New Jersey’s winter COVID-19 surge could, like last year, peak in mid-January with as many as 2,000 hospitalizations, state health officials said.
And although the state’s high vaccination rates are depressing COVID-19 hospitalizations and severe cases, the accompanying spread of the flu this past fall could undo the state’s good fortunes, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
She encouraged New Jerseyans to “take precautions, get vaccinated, get a booster, stay home if you’re feeling ill, mask up in crowded indoor areas or when you are around high-risk individuals,” or when it’s not possible to know if everyone in a given area has gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
More than 6.2 million New Jerseyans out of the state’s 9.3 million residents have been fully vaccinated, and all New Jersey adults who’ve gotten the Moderna or Pfizer shots at least six months ago – or the Johnson & Johnson jab at least two months ago – can now get their booster.
For months, the concern among government leaders and public health officials and experts has been that COVID-19 will continue to spread because more people are gathering indoors where the virus is more contagious, and more people are gathering, generally, for the holidays.
But more people have gotten the vaccine, and more are eligible to get the jab than they were a year ago just before Thanksgiving, Gov. Phil Murphy pointed out.
“Even as it ebbs and flows and goes up, it’s not going to be going up – please god – to the levels that it did before,” the governor continued.
A year ago, there were nearly 3,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state. Now that number is 811.
Meanwhile, the state logged 3,592 new positive cases on Nov. 23 last year, compared to Monday’s 1,330 new cases. This spike in cases, total hospitalizations and the overall spread was expected, Murphy said—no surprises.
Business executives and public health experts have told NJBIZ that while COVID-19 will still be around – both in the environment and on people’s minds – many New Jerseyans might be more willing to take risks over the holidays this year.
The addition of vaccines, mitigation protocols like handwashing, facemasks and social distancing, and treatments such as antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, mean “more tools in the tool kit,” Persichilli added.
But the fear is the spread of influenza, and its particularly devastating impact on younger children and more elderly adults, according to State Epidemiologist Christina Tan.
“We might be in for a more influenza-season this year than last year,” she said.