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NJ COVID hospitalizations fall for third straight day

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

But Gov. 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.

As of Friday night, there were 5,671 hospitalized patients with COVID, down 164 from Thursday and down 7% from Jan. 11, when 6,089 were hospitalized.

COVID patients requiring critical care also fell to 886 as of Friday night, down from 10, and the number needing ventilators to help them breathe remained steady at 524.

Murphy also announced that 14,692 new COVID infections were confirmed by PCR testing and 2,884 by antigen testing as of Saturday. That’s down 56% from the peak of 33,459 tests reported on Jan. 7 and the lowest daily total since Dec. 28.

But those numbers only provide a partial snapshot of the extent of infections, as they don’t 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 hospitalized for other medical conditions. State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said earlier this week about 49% are hospitalized primarily for their COVID diagnosis. The rest were hospitalized for other reasons and then tested positive for COVID in hospital.

But those with COVID who are hospitalized for other illnesses still pose a complication for hospitals, as they need to be isolated separately from other patients in COVID-only parts of the hospital. Additionally, COVID is becoming a condition that could exacerbate her main diagnosis, Persichilli said.

As the number of hospitalized COVID patients begins to fall, the large number of healthcare workers sick with COVID has also eased somewhat.

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 the previous days.

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

To deal with this, some hospitals have hired administrators to fill support roles, and some hospitals have restricted non-emergency surgeries. In addition, the Biden administration has dispatched a military medical strike team to support the University Hospital in Newark.

Hardest hit over the past 30 days was University Hospital with 719 infected staff, followed by St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson with 635, Hackensack University Medical Center with 603, Morristown Medical Center with 598 and 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 concern in nursing homes across New Jersey. There are currently outbreaks in 550 facilities, with infections in 8,566 residents and 11,358 employees, according to the state health department.

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The worst outbreak occurred at the 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 veterans’ homes that were badly hit during the first wave of the April 2020 pandemic are 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 infected staff and 12 resident deaths; Sinai Post-Acute Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Newark with 176 resident cases and 66 staff cases, along with 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 employee cases and six resident deaths; Willow Springs Rehab and Health Care Center in Brick with 49 resident cases, 36 staff cases and nine resident deaths; and Hackensack Meridian Health Nursing and Rehabilitation in Red Bank with 79 resident cases, 43 employee cases, and four resident deaths.

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