Surgeries in New Jersey to Resume May 26 as State Passes 10,000 COVID-19 Deaths

On the day total COVID-19 deaths in the state passed 10,000, hospitals were told they will be able to begin returning to normal operations after Memorial Day.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order allowing for the resumption of elective surgical and other invasive procedures May 26.

“This is a big step forward for public health,” said the first-term Democratic governor. “The data we receive daily from within our hospitals says we can.”

Guidance Forthcoming

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli will provide formal guidance on May 18 to hospital and other ambulatory facilities for the resumptions of surgery eight days later. Elective and invasive surgeries will resume in phases, beginning with urgent surgical procedures.

In an exchange with Persichilli, Murphy reflected on his own recent medical procedure, the removal of a cancerous tumor from his kidney March 4.

“When people hear elective surgery, they think of going in for a nose job,” said Murphy. “My doctor told me if surgery had been scheduled for two weeks later, it would have had to been postponed.” 

COVID Precautions

While hospitals are now cleared to resume surgeries while still in the midst of treating coronavirus patients, procedures will be developed to reduce the risk of patients and staff contracting the disease.

Among preparation medical facilities will have to undertake is developing plans to test patients 72 hours before their surgery, conduct symptom screenings on the day of the surgery and have patients quarantine three days before surgery.

“To be sure, this guidance will take into account the needs for protecting all patients from COVID-19, for providing (personal protective equipment) to staff, for prioritizing procedures, and for allowing visitors, among other critical considerations,” Murphy said. 

Grim Milestone

In announcing the daily figures, Murphy paused to note, ““We have now lost 13 times as many residents to COVID-19 as we did on 9/11.”

As of May 15, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 143,905 with 1,297 new cases and 201 new deaths, bringing that total to 10,138. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,510, followed by Bergen with 1,443, Hudson at 1,042, Passaic at 816, Morris at 550, Sussex at 137 and Warren with 118.

State Testing

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of May 11 has been in steady decline and currently rests at 23%.

Officials reported 3,823 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 285 new hospitalizations—while 357 patients were discharged. The north tier had 1,897 patients hospitalized, the central 1,167 and the south 759.

Officials broke down by regional tier the daily discharge and new hospitalizations. For May 15, the north reported 116 new hospitalizations and 159 discharges, the central 72 hospitalizations and 93 discharges, and the south 97 hospitalizations and 105 discharges.   

Of those hospitalized, 1,127 are in intensive care units and 865 on ventilators. There are currently 42 patients in field hospitals, with 443 treated overall. 

Hudson Tops County Count

Hudson has the most cumulative cases in the state with 17,237 for the second day in a row, followed by Bergen at 17,195, Essex at 15,953, Passaic at 14,930, Union at 14,492, Middlesex at 14,429, Ocean at 7,829, Monmouth at 7,224, Morris at 5,990, Mercer at 5,673, Camden at 5,155, Somerset at 4,181, Burlington at 3,849, Gloucester at 1,788, Atlantic at 1,678, Cumberland at 1,488, Warren at 1,072, Sussex at 1,047, Hunterdon at 777, Cape May at 487 and Salem at 446.

Another 885 cases are still 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 continue to trend up, although cases in the south are doubling at a faster pace than the rest of the state, according to Murphy. In North Jersey, it has taken more than 30 days to double in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Esex, Sussex, Passaic, Warren and Morris counties.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 19% Black, 19% Hispanic, 6% Asian and 3% another race. For 40,309 hospitalizations that were tracked, the breakdown was 36% White, 20% Black, 18% Hispanic, 5% Asian and 11% another race. 

Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state and vowed that any plan to reopen the state will work to reduce racial inequities in healthcare. The governor recently signed legislation mandating hospitals report age, gender, ethnicity and race of people who have tested COVID-19 positive or died from the virus.

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 59% had cardiovascular disease, 43% diabetes, 32% other chronic diseases, 17% neurological conditions, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for 7,223 confirmed deaths shows 43% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 35% in the range of 65-80, 15% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 527 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 27,374 of the cases and 5,259 of the total deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 4,068 residents test positive with 864 total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 2,609 residents test positive with 530 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,716 residents test positive with 413 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,498 residents test positive with 311 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 1,058 residents test positive with 165 total deaths, Warren’s seven facilities had 491 residents test positive with 97 total deaths and Sussex’s five facilities had 346 residents test positive with 102 total deaths.

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