An urgent search for medical equipment and supplies continued across the Philadelphia region on Palm Sunday, as the faithful prayed and the U.S. surgeon general warned Americans to brace for the “saddest week” of their lives.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the state procured an additional 500 ventilators from the national emergency stockpile, but still needed at least 1,350 more.
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“We’re going to have not just a tough week ahead but a tough several weeks ahead,” Murphy told CNN on Sunday night. "Whether it’s ventilators, personal protective equipment, beds, health-care workers, those will all be constraints. We’re going to do everything we can to stay out ahead of this.”
Hospitals around Philadelphia have been seeking donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE, in anticipation of a surge of coronavirus cases,and city leaders still want “urgently needed” goods.
Pennsylvania officials say the existing supply of about 4,000 ventilators is enough to handle the current load of COVID-19 cases, Spotlight PA reported last week, although Gov. Tom Wolf said the state is trying to acquire about 1,000 to 1,400 more.
The number of people who died from COVID-19 continued its relentless rise in the Garden and Keystone states on Sunday. President Trump declared Delaware a major disaster area, enabling the First State to get more federal money. Former Eagles placekicker Tom Dempsey died from coronavirus-related complications. And a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for coronavirus, likely infected by an employee.
Even the queen spoke up on Sunday, only the fourth time she’s given a special address to the British public in 68 years as monarch.
“Together we are tackling this disease. And I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute that we will overcome it,” Queen Elizabeth II told her subjects, thanking them for staying at home. “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. … And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.”
Meanwhile, as millions of Christians were beginning to observe Holy Week, and millions of Jews awaited the Wednesday arrival of Passover, Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued his most dire warning, comparing the pandemic’s impact to be the equal of historic tragedies like the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” Adams told Fox News Sunday.
Nationally, the number of coronavirus cases surged past 330,000 on Sunday, with more than 9,400 dead.
New Jersey reported an additional 71 deaths on Sunday, bringing the statewide toll to 917. At least 11 of the new deaths were from Burlington County, while eight came from Camden County and three from Gloucester County.
In Pennsylvania, 14 more people died, increasing the state death count to 150. Confirmed cases grew by 1,493 people to 11,510. In Philadelphia, coronavirus cases reached 3,189 with 43 dead.
“The continued rise in cases combined with our increasing deaths from COVID-19 reflects the seriousness of this situation,” said state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine. “We need everyone to listen to the orders in place and to stay calm, stay home and stay safe.”
Many churches and houses of worship had already ended in-person services and turned to live-streaming. The distribution of palms was widely canceled or postponed on Sunday.
Roman Catholics who tuned into feeds of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s virtual Mass at 11 a.m. were met by technical glitches.
“This is ruined,” one viewer said on the streaming chat feature.
A replay with full audio is now available at multiple sites, including on Archbishop Nelson Pérez’s Facebook page.
Speaking on CNN, Murphy said the state was two or three weeks from its coronavirus “apex” and that the crisis could very well go on into the summer. Asked by Wolf Blitzer whether the NFL’s Jets and Giants, which both play in New Jersey, could see their August pre-season affected , Murphy said that remained unclear.
“This is certainly going to be a huge challenge for us, April through May,” he said. “And the evidence is increasingly showing this is going to spill meaningfully into the summer.”
If there was good news on Sunday, it came from Atlantic County, which reported 24 more cases of COVID-19 for a total of 127 — but no additional deaths. One person died earlier.
"We need everyone to do their part by staying home as much as possible and being vigilant about practicing social distancing,” said County Executive Dennis Levinson. “This is not a drill. COVID-19 is here and according to the Centers for Disease Control we are now in the acceleration phase of the pandemic.”
Inquirer staff writers Laura McCrystal, Amy S. Rosenberg and Jonathan Tamari contributed to this article.