By CBS3 Staff

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey announced more measures Thursday to help with an expected surge over the next few weeks as COVID-19 cases topped 25,000. Gov. Phil Murphy visited the first of three medical field hospitals in the state that are intended to relieve some capacity issues at several hospitals.

The high daily totals of COVID-19 in New Jersey continued with almost 3,500 hundred more cases, bringing the total to 25,590. Murphy also announced 182 additional deaths, bringing the fatality count to 537.

“Again, I know these numbers are stark, they are certainly sobering, they are shocking and they are indeed sad.”

 

Some relief is now arriving as the first of three field hospitals being built in New Jersey is now ready at the Meadowlands. Several North Jersey hospitals who are already struggling with capacity will be able to send non-COVID patients and take care of them should they contract the virus.

“This site will be a valuable resource for our northern New Jersey hospitals who are already experiencing increased demands for care,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

To help essential workers with children, the state is also launching an emergency childcare assistance program to help parents cover costs. In response to concerns about child and domestic abuse during these trying times, they’re making for social services available over the phone and online.

“This is the time to be the best friend, neighbor or church community that you can be. Reach out, let them know it’s OK to feel overwhelmed and that you care about them, and if there’s anything you can do to help,” Department of Children and Families Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer said.

To address the growing needs of health care workers and first responders, Murphy signed an executive order allowing state police to commandeer medical equipment, including N95 masks and ventilators, necessary for the COVID-19 response.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is also spending $2.35 million to help address the extreme shortage of personal protection equipment across the state. They are donating 500,000 N95 respirator masks and 81,000 face shields.

“Our communities and our health care system are facing extraordinary challenges and Horizon is responding with our most significant donation ever to support New Jersey’s vital organizations and health care professionals. We are working closely with the many community organizations we support across the state to ensure they can continue delivering the essential services that so many depend on and meet the new demands created by the pandemic,” Horizon BCBSNJ CEO Kevin Colin said.

The first shipment of supplies will be delivered to the state for distribution beginning next week with additional deliveries throughout April.

Horizon BCBSNJ is also donating $100,000 to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and $60,000 to the Jewish Family Service of Atlantic and Cape May.

New Jersey officials believe the death counts will continue to rise and reiterated that extreme social distancing can save lives.

CBS3’s Cleve Bryan contributed to this report.