New Jersey Begins to Confront COVID-19 Surge in Central Tier

State officials say they are prepared for the surge in coronavirus cases that are beginning in the central part of New Jersey.  

There were nine hospitals in the state that hit “divert” status April 20 and for the first time since the pandemic started, North Jersey hospitals did not lead the state. New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said divert status was needed at five hospitals in central Jersey.

The state has a three region approach to deal with issues such as hospitalizations, staffing and equipment for those with COVID-19 infections.

Hospitalizations Through May

Persichilli reiterated she expects the state to be dealing with “heavy hospitalizations” into mid-May.

Gov. Phil Murphy said because of these projections, restrictions on social distancing would need to remain in place for the next several weeks even as the rate of infection and hospitalizations flatten.

“We are not going to rush into reopening and risk undoing all the extraordinary work you have done so far,” Murphy said. “Our job collectively is to keep doing what we’re doing, limit the number of infections, hospitalizations, number of intensive care beds, the number of ventilators, and the number of fatalities.”

School Decision

The first-term Democratic governor said his philosophy of letting data and science guide his administration will be used when it comes time to reopen schools.  

“We are not going to open our schools back up until we are convinced by the science and medical professionals that doing so would be safe for students, for staff and for their families,” stated Murphy, adding issues such as face coverings and classroom configurations would have to be mapped out.

Murphy initially ordered all schools to close March 18 and recently extended the closure to at least May 15. He said receiving another month of data would allow for a more definite decisions if schools can be reopened this year. 

“My number one job is the health and safety of our state,” Murphy said. “And as I said yesterday, public health leads everything. Public health creates economic health. Public health creates educational health.”

Cases Pass 90K

As of April 21, the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 92,357 with 3,643 new cases and 379 new deaths—the highest single day total in the outbreak—bringing that total to 4,753. 

Of the total deaths, Bergen had the most of any county with 835, while other North Jersey county totals included Essex at 849, Hudson at 525, Passaic at 294, Morris at 291, Sussex at 69 and Warren with 48.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 55% white, 22% black, 17% hispanic, 5% Asian and 5% another race. Murphy noted deaths in the black community were running about 50% more than their population in the state. In regards to testing positive for COVID-19, the breakdown according to Persichilli was 35% white, 21% black, 29% hispanic, 5% Asian and 10% another race.

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 61% had cardiovascular disease, 39% diabetes, 30% chronic diseases, 21% chronic lung diseases, 15% neurological conditions, 11% cancer and 11% other. Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen is still the primary hot spot in the state with 13,356 total cases, followed by Hudson at  11,636, Essex at 11,128, Union at 10,289, Passaic at 8,941, Middlesex at 8,767, Ocean at 5,036, Monmouth at 4,947, Morris at 4,435, Mercer at 2,753, Somerset at 2,599, Camden at 2,379, Burlington at  1,765, Gloucester at 808, Sussex at 712, Warren at 642, Atlantic at 469, Hunterdon at 422, Cumberland at 360, Cape May at 217 and Salem at 127. 

There are another 599 cases under investigation to determine where the person resides. 

The amount of days it takes for a county to double its cases in all 21 counties is now taking at least a week. The hardest hit county, Bergen is at a rate of 21 days to double as is Morris, followed by Sussex at 18.5, Essex at 17, Passaic at 16.5, Hudson at 15 and Warren at 14 .

Long-term Care Facilities

The state noted 432 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and the facilities have accounted for 2,048 of the total deaths in the state and 11,527 of the cases. 

In a county breakdown, Bergen’s 57 facilities had 2,239 residents test positive with 492 total deaths, Essex’s 40 facilities had 1,223 residents test positive with 268 total deaths, Hudson’s 12 facilities had 406 residents test positive with 72 total deaths, Morris’s 36 facilities had 880 residents test positive with 162 total deaths, Passaic’s 19 facilities had 599 residents test positive with 118 total deaths, Sussex’s five facilities had 196 residents test positive with 51 total deaths and Warren’s six facilities had 261 residents test positive with 35 total deaths. 

The state has processed 167,233 coronavirus tests of symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 45% testing positive for COVID-19. The state estimates between 7,000-9,000 tests are processed a day with test results returning in about a week.

Hospitalization Statistics

Officials reported 7,594 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus and 630 discharged on April 20. There are currently 72 patients in field hospitals. Of those hospitalized, 1,930 are in intensive care units and 1,501 are on ventilators. 

Persichilli noted that the rate of patients on ventilators is currently 78%, down from a high of 97% a week ago.

Central State

“We really have seen a flattening out of our hospitalizations,” said Persichilli but commented intensive care units are tight in the central part of the state.

Health officials believe they will be better able to handle the surges in the central and south part of the state due to peaks expected to be lower and more bed capacity available throughout the state. 

Persichilli said officials are prepared “to move patients in the southern part of the region” to increase bed availability as well as move in equipment and staffing from other regional tiers.

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