NJ health boss says COVID’s second wave could be worse than the first
As bad as the COVID-19 number were last week, they’re even worse this week.
During Monday’s coronavirus update, Gov. Phil Murphy said the second wave of COVID is intensifying, with 2,232 new confirmed cases in New Jersey. Hospitalizations have increased to 2,115 — a figure not seen since the summer. Patients in the ICU have shot up to 417, and 137 people in intensive care are on ventilators.
He also said the COVID-19 mortality count continues to trend higher, with 19 new death confirmations announced Monday. Mortality counts sometimes lag behind the actual dates when patients die, because it takes time to confirm they had coronavirus.
The governor said to try and stop the pandemic from spiraling out of control, indoor capacity limits in private homes are being lowered to 10, and while religious gatherings, political events, weddings, funerals and memorials are excluded from the new limit for now, he suggested that could change if new cases keep rising.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the most recent modeling of the pandemic, based on new cases and hospitalizations, suggests if 50% of state residents adhere to social distancing and masking directives — around the rate of compliance New Jersey in the spring, as deaths and hospitalizations hit the state hard before dropping off dramatically — “we expect at peak the end of the year, and a very busy January and February.”
However she suggested if the sloppiness state officials say is behind the current wave continues, “if people are not vigilant it could be worse.
"That means we could exceed 8,300 hospitalizations, 2,300 critical care — we would be worse than April," she said.
She noted the Health Department is in constant contact with New Jersey hospitals, keeping track of ICU beds, ventilators, staffing and medications. Administrators are being told “get your contingency and crisis staffing in line, you may have to use it," she said.
“I cannot encourage people enough to understand how their behaviors, each one of us, our behaviors can manage that,” she said.
The governor said to avoid a long, dark winter “we have got to get back in front of this virus as best we can right now.”
Murphy noted development of an effective vaccine or vaccines looks promising but distribution is still several months away.
“It’s not a normal school year. It’s not a normal Thanksgiving. It wasn’t a normal Halloween. It won’t be a normal Hanukkah or Christmas and 2020 won’t be normal period,” he said.
The governor argued for the importance of limiting gatherings inside homes to no more than 10 people, with everyone socially distanced and wearing a mask.
“I think there’s some notion that when you’re in your house that you’ve passed through some magic doorway,” he said. "And especially as we celebrate holidays, that’s just not true. It’s just not true.”
Persichilli noted even if widespread distribution of a vaccine or vaccines begins next spring it will take time for a significant portion of the population to get inoculated. A build-up of antibodies takes time, and then “we’ll have to wait and “see how it works.”
Murphy again pleaded with New Jerseyans to socially distance, mask up and wash hands constantly.
“I know this has been a very long haul but we still have more miles to go,” he said, “I know you’re fatigued. I don’t blame you. I am. Who isn’t? But we’ve got to bear down. We can do this. We must do this.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com