NJ’s best guess on COVID: We’ll ‘be vigilant from now through March’
COVID cases in New Jersey continue to go up.
During his latest coronavirus update Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced 1,378 new positive cases — which means the Garden State has surpassed a thousand new cases a day for more than 2 weeks, the first time that has happened since the spring.
And there are more troubling signs as well.
The spot positivity is now up to 5.29% while COVID hospitalizations are up to 1,109. There are now 212 patients in the ICU. They're the sorts of numbers New Jersey officials had hoped they put behind them this summer.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said no one really knows when the second wave we’re in will peak, but things could continue to get worse for months.
“Very, very preliminary predictive modeling puts it the first quarter of next year. That’s very, very preliminary. It changes every day as we look at new cases and hospitalizations,” she said.
Every week, state officials try to do predictions, but "I wouldn’t go to the bank with" the quickly evolving data, she said.
"We’re going to be vigilant from now through March," she said.
Murphy said that last spring, citing great concern hospitals would be overrun with COVID-19 patients, New Jerseyans were able to crush the curve.
It’s critically important “that we all buck up again and push back against this fatigue," he said Monday. "It’s what we can do collectively as a state that can literally bend the curve.”
He pointed out “we bent the curve before, we need to do it again, we can do it again, and with your help folks, we will do it again.”
Persichilli said the key to doing that is social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.
“All of you responded to the call to protect one another from COVID-19," she said. You have all done this before, and I know you can do it again.”
The governor said later this month we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving, but everyone must keep in mind “this is an uncommon year and this won’t be the year to travel to large family gatherings. This is the year to gather around a smaller table.”
He said as we move toward winter, it's important to maintain social distancing, wash hands frequently and whenever you go out wear a mask both inside and outside.
“Every time you wear your mask, you show your fellow New Jerseyans that you care about them, and they in turn know that we’re all in this together," Murphy said.
New Jersey has reopened most sorts of businesses once closed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. But restaurants remain allowed to serve only 25 percent of their normal indoor capacity, and restrictions limit the size of crowds in retail stores, entertainment venues and other businesses.
Starting Thursday, New Jersey will require mask use in all businesses, among other protections.
Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the state Department of Health, said teens and 20-somethings had been fueling the COVID-19 case increase in late summer, but those numbers have started to decrease.
"The bad news is the more traditional age groups, those older working adults, roughly 35- to 55-year-olds, they’re the ones that are mainly driving the big increases that we’re seeing now," he said.