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- Executive Order Allows Retirees to Return to Public Employment Without Impacting Their Retirement Pensions; Removes Restrictions on Law Enforcement's Ability to Temporarily Supplement Their Ranks
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To further strengthen the ability of
"Right now, we need all the experienced help we can get - whether it be retired law enforcement officers returning to duty, or nurses who can return to
The Governor's Executive Order makes the following changes to the State's personnel policies for the duration of the public health emergency:
Retirees: Retirees may return to public employment in any capacity, including full-time, part-time or as SLEOs, provided:
* The retiree has retired before the date of the executive order;
* The retiree has completed at least a 30-day separation from their employment, dating from the date of retirement or the date of board approval, whichever is later; and
* The retiree's return to employment is necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Special Law Enforcement Officers (SLEOs): The 25% SLEO cap is suspended and a municipality may employ the number of SLEOs as are necessary in the judgement of the law enforcement agency to address public health and safety.
New Hires: Any individual hired by a State or local entity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may immediately enroll in SHBP.
The Order will take effect immediately.
A copy of the Executive Order No. 115 can be found here. (https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-115.pdf)
Just to remind folks what our plan is for the next couple of days. Obviously, we're together right now and as I mentioned, unless there's a very meaningful, material development, in which case we'll change plans, tomorrow will be an email paper release in terms of the overnight numbers and any other news that we have to report. Because of the White House VTC on Monday, we'll do the press conference at 2:00 instead of our usual 1:00 timeframe here.
I'm honored to be joined today as I am every day by the woman to my right who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the
I had mentioned, I think yesterday, that I had asked Rob to give us an update on the
We understand that it can get frustrating, we do, when the UI website gets bogged down or if you're stuck on hold on the telephone. But also know that these people are working harder than ever while also worrying about their own families. So, I've asked Rob, and I thank you, Rob, for doing it, to help us understand a little bit better his team's efforts and where we go from here. So, thank you.
And so, as we have been doing of late, let's get to the numbers early in our discussion, and they're particularly sobering today. Since yesterday, we have been notified that another 4331 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. That brings our statewide total to 34,124. Again, 4331 overnight positive tests for a total of 34,124. As usual, Judy will give you more color.
In addition, with the heaviest of hearts, we are today reporting that another 200 residents have passed due to COVID-19-related complications. Our state total now sits at 846 precious lives lost. Let me put this in a proper yet very sobering context. We have now lost nearly 100 more of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19 than we did on the
This pandemic is writing one of the greatest tragedies in our state's history, and just as we have committed to never forgetting those lost on 9/11, we must commit to never forgetting those we are losing to this pandemic. We won't do this every day and we certainly won't do it often, even those numbers will continue to climb, but I'm going to pause right now for a moment of silence.
Allow me to mention some of those, very few, sadly, of the many we've lost, the precious lives we've lost. Retired Colonel
Our state lost him yesterday. We thank him for his life of service as we do every single one of our proud veterans. His memory and his family are in our prayers. I want to thank my friend
And I learned last night that a dear friend in
Today, as I mentioned yesterday, our flags are flying at half-staff in their memories and in the memory of all who have been lost. And for all the families who have been impacted by COVID-19 and are not - we have to remind everyone - are not able to fully gather properly for a funeral or a memorial. And the flags will continue to fly at half-staff throughout the duration of this pandemic. No family, whether in
I know that staying apart is really hard, whether it be for a funeral or a religious rite that we long to attend. But right now we have no choice. It is what we need to do. It is what we must do.
I spoke yesterday by telephone with a great leader in our state, Cardinal
I thank not just the Catholic leadership but leaders across all of our faith communities who are coming together to help meet the spiritual needs of their congregations while also ensuring the social distancing that is so critical to flattening the curve and getting us through this emergency. Especially in this season, when you've got as I mentioned Holy Week leading up to Easter. You've got
Our desire clearly is to come together; that's only natural. We are humans. But our need and our mandate is to find a way to observe and celebrate separately. I know it's a challenge but it's a challenge that we are more than up to meeting.
Keep practicing your social distancing. As we note in this map, and I'll come to it in a second, consider as Father Jim would say social solidarity. By being apart, we're actually working together, and this graphic from
This is color-coded for all 21 counties, and by the way, there's no amount of football spiking that we should attach to this graph. But this gives you some sense, and this has changed meaningfully over the past several days and on the margin, that's a good thing. The darker colors are where the amount of folks who are infected is doubling at a faster rate. And so, while the cases in
The orange color is where cases are doubling at a much slower rate, and the yellow color -and that actually happens to be my home county of
And we showed this to you yesterday. I don't think it's changed meaningfully in any way since yesterday, in fact probably not at all, but the point is, the good news is you see
But you also can see why we are concerned about other places that are still travelling and have gotten to that stay at home status much more slowly than we have in
We've got to make sure... This is going to be longer than any of us want, but we've got to make sure that we not only crack the back of the reality here but as we begin to open things up again, we don't inadvertently put gasoline back on the fire.
And to get back to our communities of faith, regardless of your faith we need you to remember that we are all in this together and that we must find ways to stay at home. We mandate stay at home and exercise your faith, practice your faith. Social distance even from your fellow family members but at home. So, I thank you for that.
There are a number of different other points which I'll make as quickly as I can before I turn things over to Judy. We've had a number of conversations at the most senior levels of the administration. Literally this morning I had a good conversation with Vice President
We spoke about, in these conversations also with
We're in a world of hurt. Not only are our expenses exploding - our revenues have fallen off the table and that's in addition to what you all are going through as individuals, whether it's filing for unemployment or small businesses, nonprofits. We hear from the arts community. We're all in a world of hurt and I wanted to make sure the Vice President heard yet again that the more flexibility we apply to that the better off we'll be - again, themes again repeated with Jared as it relates to ventilators and PPE in particular.
We also went back and forth to make sure we had the flexibility that we needed for those field medical stations, field hospitals as I call them that are beginning to populate themselves. Judy can give you an update on
Long-term care facilities is something Judy's going to hit, and that's been a topic of other conversations that I know we've been having as a team. I was on with the
And I reiterated not only our thanks for their help but also a couple of things Judy's going to go over - the fact that we need all of the workers in these facilities who inadvertently may be bringing in the virus to be fully masked in their work as Judy has articulated already; that if there's any positive testing in a facility is the obligation, mandated obligation of the operators of that facility to let next-of-kin know that that's happened. Judy, and I know you've stressed that. So, that'll give you some sense of some of the conversations.
I was on with
As cases continue to surge, as we expect them to do, we are adding hospital capacity as I mentioned, as quickly as we can. And under Judy's leadership and under Pat's leadership and alongside the
We're also working to expand capacity by utilizing hotels and dormitories, particularly those located in hotspot areas or in close proximity to hospitals which are nearing capacity. This is an enormous effort to bring thousands of new beds online which also requires us to plan for medical and administrative staffing, providing wraparound services and meeting, as I mentioned, our equipment and supply needs.
At every level, this is a data-driven money ball process. We know where we expect our numbers to go in the coming weeks and we have to do the difficult things to prepare for that. I will speak, I've sort of previewed this already the past couple of days - I and we will speak to this in more detail on Monday.
Switching gears again, earlier this week federal authorities broke up a significant PPE hoarding situation in
We'll be receiving more than 70,000 N95 masks as you can see and 5000 gloves among other PPE from this seizure. I'd like to thank especially US Attorney
Meanwhile, we are still seeing individuals and members of our business community stepping up to help our entire family get through this. Yesterday, by example, we were contacted by
And of course, we are still looking for many more people to join the thousands of retired or student healthcare workers and others with previous medical experience who have already signed up to volunteer to help us on the frontlines. Please visit www.covid19.nj.gov/volunteer. Again, www.covid19.nj.gov/volunteer to add your name and to have your experience matched with our emergent needs.
Judy will likely address this, but it's fair to say with all the challenges we have on ventilators where we're short, PPE where we're short, beds where we're short, in fact in some cases the gating factor is healthcare workers, right? Because of folks who are not surprisingly out sick, social distancing, self-quarantining. We need all the help we can get. So, please keep raising your hand and add your name to the many thousands who have come forward and say that you're willing to help.
If I may switch gears again to the topic of testing, tomorrow,
By last count we had at least 45 separate testing sites across the state, and by the way, the number of tests that have been completed in the state has
And if you believe you are showing symptoms you can also take a self-assessment at www.covid19.nj.gov and go on the symptoms page. In any case, if you feel sick call your primary care practitioner to see if you meet the requirements for testing.
Before I close, I'd like to take a moment to once again highlight and applaud some of the folks around our state who are truly living our Jersey values by helping their community. One of them is somebody I know,
And how about this guy? This is
Gwen and Jim are just two of what we know are thousands of ordinary New Jerseyans who are doing extraordinary things to help us pull through this emergency, whether it's by keeping a community fed or making sure our frontline healthcare workers have the gear they need to stay safe on the job; or, I should note, the work of the many community pharmacists, another group I want to give a big shoutout to, who have kept their doors open to preserve their communities' health and wellness.
We have heroes up and down the state, beginning with our healthcare workers, our first responders, the community pharmacists I just mentioned, the folks who are working in essential retail, the NJ Transit, bus and rail folks, the supply chain folks in warehouses, the longshoremen I mentioned yesterday. The list is incredibly impressive and they are collectively our heroes and many more. We want to hear more stories like theirs, so please keep tweeting and using the hashtag #njthanksyou, and we'll keep sharing them.
And please, everybody, please keep doing what you're doing to slow the spread and flatten the curve. That's also heroism. That's everyday heroism. And 100 years from now, when they write the memorials about what you did, that will be prominent among your life achievements - that you were there when you were needed the most.
Keep up with your social distancing and keep staying indoors at home unless you absolutely need to go out, or unless you are part of our frontline response in whichever way you are serving because we need you. Keep doing the little things - washing your hands with soap and water. Keep smart. Keep remembering that we'll get through this and we'll get through this faster and stronger if we all do our parts.
And before I introduce Judy, let's just all remember again - this is war. We are in a war. How do you win wars? You don't panic and you don't go business as usual. You win it by being smart, aggressive, proactive, shooting straight with each other, being honest about the toll that is both before us and will continue to grow. Let's not kid each other. You win wars by not turning on each other, but to the contrary, coming together - this extraordinary, diverse state coming together as one family.
You win a war because you work harder than the next folks. You win it because you show courage as we're seeing every single day up and down this state. From our frontline healthcare workers to every single one of the 9 million of us including folks right now at home by themselves doing exactly what we need them to do. Every single one of us is a hero right now. Every single one of us must do our part if we are to flatten the curve of this virus, allow our healthcare system to be able to deal with it properly and then be able to emerge on the other side.
And unequivocally, may I say if we all do our part there is no question in my mind we will win this war and we will emerge from this stronger as one
Commissioner of Health
Cloth face coverings can be made at home from common materials like scarves and bandanas, and remember, a face covering though lowering your chance of spreading the virus to others is not a failsafe measure to prevent you from getting sick. Everyone can do their part to slow the spread of this virus. If you wear a mask you are protecting others, and if others wear masks they are protecting you.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks; they are not medical-grade N95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders who are caring for the sick.
As the Governor said yesterday, social distancing is by far our best preventative measure. Wearing a simple cloth face covering when you are out is not in any way a replacement for social distancing to flatten the curve. You must continue to keep at least a six-feet distance apart from others. Keep regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Practice safe respiratory hygiene, and if you feel under the weather, even if you're convinced it's just your allergies acting up, stay indoors and away from others.
I also want to return to another concern we talked about yesterday, the growing distress and fear of family members who have loved ones in long-term care settings. Family members have expressed growing concern about the lack of communication in some facilities when there is a resident who is confirmed with COVID-19. Families are frustrated that they believe they can't get someone on the phone in these facilities, and they want to know if there is an outbreak in the facility in which their loved one has residence.
Today, I will be sending a follow-up notification to all our long-term care facilities with specific guidance as to how to notify people. It must be in-person and in writing to all residents; in-person and in writing to all staff members. Notification via telephone, email or other method of communication the facility is using to notify the residents' family member, guardian or designated person during this time of restricted visitation must be followed up in writing within three days.
This morning, I also spoke as the governor did to the CEO of the
Regarding our hospitals in the northern part of the state, we predicted that we would see a surge beginning mid-second week of April going through the end of April and into May. However, we believe that part of that surge is just starting. Last night we had nine hospitals on divert primarily due to staffing issues and critical care bed capacity. Three hospitals were on divert for critical care, six on full divert primarily due to staff issues.
We need volunteers. We need volunteers to assist us in this effort. If you can volunteer, please visit www.covid19.nj.gov/volunteer to sign up. We are sending out today a crisis alert for more volunteers. If you can volunteer, again, please visit www.covid19.nj.gov/volunteer to sign up. We need you.
Our hospitals are reporting over 4000 confirmed positive COVID patients in our hospitals as of last evening, and an additional over 2000 PUIs or persons under investigation awaiting test results. 1494 of those patients of confirmed positive are in critical care and over 85% or 1263 are on ventilators.
Also, our first field medical station in
Again, sadly, 200 new deaths have been reported. Of the new deaths reported, 47 were from
So, we now have 846 fatalities in our state. We join with the Governor and offer condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.
The county breakdown of new cases is as follows:
At this point, 148 long-term care facilities in the state are reporting at least one COVID-19 case. And as the Governor shared, we have 375 long-term care nursing facilities and approximately 200 assisted living facilities and other settings such as residential memory care housing.
I do want to share the breakdown of the 846 reported fatalities. 61% are male; 39% are female. As far as the age range, there are six cases or 1% under the age of 30; 47 or 6% between 30 and 49; 16% or 136 between the ages of 50 and 64; 32% or 268 individuals between the ages of 65 and 79; and 46%, 389 over the age of 80. We have documented underlying health conditions for 300 of our cases at this point or 35%. We have four cases identified as not having an underlying health condition, only four. Otherwise, we have 542 still under investigation so we expect those with underlying health conditions to increase. And again, about 9% associated with long-term care.
So, you may not feel sick but it is possible that you may transmit COVID-19 to someone more vulnerable. We ask you to be careful. We ask you to follow the
Again, Judy, cloth face covering is the recommendation from the
But importantly, a cloth face covering is not a face mask necessarily, and certainly it isn't a surgical or an N95. And I would just beg people do not, I'm begging you, don't go out and have a run on the very masks that our healthcare workers, first responders - and by the way, they don't even have enough, never mind expanding it out to the other categories of folks that we want to expand it to: essential retail, NJ Transit, etc., etc. Did I get that right? So, again, don't, please don't compound a challenge that we already have.
Bear with me... The notification on long-term care facilities, I just want to repeat, we mean business on that, right? If the facilities don't do the proper communication by Monday we will communicate directly to you in this forum or in some other forum ourselves. Is that fair to say? So, we mean business on that front.
Cannot say that enough on volunteers. Please go to the main website www.covid19.nj.gov/volunteer because goodness knows we need you. And I saw a great picture of the very group of volunteers today in
Before we hear from Rob, thank you, Judy, for everything. Before we hear from Rob, anything, Pat, on the compliance, PPE, bed, construction or other topics?
State Police Superintendent Col.
State Police Superintendent Col.
State Police Superintendent Col.
State Police Superintendent Col.
There was a subject arrested for domestic violence and brought to the
And once again, Newark last night issued 122 summonses and closed seven businesses. I did speak with Director Ambrose this morning to thank him for his continued efforts and to offer our condolences on the loss of Officer
The knucklehead hall of shame, it just astounds me that somebody would do what that guy did in
So, clearly this is a time of hurt for so many. Look at the lives lost, the precious souls, their families and friends and communities; the folks who are dealing with COVID-19 right now as we speak. But let's also remember at the top of the list is a historic amount of people who have lost their jobs in this state and in this country at levels that are literally, Rob, I said yesterday tens of fold, tens of times more than any normal period and even relative to other spikes in our past.
And I know there's a lot of folks out there who are clamoring, and who can blame you, of having that security of the connection being made whether it's online, whether it's on the telephone, that you know you're going to get the unemployment insurance. And the great news coming out of the bill that was signed by the President a week ago yesterday, there's now more federal help and that's a big deal.
And I've said before and I'll say it again as I introduce Rob, everybody please bear with us. We've got some extraordinary folks led by this guy and his team who are doing everything they can to answer your calls and to respond, and to make sure you get that comfort that you need. Just know that it's an unprecedented level and you won't lose one penny of support if it takes a little bit longer. I promise you that.
So, with that, the leader of an extraordinary group of folks who are doing everything they can, please help me welcome the Commissioner of the
Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Rob Asaro-Angelo: Thank you, Governor, for having me this afternoon, and thank you to the shoutout to
Judy, Pat, thank you so much for your strong and stable leadership during these times. I really appreciate it as your colleague and
Over the prior two weeks, we saw more than 362,000 people apply for unemployment as a result of this public health emergency. The crush of layoffs and furloughs have overwhelmed state unemployment agencies nationwide and
But I'm not here to talk about the strain our system has been under. I'm here to talk about what's really important - our action plan to serve the public at this difficult time. There's nothing I want more than to put your hard-earned benefits into your family budget sooner. We've made no secret about the inflexibilities of our legacy technology and our desperate desire to receive and act on more of your phone calls. We hear your frustration and we are with you.
We're currently working to bring into our systems more of your calls and emails. This is our number one priority. We hear it from our own family members, friends, friends of friends, all making similar pleas for help as this pandemic has impacted everyone. As one
I want to thank my colleague
We are moving aggressively. Here's what we have done and what we are doing to better serve our customers. We're increasing capacity to ensure more calls and more applications get through at one time. In recent years, we've incorporated pocket solutions and changes to our unemployment systems that have allowed 92% of claims to come in online, taking stress of our phone lines. By comparison, after Superstorm Sandy, peak of online filing was just 70%. When you're talking about the numbers we're talking about, that's a big difference.
We're pinpointing places where claims are getting stuck and using all the Department's resources to reroute those claims so that we can get them paid as soon as possible. We're adding phone lines and have trained employees from other divisions to help us field calls. We have procured hundreds of additional laptops so more staff can work remotely. We're continuously updating our website, adding information in easy, plain language to walk our customers through the application process.
We know this is new for a lot of people, so we're trying to make our funky, old applications as user-friendly as possible. www.nj.gov/labor and www.myunemployment.nj.gov provide great resources for first-time filers including FAQs. We have put out helpful guides so that our customers can feel secure they're applying for the right program, which also speeds their processing. We're working to make sure our customers have the information they need from us to understand what is happening every step of the way, so they won't have to worry about their benefit application, their benefit amount, or waste time trying to get through on the phone.
We have our staff working overtime, late hours and on weekends to move claims along that need an agent's review. The number of new unemployment claims moving through without issue is about 50%, which is no different than before the pandemic. That means half the residents who file for unemployment begin receiving benefits within two or three weeks.
When filing online, there are reasons why a claim might not be processed immediately and need one of our claims examiners to review it. A person may be filing for the first time and did not provide all the required information or already had an old account in the system. A person may be temporarily furloughed. They may feel confused about the federally-mandated work search questions on the application or they're independent contractors who've been told to apply while we await federal guidelines on how to administer benefits to this unique population.
These are not uncommon issues for our staff but they do require verifying important information and walking through the process with claimants one at a time. Imagine a stadium with 10,000 seats but there are 1 million people waiting to get in. There are only so many who can get through the gates at one time. To reduce the number of claims that do need agent intervention, just last night, maybe it was early this morning, we posted a brand-new FAQ with 45 additional COVID-specific filing questions.
I can't stress enough how much we empathize with the frustration, fear and economic uncertainty that comes with suddenly being unemployed. Due to the high volume of claims being filed, there may be a delay in processing the backdate but they will be paid for each week they're eligible for benefits no matter when the claim gets processed. We also suggest applying online during off hours such as first thing in the morning or later in the evening when traffic is lightest.
We recognize this is small consolation when the bills are due today but we are working on getting you help as fast as we can. This is why we are also grateful for the additional support that the federal government and the NJEDA are providing to businesses in the forms of grants, loans, and payroll tax credits for keeping employees on the payroll that my colleague
The Federal CARES Act, as the Governor mentioned, signed last Friday night will bring direct relief to our workers by expanding unemployment eligibility and providing an additional
This week that ends today is the first week claimants are eligible for this additional
In closing, I want everybody watching to know that our Department is working harder than ever before to address the hardships many of you are facing due to this pandemic. Our staff is in our office or at home working remotely right now because this is the biggest emergency our Department has ever and hopefully will ever face.
I join in the Governor's sentiment that together, we'll not only beat this unprecedented threat to our health and welfare but we will emerge on the other side a stronger and more united
This will be of no solace to somebody who's trying to get through and I'm not intending it to be any solace, but as we look at other states and compare notes, which we do all the time, I'd say we're meaningfully - again, it's not going to make you feel any better. We're in a better position than most of the folks that we're talking to. So, we're all in this together. The numbers are ginormous relative to anything we've ever dealt with historically and certainly relative to any norm.
And secondly, in our list of volunteers, Judy, not only do we need healthcare workers but given the legacy systems we should add a page for Cobalt computer skills because that's what we're dealing with in these legacies.
We're going to start over here. We're going to try to go at a pretty good pace today. Brent, we'll start with you. Good afternoon.
State Police Superintendent Col.
So, we've got corrections officers who don't have enough PPE. I don't think there's any category in this state that has enough PPE I can say definitively. So, that doesn't mean we're not taking it seriously but that is a fact. Judy can comment on Corrections in a minute because you, in fact, have been back and forth a lot with
Dorms and hotels are the priority, Pat, near hospitals, am I right?
State Police Superintendent Col.
State Police Superintendent Col.
Commissioner of Health
Additionally, to the degree possible, all communal dining is stopped - I don't want to say will be stopped; is stopped. If that is an impossibility they are arranging their dining facilities so everyone is six feet apart. I know that
State Epidemiologist Dr.
We actually have on our website guidance for COVID-19-diagnosed and or -exposed healthcare personnel, and regarding the particular question, "Symptomatic healthcare workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 may return to work," and this is, again, what we've been saying before, they, "...may return to work seven days after symptoms first developed and 72 hours after fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications with a significant improvement in symptoms," which over a period is longer; and in recognition of you know, possible staffing issues, "Healthcare providers who have tested positive for COVID-19 shall be masked at work until symptoms have completely resolved or until 14 days after illness onset or positive test, whichever is longer."
And they should be restricted, and this is actually good common sense measures, too, "...restricted from caring for severely immunocompromised patients," which include, for example, patients who have just been recently transplanted or are cancer patients, "until 14 days after illness onset or positive test." And again, this is completely aligned with the
Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Rob Asaro-Angelo: That's a really good question.
Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Rob Asaro-Angelo: Okay, that's fine. I'll take your stuff on the way out. You know, part of the problem with this is it's hard to answer questions about specific cases either here at a press conference or online or anywhere else. But one thing I do want to let folks know that are getting messages like that online or are told to call, which is the normal course of business with our systems, we have a team of folks who are going through manually afterwards and basically hand-fixing most of these claims.
So, a good way to put it is that folks who were complaining and freaking out at the beginning of last week, most of those folks now have already been updated in the system and they're going to be getting their benefit payments. I know that's small solace now because you want to know that for sure that your claim is secured essentially. That's all I can say right now is that generally folks who are getting those kinds of messages, that we have a team of folks on the backend who are going through manually and fixing those claims. And if they need information from you they'll reach out to you.
Where in the past we had the ability to just call those folks or them get through easily and they would do it over the phone or online we're just doing it ourselves in as many large batches as possible. Thank you.
Judy, I'm going to start and throw it to you, is that alright? I mentioned the particularly relevant period in WWII, particularly for the Brits with
So, this is something that none of us have ever dealt with before at all levels, including yours truly and every one of us, and at the same time we have to remind ourselves that somehow, some way we're going to win this thing and we're going to get through it.
So, I'm not being short on this but I don't think
And we're going to do our own post-mortem in terms of where were we prepared, where were we not prepared? And we're going to be, I don't know how that's going to take shape but I promise you that we can do that. And Judy can add any color in a second here.
I would just say one of the big lessons from the 1918 pandemic is it's quite clear that communities that aggressively shut down first or most were communities that had less of a toll. There's just no question about it. Now, that's more complicated at one level and less complicated at another today, because we have a lot more travel than we did 102 years ago - that's the bad news. The good news is we've got technology that we didn't have 102 years ago that allows us to virtually travel.
So, that to me is the one big, and Judy can jump in and add her
And I would say on gatherings, protests or otherwise including the toll hearings, we have to... Democracy has to continue but we have to do it in a smarter way. And I think in particular it's going to be things like virtual participation. I don't see any way around that.
I was on a board meeting this morning, a board on which I sit ex-officio - it was all done on Zoom and telephone. As I mentioned, on the toll hearings it's going to have to be or I can't condone them, unless they're done virtually, on the telephone. There's an 1-800 number for somebody to call, there's an extended comment period but we cannot be gathering right now.
And the most tragic, for obvious reasons but the one that really hurts the most is funerals and wakes and memorial services where we've gotten now hundreds of precious lives and families and friends that spider network out from there. You've got many, many thousands of people right now who are mourning deeply and who want to come together, and who can't come together. So, it's not just the protests, it's not just the hearings; it's gatherings of any type. And as I mentioned earlier, particularly on the cusp of three of the biggest faith seasons, celebrations of any time of the year.
Judy, any comments on how prepared were we and any lessons from Spanish Flu or other pandemics?
Commissioner of Health
On the other hand, it's kind of interesting to me. My grandmother died in the 1918 flu epidemic and the same thing that would have saved her life is what we're asking everyone to do today, is social distancing - non-technology interventions that can save lives. To me, that's an amazing comparison and a lesson learned. As the Governor said, that's what stopped that pandemic from claiming more lives than it actually did. So, we've done some things extraordinary well-done. On the other hand, we've asked every department to have an after-action plan to write down every single day what could be better.
I have a whole list in front of me, I do and at the end of every day I add to it. And there's a lot of things that I think we can address to be even more prepared going into the future. It's a little too early to reveal al