State Police now has power to commandeer medical equipment, supplies for coronavirus fight

The head of New Jersey’s State Police now has the authority to commandeer much-needed medical supplies and equipment from companies and people in the state that have not yet donated it to health care facilities to combat the coronavirus, under an executive order Gov. Phil Murphy said he signed Thursday.

Last weekend, Murphy signed an order calling on businesses across New Jersey to report to the state the supplies and equipment they have on hand as cases of the virus continue to jump.

Murphy said his order now gives Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the State Police, to collect that equipment — including N95 masks, ventilators, and other personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders.

“I hope Pat doesn’t have to use this authority,” Murphy said at the Trenton War Memorial during his daily coronavirus press briefing. “I hope people step forward and do the right thing.”

Murphy has said the state is desperately seeking more supplies to fight the coronavirus outbreak. New Jersey now has at least 25,590 known cases of COVID-19, including at least 537 known deaths, officials said Wednesday. Only New York has more among U.S. states.

President Donald Trump’s administration has sent multiple shipments to the Garden State. But Murphy said the state needs more.

Ventilators are particularly in need as hospital capacity becomes an issue, state officials said. Trump’s administration has supplied the state with 650 ventilators, though officials say they need 1,650 more.

Officials said Wednesday a number of hospitals in the northern half of New Jersey were beginning to see a surge in patients.

That has caused multiple hospitals to reach “divert” status in recent days — meaning whole hospitals or units temporarily reached capacity and had to refer new patients to other facilities.

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