A shortage seen at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic is happening again at Garden State hospitals as the state reported a single-day high for new cases since the first month of this year.
Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli confirmed reportes of a nursing shortage at hospitals in New Jersey at their most recent COVID-19 press briefing.
Persichilli said during a virtual meeting Dec. 8 that the issue is a result of three things happening at once: staff burnout, retirements and nurses being “bought out” with better job opportunities for private nursing.
“(Nurses are receiving) very attractive packages from staffing agencies for individuals to leave the employ of a hospital and work as an agency nurse or, sometimes depending on where they’re working, a traveling nurse,” said Persichilli.
Strong Labor Market
The commissioner added “that’s a difficult circumstance because in some cases they’re not only bought out, they’re then sold back to the hospitals that they had just left. That’s a situation that it’s really somewhat out of our control.”
State officials said they are working with the hospitals to develop operating and economic models that attract and keep nurses at hospitals as well as recruiting more individuals entering the profession.
Burnout, Retirements Affects
“I’m pleased to report that enrollees in nursing programs are definitely up,” said Persichilli, who is a nurse herself. “They are…one of the many heroes…through this pandemic and are being recognized as such. Young individuals want to follow in their footsteps.”
But the workload during the pandemic has taken its effect on nurses. Persichilli noted the workload of nurses over the last 22 months in taking care of patients that are suffering from COVID at the worst of the surges.
“We’ve had, particularly the first surge, (nurses) seeing their friends and colleagues fall sick and some of them dying as a result. The nurses are tired, and they’re burned out,” said the commissioner. “There are a number of individuals, nurses that have worked a really long time in our hospitals that were either at retirement or close to retirement…because of the circumstances that they’ve worked through decided to retire.”
Job Market Issues
Murphy highlighted the issues as part of the broader issues currently being seen in the current job market.
“You’ve got a mismatch between openings and folks who are able and willing to work,” said the governor. “In healthcare, you add to the fact that going on 22 months of just incredibly hard realities for these people, which makes the folks who are unvaccinated getting sick and willfully ignoring the science and going into these hospitals and adding to their burden even more unacceptable.”
As a result of the tightening job market, hospitals are winding up competing against each other and paying more to hire those same staffers back. But Murphy shot down the suggestion that the state should regulate the market to help the private healthcare companies.
As of Dec. 10, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,120,973 with 4,782 total new PCR cases—the most since Jan. 29 of this year and a second consecutive day above 4,500. There were 988 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 174,032. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,295,005.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 17 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,713. The state listed probable deaths at 2,830, bringing the overall total to 28,543. State officials noted 11 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Dec. 10, Bergen had a total of 366 new confirmed cases and 112 new probable cases, Essex 418 new cases and 43 new probable case, Hudson 280 new cases and 29 new probable cases, Morris 304 new confirmed cases and 72 new probable cases, Passaic 239 new cases and 66 new probable cases, Sussex 112 new cases and 27 new probable cases, and Warren 85 new cases and 11 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,872, followed by Bergen at 2,724, Hudson with 2,187, Passaic at 1,843, Morris at 1,060, Sussex at 287, and Warren County at 239.
In regards to probable deaths reported Dec. 6, Bergen has 312, Essex has 310, Morris has 267, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 72 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,928,600 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Nov. 29, 61,521 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated (1.04%). Of those 1,402 have been hospitalized and 339 COVID-related deaths—less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Nov. 22-28, breakthroughs accounted for 20.0% of all new cases (3,393 of 16,050), 1.8% of new hospilizations (16 of 974), and 0 of the 82 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Dec. 10, it increased to 1.41 from 1.39 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Dec. 5 was 10.3%; by region, the rate was 9.1% in the North, 11.3% in the Central region and 11.6% in the South.
The state reported 1,526 patients were hospitalized at 70 of the state’s 71 hospitals that reported. By region, there were 593 in the North, 494 in the Central and 439 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 279 are in intensive care units and 121 on ventilators. A total of 191 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions as of Dec. 8, the state has tracked 248 school outbreaks and 1,345 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 31 outbreaks and 173 cases from the week previous. According to the state dashboard, new student cases totaled 3,024 and new staff cases 858 in the last week. Cumulatively, 31,482 cases have been reported—25,781 students and 5,701 staffers.
Outbreaks are defined as three or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.
For North Jersey in the new report, Passaic County has 10 confirmed outbreak with 108 cases, Bergen County has 24 confirmed outbreak with 97 cases, Morris County has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 88 cases, Sussex has 17 confirmed outbreak with 66 cases, Essex County has 13 confirmed outbreak with 56 cases, Hudson County has 12 confirmed outbreaks with 44 cases and Warren County has one confirmed outbreak with four cases..
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 84.1% overall. In North Jersey counties, Warren tops at 86.8%, followed by Morris at 86.4%, Sussex at 85.7%, Passaic at 85.5%, Essex at 82.0%, Bergen at 80.4%, and Hudson at 78.7%, the lowest county in the state.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 152 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,259 of the cases, broken down between 659 residents and 647 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,916 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 34,355 residents and 23,591 staff, for a total of 57,946.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,718 on Dec. 10. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,034 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 12,590,653 in-state, plus an additional 537,335 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,127,988 as of Dec. 10. The total includes about 145,000, or 19.2%, between the ages of 5-11 who have received the vaccine.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,061,959 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 229,944 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,291,903.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 840,063 for Pfizer and 716,793 for Moderna. A total of 34,406 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 1,591,262 have received a booster or third shot, or a total of 35% of those eligible.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 666,627 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 534,117, Hudson 476,453, Morris 359,781, Passaic 326,695, Sussex 86,788, and Warren 56,434.