COVID-19 Patient Surge Has Begun in North Jersey: Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli

State officials declared the expected hospital surge for patients with COVID-19 has begun in North Jersey.

“It looks like the surge is beginning in the northern part of the state,” stated state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We’re beginning to feel the real stress and strain on critical care.”

Six hospitals notified the state they reached “divert” status at some point of the day April 1, including Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Hoboken University Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, and Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.  

Ventilators Supplied

Two of the seven hospitals that reported “divert” status on March 31 requested additional ventilators, which the state was able to supply them, Persichilli said.

“On a statewide basis, we are not feeling the same capacity issues in the central to south part of the state,” Persichilli said. “We believe the beds will be there.” 

Updated Statistics

As of April 1, the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey climbed to 22,225, with 3,649 new cases and 91 new deaths, bringing that total to 355. Of the 91 new deaths, Bergen had the most of any county with 23, followed by Essex at 22, Hudson at 13, Morris at five, Passaic at four, Sussex at three and Warren with one.

Responding to a question, state officials acknowledge they have begun to review whether refrigerated trucks to store bodies will be needed as the number of deaths continues to rise each day.

“I don’t have a specific day, but soon,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on when trucks would be purchased.

Cases By County

Bergen is still the primary hot spot in the state with 3,494 total cases, followed by Essex at 2.262, Hudson at 1,910, Union at 1,661, Passaic at 1,494, Middlesex at 1,493, Monmouth at 1,301, Ocean at 1,209, Morris at 942, Somerset at 472, Mercer at 333, Camden at 289, Burlington at 255, Sussex at 158, Gloucester at 149, Hunterdon at 117, Warren at 96, Atlantic at 40, Cumberland at 27, Cape May at 22  and Salem at 19. 

Another 3,686 positive tests remain under investigation to determine the location where the person resides. 

38% Tested are Positive

The state has tested more than 45,000 people and 38% have tested positive. Eighty percent of people testing positive have mild to moderate symptoms and can stay home according to health officials, while 15% may need to be admitted to the hospital. 

Of the 15% needing to be hospitalized, half may need ventilators, though that percentage is expected to rise, Persichilli said.

Murphy emphatically reiterated the need for supplies to handle the surge. 

“Do we need beds? Yes. Do we need protective equipment? Yes. Do we need ventilators? Yes. Do we need health care workers? Yes,” said Murphy. “We are not where we need to be or where we’ll have to be.”

Personnel Waiver

In a bid to help with health care workers, Murphy signed an executive order authorizing the Division of Consumer Affairs to temporarily reactivate the licenses of recently retired health care professionals and grant temporary licenses to doctors licensed in foreign countries. 

The executive order permits certain health care professionals to perform acts outside of their ordinary scope of practice and grants broad civil immunity to health care professionals and facilities providing services in support of New Jersey’s COVID-19 response efforts who are acting in good faith.

Proper Staffing

“We need trained, experienced medical personnel to ensure proper staffing as we build capacity, which is why we have put out the call to retired health care professionals to join our fight and support our existing workforce,” said Murphy

The health commissioner continued to express confidence New Jersey will be able to handle the surge, adding the need for ventilators is acute when dealing with the most seriously ill coronavirus patients.

“We want to make sure the supplies and the ventilators will be there,” she said. “We don’t believe we’re going to run out of IV pumps and everything else you would need to take care of a critical care patients.”

Abide by Guidelines

Persichilli stated the surge and the stress it is doing to the hospitals and its workers underscores the need for residents of the state to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

“When you stay home, you are all helping us slow the spread of this virus and you are doing your part to help save lives,” she remarked.

Social distancing was one of the factors the state took into account when pushing back the day for residents to pay their taxes. 

Tax Day July 15

Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin agreed the state income tax filing deadline and the corporation business tax filing deadline will be extended to July 15.

The three legislative leaders additionally agreed the state fiscal year should be extended to Sept. 30. 

“This will allow the administration and the legislature to focus fully on leading New Jersey out of this crisis, and to allow for a robust, comprehensive, and well-informed budget process later in the year,” a press statement from Murphy, Sweeney and Coughlin stated. “We are committed to working together to enact the necessary legislation and supplemental appropriations to accomplish these goals.”

Murphy said it was too early to tell if he would alter the budget he presented earlier this year or present a whole new budget. 

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