HACKENSACK, N.J. (PIX11) — In the same room in Newark where Gov. Phil Murphy delivered his first press conference on COVID-19 in February 2020, he updated the Garden State on a health concern that is much different this time, but efforts to not let it get out of hand are similar.

“Our top priority as always is to protect the health and safety of all New Jerseyans,” said Murphy. “So we encourage everyone to take precautions and stay inside if possible.”

“We recommend you check the local air quality levels daily using sites like the US EPA’s airnow.gov and search by your zip code,” said NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. 

The state said it is distributing N95 masks in six locations around New Jersey, which include Newark, Hoboken, Secaucus, Trenton, Camden and Atlantic City. 

“New Jersey Transit staff will distribute those masks,” said State Police Lt. Col. Sean Kilcomons. “Please, if you need a mask, ask for one.”

Over in Paterson, a mask manufacturer based in the city, Protective Health Gear, is ready to donate up to 10,000 KN95-style masks.

“The principals of Protective Health Gear reached out to me yesterday immediately, and said, ‘we want to start donating,’ again, which they’ve done repeatedly,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh. 

The masks are available at City Hall, Police Headquarters, and more than a half dozen firehouses. But Sayegh says the smoke has already made its impact

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in calls for service to our EMS for respiratory emergencies, and I can quantify it, it was 30 percent,” said Sayegh. 

“We’re not overwhelmed, we are seeing cases that we believe to be related to air quality coming in,” said Dr. Jared Ditkowsky is the Assistant Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Hackensack University Medical Center. “We’re seeing some cases on our adult side, but we’re seeing a little bit more coming in on the pediatric side.”

Children, older adults and those with prior medical conditions like asthma, are at highest risk. Doctors say to mask up outside, perferably with an N95 mask, to hopefully prevent a visit to the ER.

“I highly recommend this,” said Dithowsky. “If you don’t have this, cloth masks will do, but they’re not ideal.