphy: I believe the answer to that is 91% within either three or four week exact prescribed versus 93% within a broader – our numbers are actually 93, which I think is the one that compares to the national average of 92. They give you, I think, an extra two or three weeks, right? Two weeks, yeah.
Dave Matthau, NJ 101.5: Okay, thank you. Is any vaccine being wasted when all of a sudden we're having this slow-down here? With regard to the drop in demand, that's happened fairly quickly because it was not too long ago that people were scrambling like wild animals to get a shot. This is now not happening. Is there any – I know you had said, Governor, that you're pretty still strongly convinced that we're going to hit our target to get 4.7 million people completely vaccinated by the end of June, but is it possible and are you concerned about the fact that all of a sudden, we've gone from big demand to walk-ins in some areas and now a week or two from now, we're going to see a more substantial drop in demand for vaccine. Would this affect the amount of vaccine that we're getting from the feds? Thank you.
Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, I'll give you my answer and God knows our objective is to not waste any doses, so I'll – Judy can comment on how we approach that. The drop in demand we expected. I mentioned that several times, and I think frankly we expected it either last week or this week and it started last week. It was part of the reason why we jumped earlier from May 1st to April 19th to expand eligibility to everybody. We know the federal government came right behind us and made the same decision I think the next day. Not only did we expect it but we also knew, which is why my confidence remains high, that to clean up the balance of the folks we need to get to that 4.7 million number, we need a suite of proactive actions to get them. I mentioned public service announcements. We mentioned the three vans. Those are two examples of a broader program we're formulating. It's in the hear and now. That's why I mentioned, Mahen, either Wednesday or Monday is probably the time to do it because this is really a May project. If you put the J&J vaccine aside for a second, you really have to get the 4.7 millionth first shot into the arm by the end of May if you're going to make your number by the end of June depending, plus or minus a week if it's Moderna versus Pfizer, and then we do have J&J back, so that's not to be underestimated. That's to, as Judy said, to get to folks that are really hard to reach. That's a huge weapon, and it's a particularly huge weapon in equity.
It's a combination of all those reasons. We expected it; we knew we'd have to be proactive to get to that last surge. That's what we're working on. We've got some elements we've talked about here. There are some more elements that we're formulating and at some point sooner than later, we'll give you a sense of what that whole package looks like. Any other comments on that, Judy, or anything on wasted doses?
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli: Sure, first on that, we've – at least 4 million people have received at least one dose. Of that 4 million, 2.8 have received two doses. We have about a million-two more to go, and of that million-two, we have noticed that about 350,000 doses have been dosed outside – New Jersey residents have been dosed outside the state. If you make an assumption that it's a two-dose regimen, that's about another 150,000, 125,000 who have been also fully vaccinated. We have about a million more. We'll find those millions. We will reach them. We will reach that 70%, I can guarantee it.
Governor Phil Murphy: We may have to come to your house but we'll get you. Anything on wasted?
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli: We monitor wastage. A lot of it is vials that are damaged in transit, for example. It's not totally unusual to open up a tray and there's some crushed vials just because of the movement. We make sure the temperatures are exactly where they should be so there have been some temperature excursions. The federal government monitors wastage. We do it. We get reports 5 o'clock every day about where we are, but we aren't seeing wastage as a result of slowing of demand.
Governor Phil Murphy: That was the key part of yours. Thank you. You good? Alright, thank you, Dave. Nikita, good afternoon.
Nikita Biryukov, New Jersey Globe: Good afternoon, Governor. First off, how do you justify leaving a Republican seat on the Election Law Enforcement Commission vacant for more than three years, and what is your timeline for a nomination to that seat? Next, when do you intend for state workers to return to their offices which have largely or at least mostly been unoccupied for the past year? I know Mike already asked about this but on the Boxer investigation, it's been almost three months since you announced this “expedited” probe. I'm wondering if even with having nothing to add whether or not you have any update on when that report might be made public or completed or released. Then finally, how comfortable are you with the amount of attention that Sue Fulton will be able to devote to the Motor Vehicle Commission as she prepares for a confirmation before the United States Senate?
Governor Phil Murphy: Let me start with Sue. I think that is a great badge of honor for Sue personally. Remember a member of the first graduating class of the United States Military Academy that allowed women. She had an extraordinary career in uniform and since, so hats off to Sue. It's a huge testament to her. I think it's a great statement about our country and it's a great badge of honor for New Jersey. We'll make sure we have the command and control that we need. She's got a very strong team underneath her. She and I were on the phone together on Friday. We were in person I think Wednesday or Thursday. Judy and Pat were with me. She's still very much at the helm, and she's got a good team around her.
Nothing new on the Boxer question from what Mike asked other than to add the point that you know, but folks listening may not know that there are really two investigations here, one by the Attorney General and he said several indictments. I might add each one of them had official misconduct as part of them. Then Matt Boxer is leading a separate investigation.
There's no one answer on state workers. I think Judy's been going in with her core team every single day since last March 4th; Ed as well and Pat and I have been going in. It depends on where you are in government. I had a call with a bunch of workers a couple weeks ago. One reason why to come back should not be hey, it's been a long time. We haven't been together. That's not enough of a reason. It's got to be that we've got this thing behind us or there's an operational reason. You mentioned Sue, motor vehicles, clearly you've got to be at the point of attack. We had a good conversation with some legislators a couple of weeks ago. Department of Labor, processing unemployment benefits, do you physically need to be in the building or can you do what they're doing by phone and/or through the internet. The decision has been made up until now that that ladder model is – or the former model, rather doesn't give you any more of an ability to get a claim processed. That doesn't mean if someone's claim isn't processed that they shouldn't be frustrated because I don't blame them, but there has to be a reason why we're back in person. I would hope these numbers continue to go in the right direction. We're going to get there, my guess is, in some number of months. Again, I think it will depend on the actual function of what you're doing.
I have no insight at all on your first question, so I will, with your blessing, ask Parimal or Mahen or some combination to follow up with you. That's all we got, right? Okay, so again, let's mask up and we've got – again, as I mentioned a short while ago, we'll be on a similar mode as we have been. We'll be with you virtually tomorrow. I believe I'm on the road, but I'm not on the road on COVID matters. If we are with – if we have an opportunity with members of the press and we've got COVID updates, we will get them to you. Judy and Ed, thank you for – as always for being here, Pat, Parimal, Mahen, the rest of the team. Keep doing what we're doing, folks. Again, I think we get continued compliance, whether it's a proprietor or you by the millions of doing the right thing. I think particularly, Judy, when you're inside. I mean, that's clearly the much bigger risk that we have. When you're indoors, that's really where you got to bear down and ask yourself if you're doing the right thing. Please get vaccinated. If you know a family member, a neighbor, a friend, a coworker who's on the fence, just remember one thing: the risk to your health of not getting this vaccine versus the risk – any modest risk associate with the vaccine is night and day. You are at a much higher risk of a health incident if you do not get vaccinated. Please, folks, get vaccinated. We will be putting together this series, some of which is already happening, of proactive steps to reach into the state up and down and every crevice to make the case to get vaccinated and make sure we get to that 4.7 million adults by the end of June. Thank y'all. God bless.