Cases ticking up fast: NJ eyes a possible COVID-19 surge
The number of New Jersey residents testing positive for the novel coronavirus continues to increase.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Monday cases have more than doubled since a month ago.
"Until Sept. 15 our cases were in the high 300s each day," she said. "Then they climbed to 500 to 600 daily." Now they're regularly over 1,000 per day.
On Monday, the state Health Department reported 1,192 new positive COVID cases, with 758 hospitalizations, 166 patients in the ICU and 62 on ventilators.
Persichilli said the entire state is now listed as having “moderate” infection rates. Efforts are continuing to make sure New Jersey hospitals are ready if there’s a sudden new surge in COVID illness.
“As far as shortages my anticipation is that our biggest struggle will be staffing,” she said. "As we experience community spread, it’s the people that work in hospitals and long term care facilities (we're concerned about).”
If those individuals fall ill, she said, backup will be difficult "because every other state in the nation is having the same difficulties we’re having.”
New Jersey's new infection rate is now beyond the threshold it uses to trigger travel advisories in other states — an expectation that visitors from those other states, or travelers returning from them, should quarantine for 14 days. New York updates its own advisory — created in a tri-state partnership with New Jersey — on Tuesdays.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he doesn't think the advisories should generally apply to commuters crossing state lines daily for work, or for essentially workers, but he pleaded with people to use "common sense" and avoid travel when possible.
Persichilli said the state Health Department is working with hospitals “on staffing plans to build up to contingency or crisis staffing if they need it.”
She pointed out a daily review is done, “and I believe we have adequate PPE, and definitely adequate operational and strategic stockpile, and we also keep a close eye on the volume of remdesivir (an antiviral medical often used to treat COVID-19) that we have.”
She said a review of hospital bed utilization is also ongoing, so “we know every day how many available beds we have and how many intensive care beds we have additionally.”
She noted hospitals continue to have the necessary waivers to expand their bed complement at a moment’s notice.
She said daily communication has been taking place between health and hospital officials since the start of the pandemic in March, and that will continue as long as the health emergency is in effect.
Persichilli said if particular COVID hot-spots develop in specific parts of the state they will “increase testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.”