Since the start in early March, the coronavirus focus in New Jersey has been in the northern part of the state. But that is starting to change.

On Tuesday, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said nine hospitals went on divert status Monday evening, in most cases because they had reached capacity for critical care patients, so they were diverting seriously ill patients to other medical facilities. But for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis began, a majority of those hospitals were in Central Jersey, not North Jersey.

She said as predicted, COVID-19 infection rates are shifting.

“We’ve seen that increase come from the North, and it is now hitting Central, and most of the critical care beds in the Central region right now are full," she said.

Persichilli said while many Central Jersey hospitals are very close to reaching their intensive-care patient capacity, everyone is working together to make sure a serious problem doesn’t develop.

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She added that while the situation is serious, there is no emergency.

“The intensive care units are tight in the central part of the state but we still have capacity," she said.

Persichilli said the ongoing social distancing and stay-at-home directives are definitely making a difference.

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“I really think we have flattened that curve, so peaks are lower and capacity is available," she said.

If Central Jersey hospitals start to get over-crowded, “we’re prepared if we have to move patients down to the southern part of the region, but at this point I don’t believe we do," she said.

Persichilli also said the current period of what she termed “heavy hospitalization” is expected to last until mid May.

She added it’s no accident FEMA field hospitals have been constructed in North, Central and South Jersey, because each region was expected to see a surge in cases, one after the other. The Atlantic City field hospital opened on Tuesday, adding 250 beds to the 750 at the field hospitals in Secaucus and Edison.

KEEP READING: How you say Gov. Murphy is handling the coronavirus crisis

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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