By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The number of people being admitted to hospitals across the state due to COVID-19 had dropped almost in half from Thursday to Friday, according to state officials.

In addition, from April 1 onwards, the number of patients discharged from hospitals was consistently lower than the number of new admissions until April 15. That day, the same number of discharges and admissions were reported at 872, and after that, discharges began to gradually exceed admissions.

On Friday, April 17,  377 people with the virus were admitted, while on April 16, 750 were admitted, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

On Friday, officials reported that 814 COVD-19 patients were sent home from hospitals around the state, and on Thursday 843 people were released.

But even with those signs, Murphy warned that New Jersey was nowhere near ready to re-open. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

Saturday’s press briefing, for the first time, included graphs showing three-week trends in case rates, hospital admissions and discharges, in addition to the daily numbers. The graphs indicated that numbers of cases and admissions were beginning to level off after increasing over the past three weeks.

On Saturday, the reported number of COVID-18 positives and deaths related to the virus had dropped. Officials reported today 3,026 new positive cases, bringing the state total to 81,420 and 231 additional deaths, bringing the state total to 4,070.

On Friday, April 16, officials reported 3,250 new positive cases and 323 deaths.

As of 10 p.m. on Friday night, 7,718 people were in the hospital with the virus, with 2,024 in critical care and 1,624 ventilators in use. Ninety patients were in field hospitals, and 814 patients were discharged from the hospital over the past 24 hours.

PHOTO COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY A chart shows the rate of new hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients from April 1 onward, as of Saturday, April 18.
PHOTO COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY A chart shows the rate of new hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients from April 1 onward, as of Saturday, April 18.
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By comparison, as of 10 p.m. Thursday night, 8,011 residents were hospitalized due to COVID-19, down from the 8,224 reported Wednesday night. Fewer people were in critical care as well at 1,961 and with fewer on ventilators at 1,584.

Murphy reiterated that if New Jersey immediately went back to business as usual, the number of cases and deaths would go back up right away.

However, some of the attendees at the briefing questioned whether the curve was truly flattening, when not everyone in the state is being tested for COVID-19.

LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli reported an additional 125 deaths associated with long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, state psychiatric hospitals and veterans’ homes.

This week, 16 bodies were found stored in a four-person morgue at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Andover. Persichilli said that several citations have been issued to the facility’s owner, and that a corrective action plan must be submitted by Monday. The Office of the Attorney General is conducting its own investigation, she said. 

NUMBERS HERE

Montclair reported three new cases, and no new deaths on Saturday, with the township's totals now standing at 290 positive tests and 32 deaths related to the virus.

As of 9 a.m. Saturday, Essex County reported 9,906 cases and 732 deaths, up from 9,656 cases and 677 deaths as of Friday.

AFRICAN AMERICANS AFFECTED

Of the deaths for which demographic data is available, 51.9 percent were white, 22 percent were black or African American, 16.7 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 5.4 percent were Asian, and 4.8 percent other.

Murphy and Persichilli both noted that the COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting communities of color, with the mortality rate among African American patients 50 percent higher than the overall representation among the state’s population, Murphy said. Environmental factors, discrimination and other external circumstances play a large role, Persichilli said, noting that the zip code in which a person lives can end up having a very significant impact on their health.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and First Lady Tammy Murphy participated in a conference call last week with Sen. Ronald Rice, Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, and the New Jersey Medical Association to discuss the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on communities of color, and how to address it.

FEDERAL FUNDING

Murphy said after speaking with Sen. Chuck Schumer, he learned that there was little movement in Congress toward providing direct state aid. Murphy urged members of Congress to work together and move forward on funding. Without state aid, New Jersey would be facing very large numbers of layoffs. “I don’t know how many. But those are big, big, big numbers,” Murphy said.

Protests have cropped up in a number of states, including a protest at the state house in Trenton, calling for lockdowns to be immediately lifted. The organizer of the Trenton protest was issued a citation for violating the state’s executive order for social distancing. “Everyone who thinks we’re doing this to take away people’s liberties and rights, isn’t looking at the data,” Murphy said.

“We want to get back to some kind of normal. Who wouldn’t?” Murphy asked. “If we untie the system now, we’ll have blood on our hands.”

Murphy said the coronavirus can not be seen as “this is just the flu.”

“Based on what we know at this time, everything about that is wrong,” he said.

The 4,070 people who have died in the last six week, is more than the number of people who died over the past three flu seasons in New Jersey combined. The hospitalization rate for the flu is also much lower: one-tenth of one percent of flu patients, Murphy said.

“Finally, and this is the most obvious point, we have vaccines for the flu,” he added. “This is a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in a century.”