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N.J. hospitals preparing for COVID patient ‘surge’ that could trigger new restrictions – NJ.com

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Jan 14, 2021

New Jersey’s top health official warned Wednesday the state is preparing for a “surge” in hospitalizations from the latest spike in coronavirus cases that could come as soon as next week and may trigger a new round of restrictions, particularly with elective surgeries.

While hospitalizations have remained between 3,500 and 3,900 for weeks, far below the more than 8,000 peak in the spring, Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that hospital officials are concerned about the weeks ahead due to available staffing.

“We are preparing for the predictive surge that may start as early as next week into the middle of February,” Persichilli said Wednesday during the governor’s regular COVID-19 briefing.

“What we will not have is the appropriate level of staffing that people are familiar with, conventional staffing,” she said. “So we will be working with our hospitals if they need to progress to what we call contingency staffing, and hopefully never crisis staffing.”

Gov. Phil Murphy has warned that hospitalizations above 5,000 patients would likely trigger some new restrictions — particularly on elective surgeries, which include procedures like removing tumors.

In the spring outbreak, New Jersey benefited from health care workers from other parts of the country arriving here to help treat patients. Now that the virus is raging across the nation, health officials don’t expect to be able to receive that same support — which could mean a shortage of workers to meet the high demand of patients.

There were 3,638 people being treated across the state’s 71 hospitals as of Wednesday evening, down 88 patients from a day earlier, according to state data.

New Jersey, however, reported a single-day record 6,922 new confirmed positive tests on Wednesday and 95 additional deaths. The seven-day average for new confirmed cases increased Wednesday to 5,679, up 22% from a week ago and 18% from a month ago. That’s the highest seven-day average in the outbreak to date, though the lack of testing in the spring likely undercounted the extent of the infections in the first wave.

Hospitalization increases tend to follow one to two weeks after spikes in new cases as symptoms worsen and people seek advanced medical care, officials have said.

Hospitalizations as of 1/13/21

Hospitalizations as of 1/13/21

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Live map tracker | Newsletter | Homepage

“(We) are watching that number and this number like a hawk,” Murphy said on Wednesday.

Moderate models for the outbreak predict a peak of 4,000 to 4,500 hospitalizations, while high models show more than 6,000, Persichilli said.

The high model “would be tough” to manage, Persichilli said.

“At that point, we’re going to have pull some levers that we’re not pulling at the moment,” Murphy added.

The state of 9 million residents has now lost 20,161 residents in the COVID-19 outbreak — 18,070 confirmed deaths and 2,091 considered probable. The probable deaths were revised higher Wednesday from 2,059. New Jersey has already announced 969 confirmed deaths this month, following 1,890 in December.

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Matt Arco may be reached at marco@njadvancemedia.com.

 

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