TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey is continuing to make strides in its effort to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy said as much during his daily media briefing on Wednesday. Though the key metrics comparing the Garden State to the rest of the country still need a lot of work, it appears the numbers within the state are improving to the point where government can begin to have a discussion about moving to the next phase in its plan to reopen the economy.

Murphy started his press conference by announcing the state is now working with Walmart and Quest Diagnostics to increase the number of COVID-19 test per day to 20,000 by the end of May, with an eye on building out from there.

Starting Friday, Walmart locations in Garfield, North Bergen, Kearny, Flemington, Burlington, Howell, and Mount Laurel will provide drive-up testing. Residents must first make an appointment online and can do so at myquestcovidtest.com. All tests will be done in vehicles. No testing will be conducted inside the stores, Murphy said.

“Results will be available to folks who want to take the tests in roughly two days,” Murphy said. “Walmart pharmacists and trained medical volunteers will provide the test kits and everyone will be required to adhere to specific safety protocols.”

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, next week’s testing will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. Starting on June 1, the schedule will go to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the aforementioned hours.

The governor said the priority for testing will be given to the most vulnerable, and then front-line workers and the general public.

“We’re proud of the work our team has put in to create the partnerships that will get us to our goal,” Murphy said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck effort from the people within our administration … to our county and local public health partners, our higher education partners, and our private sector partners, like Walmart and Quest.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Murphy reiterated that the regional metrics suggest that the state is moving in a favorable direction. There were 1,670 new positive cases on Tuesday, bringing New Jersey’s total to 150,399. Currently, 3,405 people are hospitalized, but that’s down from 7,400 four weeks ago.

There have been 10,747 total deaths in the state, up 168.

“The curve that we show you every day continues to move in the right direction, overall, and we must remain mindful of that because of the way test results come in,” Murphy said.

As for how New Jersey stacks up against the rest of the country, Murphy said the state is still at or near the top of the three most important metrics:

New cases per 100,000 residents: 15 (second, behind Connecticut)

Patients hospitalized per 100,000 residents: 39 (first)

New deaths per 100,000 residents: 1.7 (tied for first with Connecticut)

“We need to see those numbers continue to come down. We’re clearly, as we’ve said, in Stage 1 of our restart. We know we can get to Stage 2, but we have to all get there together,” Murphy said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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