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New models project spring coronavirus spike in NJ

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said in a moderate scenario, new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases would peak in April and likely not drop below 3,000 until at least the middle of June. – Photo by Wikimedia.org

New Jersey has entered a third wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that may reach approximately 5,000 daily positive cases throughout most of April in a moderate scenario, according to new prediction models Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) shared today.

In this scenario, the state would hit its peak on April 18 with 5,445 new positive cases and 2,669 hospitalizations, approximately 300 more patients than the current total, Murphy said. Total patients in critical or intensive care and patients on ventilators would also increase to 574 and 319 respectively.

This model assumes that new hospitalizations will follow previous rates seen after religious holidays and expansion of indoor activities, and that current vaccines have approximately 95 percent efficacy against COVID-19 variants. It also takes into account students staying home during spring break and expected increases in vaccinations.

“Even under this scenario, we would not expect to see new cases drop below 3,000 until the middle of June at the earliest,” he said. “And the number of hospitalizations would not approach 1,000 until August.”

In a high scenario, which assumes that vaccines will be only 65 percent effective and people will not adhere as much to COVID-19 measures, New Jersey would peak with more than 8,000 daily cases in mid-May and mid-June, Murphy said. Hospitalizations would increase through April and remain in the range of 3,500 from mid-May to mid-June.

This would bring New Jersey back to roughly the numbers seen in December and January with the second wave of the pandemic, Murphy said.

“While these models are based on a year’s worth of data, they do change practically … every day,” he said. “Remember, these are projections and they are not certainties, and through our behavior — and we saw this in the spring last year — we can change the trajectory of the models.”

Vaccinations will also reduce the numbers predicted by the models, Murphy said. New Jersey received 494,430 vaccines this week and expects another increase in vaccine allocation next week, particularly for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The state reported an additional 4,586 positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, making the current statewide total 799,391 positive cases. They have also received 1,316 positive antigen tests, for a total of 109,425 positive tests.

The recent uptick in cases is due primarily to the more contagious COVID-19 variants and the failure to adhere to pandemic guidelines, said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

“We’re expecting continued increases in hospitalizations and unfortunately deaths as we follow this rise,” she said.

New hospitalizations have increased by 28 percent over the past two weeks to 2,363 hospitalizations as of yesterday, with 458 patients in critical or intensive care and 236 on ventilators, state officials said.

There has also been an increase in the number of younger individuals being hospitalized between the first and last weeks of March, with a 48 percent increase for those ages 40 to 49 and a 31 percent increase in hospitalizations for individuals ages 20 to 29, Persichilli said.

In addition, 44 new deaths have been confirmed, for a total of 21,993 deaths statewide, with another 2,568 deaths potentially linked to COVID-19.

“We have crushed the curves twice,” Murphy said. “Let’s do it a third time, and hopefully, for a final time.”

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