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First person dies of coronavirus in New Jersey, Gov. Murphy says

Posted at 12:43 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 09:43:30-04

TRENTON, N.J. — The first person has died of coronavirus in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.

“We are sad to report the first death in a case of COVID-19 in New Jersey," he said in a statement. "Our prayers are with the family during this difficult time. We remain vigilant to doing all we can — across all levels of government — to protect the people of New Jersey.”

The deceased man was identified as 69-year-old John Brennan from Little Ferry in Bergen County.

Brennan worked in New York at the Yonkers Raceway, part of Empire City Casino, and had a history of traveling between the two states, according to Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

The Yonkers Raceway closed down Tuesday afternoon and asked employees who worked in the immediate area to self-quarantine for 14 days.

He was admitted to Hackensack University Medical Center last Friday, and eventually suffered two cardiac arrests.

The man had no travel outside of the United States but had traveled to New York, where there are more than 150 cases. He also had diabetes, which is among the pre-existing conditions NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has noted makes people more vulnerable to novel coronavirus.

Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco issued a health emergency executive order Tuesday that allows county agencies to bring critical services and provide vital resources to residents who are most vulnerable to coronavirus, particularly those over 50 years old with pre-existing conditions related to the respiratory system.

"All necessary county agencies are authorized to take appropriate action to assist municipal governments in containing, preparing for, responding to and recovering from this COVID-19 outbreak," Tedesco said. "All county departments and agencies immediately shall implement any and all infectious disease guidelines and use all personal protective equipment in connection therewith."

Additionally, at the recommendation of the county Health Department, the Bergen County Special Services Schools and Bergan County Technical Schools will be closed effective Wednesday, Tedesco said. Bergen Community College, which is closed for spring break, will remain closed through March 20.

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center will prohibit all visitation to its long-term care facility, which has about 570 beds, Tedesco said.

Watch the news conference below:

Including the deceased, New Jersey now has 15 cases of the novel coronavirus. There were three other new presumptive cases announced Tuesday, including two from Burlington County. Officials said 31 people are "under investigation."

Murphy declared a state of emergency Monday night.

“The State of New Jersey is committed to deploying every available resource, across all levels of government, to help respond to the spread of COVID-19 and keep our residents informed,” Murphy said. “My Administration will continue to work closely with our federal partners to ensure that local health agencies on the front lines of the state’s response are equipped with the resources needed to further prepare our health care system for a broader spread of COVID-19.”

The state's epidemiologist said Tuesday that they do not think widespread community transmission of the virus is occurring yet in New Jersey, as most infected patients have come in close contact with an infected person.

Perischilli said people should prepare to self-quarantine by keeping a two-week supply of food and water, as well as any needed prescriptions.

Click here for a list of schools in New Jersey and New York that have announced closures or partial closures, in order to prepare staff for remote schooling and to disinfect classrooms.

WATCH: New Jersey officials speak on the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak.