Coronavirus updates: Masks required for take out; N.J. hospitalizations to peak within 3 weeks; Stimulus paym –

The number of people in New Jersey hospitalized with the coronavirus could peak at around 16,000 in the next two to three weeks, state officials said Saturday.

Under normal circumstances, the state has 18,000 total hospital beds, including 2,000 in critical care, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

Another big concern is protective gear for healthcare workers, enough workers in general, and medical equipment especially much-needed ventilators, Persichilli said.

For example, New Jersey is down to just 61 reserve ventilators in its state stockpile. The state has been seeking more from the federal government and private companies.

Persichilli emphasized that officials have worked in recent weeks to aggressively expand the number of beds in the Garden State, including doubling critical care beds, to handle the peak. That includes placing patients at closed hospitals, field hospitals, hotel rooms, and dormitories.

On Saturday, officials announced 251 new deaths and 3,599 cases. There have been 2,183 COVID-19 related deaths and at least 58,151 cases, though some have recovered. Officials estimate 80 to 85% of cases involve mild or moderate symptoms.

The latest updates on coronavirus news:

45 dead at 3 nursing homes in Elizabeth: There have been at least 45 deaths at three different nursing homes in Elizabeth in recent days, but it is unclear how many were due to the coronavirus, city officials said.

More than two dozen residents have died at the Elizabeth Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Grove Street since at least March 21, a city spokeswoman said Saturday. NJ Advance Media previously reported at least 12 of those who died had tested positive for COVID-19.

First batch of stimulus payments has arrived for some, IRS says: Americans are starting to see the first wave of payments from the coronavirus stimulus package, the IRS said in a tweet on Saturday.

The first batch of deposits was expected to start with those who have filed tax returns for 2019 or 2018, or those who have their direct deposit information on file with Social Security.

Murphy cuts NJ Transit capacity to 50%, requires face masks: Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday announced new rules and restrictions for public transportation in New Jersey as part of his continued use of executive orders to increase social distancing and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Murphys latest executive order cuts NJ Transit trains and buses to 50% capacity and requires employees and riders to wear face coverings. It takes effect Monday at 8 pm.

N.J. hospital is 1st in U.S to try placenta therapy on critically ill coronavirus patient: Using a cutting-edge experimental therapy, doctors at a Bergen County hospital on Saturday injected stem cells into a critically ill coronavirus patient, in the hope they will bolster his immune system and save his life.

Its believed to be the first time the procedure was performed in the United States to combat COVID-19, according to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck. The cells, drawn from a human placenta, will hopefully aide the previously healthy 49-year-old mans immune response and could potentially also heal tissue damage to his lungs.

The show must go on. See how 3 N.J. churches are creating a virtual Easter this year: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, worshippers in New Jersey wont be packing into pews on what is normally the highest-attended service of the year, and one that takes months of meticulous planning. But churches across the state are continuing to bring consolation to congregants during dark times albeit from a safe distance through Facebook and Youtube.

Longtime N.J. firefighter who died from coronavirus gets heros goodbye from afar: An 85-year-old man who served as a firefighter in his Somerset County hometown for the majority of his adult life died of the coronavirus after contracting pneumonia. Only his son was allowed to attend the funeral in person, while the rest of the family watched on Zoom.

The Bound Brook Fire Department honored him with a funeral procession Friday that featured 52 pieces of apparatus from around the county. Due to social distancing guidelines, a maximum of two firefighters occupied each vehicle.

Worldwide coronavirus cases: At least 405,792 of the approximately 1.78 million people who have tested positive for the virus have recovered as of early Sunday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 109,000 deaths.

U.S. coronavirus cases: More than 206,00 of the roughly 530,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died, Johns Hopkins University said early Sunday. The center says more than 32,000 in the U.S. have recovered.

If you would like updates on New Jersey-specific coronavirus news, subscribe to our Coronavirus in N.J. newsletter. Tell us your coronavirus stories, whether its a news tip, a topic you want us to cover, or a personal story you want to share. If you would like updates on New Jersey-specific coronavirus news, subscribe to our Coronavirus in N.J. newsletter.

NJ Advance Media staff writers Rebecca Everett, Rebecca Panico, Karin Price Mueller, Chris Ryan, Chris Sheldon, Riley Yates and Avalon Zoppo contributed to this report.

Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.

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Coronavirus updates: Masks required for take out; N.J. hospitalizations to peak within 3 weeks; Stimulus paym -

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