TRENTON – The U.S. military has sent reinforcements to South Jersey for the region’s fight against the coronavirus.
The soldiers, whose ranks include doctors and nurses, are helping a Salem County hospital prepare for an expected surge of COVID-19 cases in this area, the state’s top health official said Tuesday.
Salem Medical Center will share a back-up role with the former Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
The Woodbury facility is “ready to go at moment’s notice,” Persichilli said at a press conference in Trenton. “That’s exactly how we wanted it to stand up.”
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Currently known as Inspira-Woodbury, the Gloucester County site is expected to offer up to 300 beds to ease demands on other hospitals in the region.
Salem Medical Center has renovated 58 rooms to be negative pressure rooms, which allow for treatment of COVID-19 patients, said spokesman George Gennaoui.
The Army has dispatched 28 healthcare providers “to prepare for any possible surge in patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” SMC said in a statement.
A video at the hospital’s website shows the military personnel, wearing masks and fatigues, walking through the hospital’s hallways to applause from civilian staffers.
“These health care providers from our military will use the early part of the week to orientate themselves with SMC and begin preparing for the influx of patients,” said Dr. Tammy Torres, the hospital’s chief executive officer.
The military unit is based at Camp Parks, California.
Also Tuesday, health officials noted COVID-19’s continuing toll on South Jersey’s elderly residents.
Health officials reported 11 deaths in four counties, with seven victims older than 85.
Burlington County reported five new victims, including an 85-year-old Evesham woman and an 88-year-old Moorestown man. It also announced the deaths of two Bordentown Township men and an Evesham man, all in their 70s.
Officials also reported the deaths of three Hammonton women ages 87, 90 and 92, in Atlantic County, and two Gloucester County men in their 90s.
Camden County reported the death of a Cherry Hill man in his 70s.
The latest fatalities pushed the overall death toll to 86 in Camden County, 67 in Burlington County, 29 in Gloucester County and 22 in Atlantic County.
At a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy reported 379 new deaths across New Jersey.
That was the highest daily figure yet reported by the state. It lifted the overall death count to 4,753.
Murphy also noted 3,643 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for a total of 92,387.
In South Jersey, health officials reported 125 new cases in Camden County, which leads the area with 2,215 infections.
Burlington County announced 169 new cases for a total of 1,764.
Atlantic County had 52 new cases, pushing its overall total to 479.
Gloucester County reported 36 new cases for 803 in all.