NJ COVID hospitalizations drop for third straight day

The number of hospitalized COVID patients in New Jersey fell overnight for the third day in a row, an encouraging sign that the latest pandemic wave may be reaching or may have peaked, according to data released Saturday.

But Governor Phil Murphy on Saturday confirmed 122 more COVID-related deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed or probable deaths in the state to 30,080 since the pandemic began 22 months ago.

There were 5,671 hospitalized patients with COVID as of Friday evening, down 164 from Thursday and down 7% since Jan. 11, when 6,089 were in hospital.

COVID patients needing intensive care also fell Friday evening, to 886, down 10, and the number needing ventilators to help them breathe remained stable at 524.

Murphy also announced on Saturday 14,692 new COVID infections confirmed by PCR tests and 2,884 confirmed by antigen tests. That’s a 56% drop since the peak of 33,459 tests reported on January 7 and the lowest one-day total since December 28.

But these figures only provide a partial snapshot of the extent of infections, as they do not include positive results from home testing kits or people who are infected but have not been tested.

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Many currently hospitalized patients with COVID have been admitted to hospital due to other medical conditions. State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said earlier this week that about 49% are hospitalized primarily due to their COVID diagnosis. The others were hospitalized for other reasons and then tested positive for COVID in hospital.

But people with COVID who are hospitalized for other illnesses still pose a complication for hospitals, as they must be isolated in COVID-only parts of the hospital, away from other patients. Additionally, COVID becomes a condition that could exacerbate their primary diagnosis, Persichilli said.

As the number of hospitalized COVID patients begins to decline, the large number of healthcare workers sick with COVID has also begun to decline a bit.

On Friday, 235 new COVID cases were reported among hospital staff, the lowest daily number since. This follows new case numbers of 303, 524, 441, 310 in previous days.

When health workers test positive, they have to stay home for five days, putting a strain on hospital staff.

To cope, some hospitals have given administrators support roles, and some hospitals have reduced elective surgeries. Additionally, the Biden administration sent a military medical strike team to Newark University Hospital to assist.

Hardest hit in the past 30 days has been University Hospital, with 719 infected workers, followed by St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson with 635, Hackensack University Medical Center with 603, Morristown Medical Center with 598, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with 587, St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton with 520 and Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus with 433.

COVID outbreaks remain a major problem in New Jersey nursing homes. There are currently outbreaks at 550 facilities, with infections among 8,566 residents and 11,358 employees, according to the state health department.

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The worst outbreak was at Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center, formerly Andover Subacute II, in Sussex County, with 225 cases among residents, 122 cases among staff and three deaths among residents.

The three state-run veterans’ homes, hard hit during the first wave of the pandemic in April 2020, are once again facing severe outbreaks. The Menlo Park home has 35 infections among residents and 124 among staff, with four resident deaths. The Paramus home has 30 cases among residents and 103 among staff, with three resident deaths. The Vineland home has 12 resident infections and 148 among staff, with two resident deaths.

Other facilities with large outbreaks include Bayside Manor in Keansburg with 42 resident infections, 45 employees infected and 12 resident deaths; Sinai Post-Acute Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Newark with 176 resident cases and 66 staff cases, as well as one resident death; Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne with 36 resident cases, 130 staff cases and one resident death; Alaris Health in Hamilton Park in Jersey City with 68 resident cases, 44 staff cases and six resident deaths; Willow Springs Rehab and Health Care Center in The Brick with 49 resident cases, 36 staff cases and nine resident deaths; and Hackensack Meridian Health Nursing and Rehabilitation at Red Bank with 79 resident cases, 43 staff cases and four resident deaths.

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