Daily hospitalizations reaching levels not seen since Spring 2020 coupled with staff shortages is pushing New Jersey to reach out for help from the federal government again to face the latest COVID-19 surge.
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said her office along with the state’s Office of Emergency Management are working with FEMA on requests for federal strike teams to support hospitals and long-term care facilities. The request is for 10 strike teams of 15 members each, which would be able to go and do rounds.
“Hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout the state are experiencing large staff shortages due to COVID,” said Persichilli at the weekly press briefing Jan. 3. “The conversations that we’ve had with both long-term care and with our hospitals is to plan for and anticipate that 30%, at a minimum, of their employees may be out sick at any given time.”
Long-term care and hospitals executive plan for three levels of staffing. There’s conventional staffing, the everyday staffing models; contingency staffing, which stretches ther first model that includes increasing patient/staffers ratios and making shifts more than eight hours; and crisis standards that ensures all of the necessary and immediate needs are taking care of patients and rather than teams of people having 6 to 8 patients, they may have 15. Hospitals across the state have reached the crisis stage.
“They’re redeploying administrative individuals to help out on the front-facing, direct patient care activities,” said Persichilli. “We have signed a waiver allowing our EMTs… to be able to go into the vaccination sites and help with vaccination so that the clinical people that are manning those sites can go back into the hospitals and long-term care facilities. We’re trying to cover all bases for what we call crisis standards.”
Working to help New Jersey hospitals comes as the state’s dashboard had a count of 5,155 patients hospitalized as all of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Jan. 4—its highest mark since May 5, 2020. By region, there were 2,401 in the North, 1,603 in the Central and 1,151 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 686 are in intensive care units and 335 on ventilators (over 300 for the first time since February 2021). A total of 425 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
No Return of Field Hospitals
What Murphy Administration officials are trying to avoid and have ruled out is setting up field medical stations as was done in the early days of the pandemic. Persichilli said the stations actually cause more problems for staffing issues at hospitals.
“Our experience and lessons learned from the first surge taught us that expanding capacity off the site of hospitals actually strained the clinical staff,” explained the health commissioner. “We will keep the staff close to the hospitals by adding capacity in and around our existing hospital campuses, allowing us to manage the volume of patients more effectively and efficiently with the goal of assuring that all patients get the care they require.”
Gov. Phil Murphy said the model this year is trying to find ways to get another 50 or 100 beds into an existing campus or perhaps to set a tent up on campus at that particular hospital.
Murphy added “In the spring of 2020, we had a lot of people volunteering, healthcare workers from Florida and other places, nurses, doctors, even in some cases from outside of the country, to come into New Jersey and New York City at the time and be the bullpen, basically. Those days are over. We’re all getting clobbered.”
As of Jan. 4, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,443,595 with 25,277 total new PCR cases. There were 5,137 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 230,858. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,674,453.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 79 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 26,296. The state listed probable deaths at 2,855, bringing the overall total to 29,151. State officials noted 46 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Jan. 4, Bergen had a total of 3,026 new confirmed cases and 470 new probable cases, Essex 2,984 new cases and 348 new probable case, Hudson 1,454 new cases and 192 new probable cases, Morris 1,031 new confirmed cases and 262 new probable cases, Passaic 1,579 new cases and 197 new probable cases, Sussex 372 new cases and 106 new probable cases, and Warren 305 new cases and 44 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,906, followed by Bergen at 2,771, Hudson with 2,232, Passaic at 1,869, Morris at 1,080, Sussex at 302, and Warren County at 254.
In regards to probable deaths reported Jan. 3, Bergen has 312, Essex has 310, Morris has 271, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 73 and Warren has 26.
Of the 6,081,483 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Dec. 19, 91,896 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated (1.5%). Of those 1,682 have been hospitalized and 401 COVID-related deaths—less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Dec. 13-19, 2021, breakthroughs accounted for 28.0% of all new cases (12,453 of 44,481), 0.9% of new hospilizations (17 of 1,804), and one of the 136 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Jan. 3, it remained at 1.77 from the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Dec. 30, 2021, was 32.2%; by region, the rate was 33.3% in the North, 32.2% in the Central region and 28.2% in the South.
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 just 29% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 5,152 and new staff cases 1,973 in the last week as of Dec. 26. Cumulatively, 360,698 cases have been reported— 48,690 students and 12,008 staffers.
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 84.1% overall. In North Jersey counties, Bergen was tops at 90.8%, followed by Morris at 90.6%, Sussex at 87.9%, Warren at 87.8%, Passaic at 82.9%, Essex at 81.6%, and Hudson at 73.7%, the lowest county in the state.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Jan. 4, the state has tracked 384 school outbreaks and 2,227 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 11 outbreaks and 338 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 47 confirmed outbreak with 258 cases, Morris County has 31 confirmed outbreaks with 190 cases, Passaic County has 19 confirmed outbreak with 170 cases, Sussex has 190 confirmed outbreak with 156 cases, Essex County has 19 confirmed outbreak with 110 cases, Hudson County has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 89 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 464 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 10,238 of the cases, broken down between 3,676 residents and 6,562 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,252 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 37,487 residents and 29,582 staff, for a total of 67,069.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,775 on Jan. 4. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,100 residents deaths and 152 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,049,073 in-state, plus an additional 512,890 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,561,963 as of Jan. 4.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,225,842 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 210,394 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,436,236. A total of 74% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in New Jersey and 87% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,212,743 for Pfizer and 1,027,005 for Moderna. A total of 48,670 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,288,418 have received a booster or third shot. Overall, 46% of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 684,051 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 549,525, Hudson 491,464, Morris 369,424, Passaic 334,666, Sussex 88,802, and Warren 57,702.