TRENTON — Roughly half of COVID patients in hospitals this week were initially admitted for something else — evidence that it continues to be tough to gauge the pandemic's impact through state metrics.

“With about 6,000 individuals in our hospitals with confirmed COVID positive tests, about 2,963 of them are in with a principal diagnosis of COVID — which means it’s the reason for the admission, the reason for the hospitalization,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said at the Monday's state pandemic briefing.

When asked later to clarify whether that means that roughly half of the patients hospitalized was “the real picture of COVID,” Persichilli said it wasn’t that simple.

“You can’t really parse it out totally, half and half. If you’re admitted to the hospital with cardiovascular problems, and you you’re COVID positive, that may be adding to the problems that you have. It’s not as clean-cut as half and half,” the health commissioner said.

COVID then becomes a contributing or co-morbid condition, she said, which could or could not worsen a patient’s principal reason for being admitted.

Lag in data

According to the New Jersey Hospital Association, 60,192 patients were hospitalized with COVID in the first year of the pandemic.

Last year, the number dropped slightly to 59,477 patients.

So far in January, more than 9,200 patients have been registered with COVID, which hospital officials say was a result of the omicron surge in December. The rapid rise, however, appears to have hit its peak on Jan. 4. Hospitalizations declined from 6,000 to 5,926 from Wednesday to Thursday.

There were 907 COVID patients in intensive care units and 547 on ventilators on Wednesday.

 

The majority of patients hospitalized who tested positive for COVID, 68% to 70%, are either unvaccinated or are partially vaccinated, Persichilli said on Monday. About 32% of them were fully vaccinated, she said.

Who gets tested?

Any patient seeking treatment for COVID symptoms at emergency rooms throughout the RWJBarnabas Health hospital system are tested for the virus, according to a spokesperson on Wednesday.

Those who visit the emergency room for other primary health concerns are not initially tested.

If one of those patients needs surgery or to be admitted to the hospital, they are then tested as part of protocols to limit exposure. The current policy had been in place for a while, the representative said.

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