A feared spike in coronavirus cases from Thanksgiving may be happening sooner than health officials anticipated.
A day after New Jersey formally changed its travel advisory to dissuade residents from leaving the state as it anticipates an increase in cases in the next week, the state recorded a single-day record for new cases on Dec. 3.
“We do expect that given the volume of travel over the holiday weekend that there might be concern for spikes,” said New Jersey Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan at a press briefing Dec. 2. “The incubation period is about 14 days, so we have to wait for a little bit before we start seeing any sort of spikes.”
The increasing number of cases at New Jersey hospitals are being watched closely by state officials as well, including staffing levels. In North Jersey, up to 40 employees at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the hospital to transfer some patients and divert ambulances to other emergency rooms.
“We’re already at big numbers right now. There’s no denying that,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “The fewer people in the hospital, the less stress and strain on our doctors and nurses, on our EMTs and other medical professionals and the lesser chance that one of them will contract this virus and have to take themselves off the field and leave their colleagues to pick up even more of the load.“
“Everyone wants to know when this is going to be over and when they can put their masks in a drawer and feel freer to gather again with family and friends. The numbers tell us the answer at least for now not anytime soon.”
The revamped travel advisory comes in the middle of the holiday season. The governor noted officials have been saying for the last two months not to travel with the sole purpose to protect the public from folks who have traveled out of state or visitors coming in.
“First and foremost—and this is the most important point—no one should be traveling out of state for anything beyond that which is essential for your daily life, commuting to work or seeking medical treatment,” said Murphy. “If you do travel outside our immediate region or if you are coming into New Jersey from another state, we strongly encourage you to observe a 14-day self-quarantine period and at the right point get tested.”
The exceptions cited by state officials include traveling into neighboring states, such as Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania, for shopping, worship, or work as well as front-line healthcare workers, members of law enforcement, and active duty military personnel traveling to New Jersey.
But when it comes to leaving the region, Murphy is asking residents to put that on hold.
Home for the Holidays
“Christmas travel, I mean, we’re asking folks…don’t travel,” said the governor. “All of that stinks, but unfortunately, that’s the reality we’re in, but we’ve got no option right now. It isn’t fun for us; it isn’t fun for anybody hearing it.”
“We’re asking everyone to simply not travel unless it is for an essential purpose.”
But Murphy reiterated the news about a vaccine, while still months away, gives hope for return to normal life sooner rather than later.
“Let’s keep in mind we’re still weeks away from the first doses of a vaccine being ready for distribution to our healthcare workers and months away, realistically, from a vaccine being readily available for public distribution,” said the governor. “Again, the news is really good, but it’s not a light switch that we can flip tomorrow.”
As of Dec. 3, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 350,999 with 4,913 total new cases reported and 64 new deaths, bringing that total to 15,373. The state listed probable deaths at 1,836, bringing the overall total to 17,209.
For North Jersey counties, Bergen had a total of 498 new cases, Essex 476 new cases, Hudson 440 new cases, Passaic 328 new cases, Morris 163 new cases, Sussex 48 new cases and Warren 47 new cases.
State officials noted 54 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,017, followed by Bergen at 1,901, Hudson with 1,437, Passaic at 1,185, Morris at 717, Sussex at 162 and Warren with 160.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 252, Essex has 233, Hudson has 159, Morris at 148, Passaic at 144, Sussex has 38 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Nov. 28 was 13.7%, with the North having a rate of 15.3%, Central 12.8% and South 12.3%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.06 from 1.08 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 3,292 patients were hospitalized, with 402 new hospitalizations. By region, there were 1,592 in the North, 994 in the Central and 706 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 610 are in intensive care units and 366 on ventilators, while 397 patients were discharged.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 36,554, followed by Bergen at 36,226, Hudson at 32,898, Middlesex at 32,208, Passaic at 31,340, Union at 29,295, Ocean at 22,918, Monmouth at 21,621, Camden at 20,231, Burlington at 14,374, Mercer at 14,347, Morris at 14,258, Gloucester at 9,547, Somerset at 9,482, Atlantic at 8,339, Cumberland at 5,305, Sussex at 2,734, Warren at 2,616, Hunterdon at 2,611, Salem at 1,728 and Cape May at 1,726.
Another 821 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 70 outbreaks involving 285 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with four new outbreaks involving 16 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has nine confirmed outbreaks with 24 cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases and Passaic County has two confirmed outbreaks with 19 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 342 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,622 of the cases, broken down between 3,051 residents and 3,571 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,038 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 27,071 residents and 16,227 staff, for a total of 43,298 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,321 on Dec. 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,972 residents deaths and 122 staff deaths.