The mortality rate of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Jersey declined over the Summer, an outcome health experts are attributing to advanced treatment methods, increased community awareness about seeking care earlier and improved testing.
As one of the first coronavirus hotspots in the country, New Jersey’s Spring onslaught provided an opportunity “to collect valuable data about this never-before-seen virus,” which helped “pave the way for COVID-19 emergency preparedness and response,” according to a new report from the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA).
Now, with months of data and research at their disposal, the study says the state has an advantage as New Jersey endures a resurgence of the virus.
After analyzing more than 27,000 COVID-19-positive patients hospitalized between April 1 and Aug. 31, researchers noted a decrease in deaths, along with reductions in admittance rates, invasive medical procedures and average length of hospital stays.
The study, performed by NJHA’s Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation (CHART), identified data shifts in three key areas—age and gender, underlying health conditions and mortality “that provide a foundation of information for the current surge.”
- During the outbreak’s peak in April, 25.3% of patients died during their hospital stays. By the July-August period, that number dropped to 5.8%.
- The percentage of patients who required ventilation decreased to 15.7% from 20.8%, while those who required intensive intubation fell to 3.9% from 15.7%.
- The average length of a hospital stay for a discharged COVID-19 patient declined to 5.9 days in August from 9.2 days in April.
- In April, one-third of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients were between the ages of 60 to 74, while the 18 to 29 demographic made up just 3% of cases. By August, the 18 to 29 age group represented 13% of all hospitalized patients and the 60 to 74 demographic saw its total fall to 21.8%.
- 56.1% of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients were male in April. By August, women represented the majority of hospitalized patients (53.4%).
The shifts, the study said, “are the result of a diverse combination of factors, many of which researchers are only beginning to comprehend.”
Report Offers Reassurance
NJHA President and Chief Executive Officer Cathy Bennett said she finds the research reassuring as hospitals “hone their treatment and response” to the virus.
“They continue to write the playbook for COVID-19 treatments, and we’re seeing the results in decreased mortality among hospitalized patients, fewer patients requiring ventilators and shorter hospital stays,” she said.
But, Bennett added, “I can’t stay this enough—New Jersey faces a difficult pandemic Winter, and we cannot relax the precautions we all must take against this virus.”
COVID, Pre-Existing Conditions Remains ‘Deadly Combination’
The virus remains a serious threat, especially for those with underlying health conditions.
The analysis found that COVID-19 patients with conditions such as kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and hypertension, “continued to experience worse health outcomes in the subsequent months after April.”
Kidney disease was present in 74.6% of COVID-19 deaths between April and August, followed by hypertension (73%) and diabetes (46.8%).
CHART Senior Vice President Sean Hopkins said, “As COVID-19 hospitalization rates rise during New Jersey’s second wave, the presence of both COVID-19 and comorbidities remains a deadly combination for many.”
‘Far From Out of The Woods’
While the NJHA said the mortality rate decline “provides a note of hope,” it also noted that the trends “presented in this study are not indicative of continuing improvements by any means.”
The Summer months “offered only a temporary respite as we are reminded of COVID-19’s devastating assault on the healthcare system back in April,” the study said. “The Fall weather and shorter days are increasingly stark reminders that New Jersey, and the country, are far from out of the woods.”
Gov. Phil Murphy recently said he believes New Jersey is in a better position compared to last Spring “when we had to take drastic actions to save lives.”
According to Murphy, those moves include increased testing capabilities; a stockpile of personal protection equipment and ventilators; more knowledge of the virus itself and a vaccine timeline that includes the state receiving resources in mid-December.
Over the past weekend, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 368,016 with 11,413 total new cases reported and 69 new deaths, bringing that total to 15,485. The state listed probable deaths at 1,836, bringing the overall total to 17,321.
For North Jersey counties, Bergen had a total of Essex 2,118 new cases, 1,053 new cases, Passaic 974 new cases, Hudson 964 new cases, Morris 526 new cases, Sussex 142 new cases and Warren 98 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 2,026, followed by Bergen at 1,913, Hudson with 1,448, Passaic at 1,194, Morris at 723, Sussex at 162 and Warren with 161.
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 10.4% on about 50,000 tests, 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 1.03 from 1.04 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 3,241 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,540 in the North, 991 in the Central and 710 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 622 are in intensive care units and 396 on ventilators, while 883 patients were discharged over the weekend.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 38,252, followed by Bergen at 37,893, Hudson at 34,393, Middlesex at 33,475, Passaic at 32,776, Union at 30,205, Ocean at 23,969, Monmouth at 22,837, Camden at 21,578, Burlington at 15,305, Morris at 14,982, Mercer at 14,936, Gloucester at 10,271, Somerset at 9,829, Atlantic at 8,802, Cumberland at 5,571, Sussex at 2,950, Warren at 2,770, Hunterdon at 2,742, Salem at 1,839 and Cape May at 1,798.
Another 843 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 359 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,862 of the cases, broken down between 3,158 residents and 3,704 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,050 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 27,182 residents and 16,365 staff, for a total of 43,547 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,328 on Dec. 4. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,985 residents deaths and 122 staff deaths.