The COVID-19 Winter surge is beginning to affect the operations at New Jersey hospitals.
As the New Jersey Hospital Association noted COVID hospitalizations increasing 47% in just one week, hospitals in all regions of New Jersey have entered “level red” in their visitation precautions that generally restricts visitors, except under certain circumstances.
The new visitation policies come as the state reported 3,604 COVID-19 patients at its 71 New Jersey hospitals as of Dec. 30, the highest amount since 3,553 on Jan. 14. The highest the state reported was 6,127 when it first reported data on April 20, 2020. The high during last Winter’s surge was 3,873 on Dec. 22, 2021. As vaccine’s became more widely available, the high during the Spring 2021 surge was 2,378 on April 7 and the back-to-school high point was 1,186 Sept. 7.
“That’s a necessary precaution as the daily increase in COVID-19 cases reaches a new high in New Jersey,” according to a statement from New Jersey Hospital Association President and CEO Cathy Bennett released Dec. 29. “We are sympathetic to patients and their loved ones that want to visit in the hospital. We know that support is very important.”
The new guidance comes as over 35,000 New Jerseyans tested positive in one day, setting another single day high established the previous day.
“These guidelines aim to balance that with our overarching priority—and that is to protect our patients, visitors and healthcare workers from COVID transmission,” said Bennett.
The new protocols recommended include patients in hospice or end-of-life care and allow for:
- One visitor or “support person” for maternity patients.
- One visitor or support person for pediatric patients.
- One visitor or support person for a patient undergoing same-day procedure.
The proposed guidelines come as hospitals throughout the state are being stretched to deal with the rise in cases. Further stressing the healthcare system is a shortage of workers. A growing number of hospital staffers have been infected by this latest COVID wave.
The rise in cases is not unexpected. New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Perschilli said her department’s model projected the surge being over 3,500 hospitalizations at its highest point sometime in January.
Infections and exposures have taken 600 employees out of service across the Hackensack Meridian Health hospital network. Hospital officials have been moving staff around to cover the shortages. And the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood was one of the hospitals this week that was on divert status due to a staffing shortages and volume of cases
Other COVID Stresses
The staffing issues are not just an issue for hospitals. CityMD has closed some of its clinics for the second week in a row due to staffing issues. North Jersey locations in Jersey City, Wayne and Oakland were listed as closed on the company website as the demand for COVID testing, which CityMD does, has risen sharply.
Besides staff shortages, New Jersey’s largest hospital network, RWJBarnabas Health is severely limiting the use of monoclonal antibody therapy to patients 65 years of age or older and those with severely compromised immune systems while other hospitals have stopped using the therapy altogether because they have run out of supply.
As of Dec. 30, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,316,312 with 27,975 total new PCR cases—breaking another single day high. There were 7,387 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 318,820. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,635,132.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 34 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 26,151. The state listed probable deaths at 2,849, bringing the overall total to 29,000. State officials noted 38 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Dec. 30, Bergen had a total of 3,470 new confirmed cases and 706 new probable cases, Essex 5,233 new cases and 456 new probable case, Hudson 2,454 new cases and 247 new probable cases, Morris 1,613 new confirmed cases and 336 new probable cases, Passaic 2,093 new cases and 506 new probable cases, Sussex 353 new cases and 64 new probable cases, and Warren 209 new cases and 53 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,902, followed by Bergen at 2,757, Hudson with 2,220, Passaic at 1,861, Morris at 1,077, Sussex at 297, and Warren County at 251.
In regards to probable deaths reported Dec. 27, Bergen has 312, Essex has 310, Morris has 270, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 73 and Warren has 26.
As for the rate of transmission reported Dec. 30, it increased to 1.77 from 1.76 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Dec. 25 was 37.7%; by region, the rate was 41.3% in the North, 34.7% in the Central region and 32.8% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 3,604 patients hospitalized as all of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Dec. 30. By region, there were 1,729 in the North, 1,069 in the Central and 806 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 544 are in intensive care units and 267 on ventilators. A total of 458 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.
According to the state dashboard with 61% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 7,716 and new staff cases 2,092 in the last week as of Dec. 19. Cumulatively, 34,331 cases have been reported— 44,532 students and 10,274 staffers.
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 84.6% overall. In North Jersey counties, Bergen was tops at 89.9%, followed by Warren at 86.9%, Morris at 86.6%, Sussex at 85.8%, Passaic at 85.2%, Essex at 81.6%, and Hudson at 76.7%, the lowest county in the state.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Dec. 29, the state has tracked 373 school outbreaks and 1,889 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 37 outbreaks and 234 cases from the week previous.
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, Bergen County has 40 confirmed outbreak with 205 cases, Morris County has 31 confirmed outbreaks with 190 cases, Passaic County has 19 confirmed outbreak with 170 cases, Sussex has 28 confirmed outbreak with 150 cases, Essex County has 19 confirmed outbreak with 110 cases, Hudson County has 17 confirmed outbreaks with 66 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 393 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 5,610 of the cases, broken down between 2,006 residents and 3,604 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,181 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 35,815 residents and 26,622 staff, for a total of 62,437.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,772 on Dec. 30. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,073 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 12,988,363 in-state, plus an additional 509,038 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,497,401 as of Dec. 30.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,205,465 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 212,767 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,418,232.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,165,560 for Pfizer and 990,762 for Moderna. A total of 47,170 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,203,492 have received a booster or third shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 681,578 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 547,554, Hudson 489,577, Morris 368,253, Passaic 333,623, Sussex 88,382, and Warren 57,556.