New Jersey hospitals are expected to reach their ICU bed capacity by April 11 and total bed capacity by May 8.
Based on predictive modeling, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that projections for bed capacity are directly related to the availability of hospital beds and the resources needed to care for patients.
At a press conference, along with Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday afternoon, Persichilli said the DOH uses the COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics to project how many patients will need hospitalization and the resources that are needed.
Last week DOH asked hospitals to increase their capacity by 100 percent.
“Right now if we did nothing we have 18,000 med/surge beds and about 2,000 critical care beds,” Persichilli said.
“If you look at the chart with the highest peak – that is the chart we call pre-mitigation, that was before all of the mitigation interventions,” she said. “In other words if we did nothing at all and let people go about their lives, as they knew it. By looking at that chart you can see that the peak is the hospitalizations we would have – a little bit shy of 80,000 hospitalizations, far higher than the available beds that we have. It points out that the only real tool we have in our tool kit is social distancing and the impact that it can have.”
The modeling, said Persichilli, relies on the impact of social distancing, the number of positive cases reported daily, the number of cases in hospitals and the length of stay in critical care and medical surgical, along with the number of positive cases under investigation.
“We know that at 50 percent we have more than adequate beds right now. But we also know that 50 percent is pretty aggressive distancing. The real number is probably between 40 percent and 45 percent. It may not be that much of reach considering the compliance that we are assuming right now.”
Persichilli said that more beds would be brought online as the infection-doubling rate will increase along with social distancing percentages.
“We believe that we will significantly flatten the curve by the initiatives and interventions that we have already initiated,” Persichilli said.
Health officials have identified the infection-doubling rate – the rate of new cases doubling every so many days – as six days, and the hospitalization rate among infected individuals at five days.
Coordinating critical care
The DOH is in discussions with hospital CEOs as they prepare to convert primary hospitals to large critical care units.
“We will be decanting, and it has already started, to lower levels of care into field hospitals, opened general hospitals that have been closed within the last five years, and increasing our additional bed capacity between 1,500 and 2,000 beds,” said Persichilli.
The field hospitals will contain the appropriate equipment and power to allow for ventilator patients. The lower acuity patients are patients who need to be in based on the severity of their illness and the intensity of their service.
“If a patient fulfills both of those criteria as being admitted to a general or acute care hospital they may be appropriate for the field hospital,” said Persichilli.
The first field hospital is scheduled to open in Secaucus.
In addition, the DOH is looking at dormitories and hotels to accommodate other patients.
As of March 30, 3,347 new positive cases of COVID-19 were reported, for a total of 16,636 in the state. In addition, 37 new deaths were reported, four were associated with long-term care facilities.
Currently, 43 LTC facilities reported at least one COVID-19 positive case.
The DOH reported that an employee at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Hammonton has been infected. There is one staff member that has tested positive for COVID-19 and one resident in a psychiatric facility that tested positive, said Persichilli.
Of the major labs sending results to the DOH, they are getting results from more than 95 percent. So far there have been 40,806 tests performed, of which 15,582 have tested positive for an overall percent positivity rate of 38.19.
Persichilli said that the DOH is also looking into converting anesthesiology machines into ventilators – a process that could take 24-hours.
Murphy said that 300 ventilators are on their way to New Jersey.
It was also reported that Hackensack University Medical Center has converted its cafeteria into a patient care area.