N.J. reports 3,998 new COVID-19 cases, 15 deaths as more patients stream to hospitals in second wave surge

New Jersey reported 3,998 new coronavirus cases and 15 additional deaths Sunday, while hospitalizations rose for the 23rd consecutive day as the pandemic continues to engulf the state just days before Thanksgiving gatherings.

“As we approach the holidays, protect yourself & your loved ones. Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid large gatherings,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter in announcing the daily numbers.

The update comes as COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to surge in the United States, and lines at testing sites have increased dramatically.

Murphy did not declare new restrictions Sunday to combat the pandemic’s second wave, but will host his regular coronavirus media briefing Monday in Trenton. The governor did sign an executive order extending the public health emergency that was first declared March 9. It is the ninth time the emergency order has been renewed.

Last week, Murphy warned that the deluge of cases and deaths will get “unequivocally worse” over the next few months as more people stay inside because of the colder weather and gather for the holidays. The soaring number of cases mirrors the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic — the last major global outbreak to hit the U.S. — which also arrived in the spring before reemerging with a vengeance in the fall.

New Jersey has now announced 306,007 total positive tests out of more than 5.6 million administered since the start of the outbreak in March.

The state of 9 million residents has reported 16,761 coronavirus deaths, including 14,949 confirmed fatalities and 1,812 considered probable.

There were 2,568 patients with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases in New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Saturday night. That’s much lower than the 8,000 who were hospitalized in April, but the most since May 28. Hospitalizations have tripled over the past month.

Officials continue to urge residents to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands and limit gatherings as much as possible this holiday season. Family and social events have become prominent spreaders of the virus since autumn dawned.

However, hope is on the horizon as officials announced Friday that New Jersey could receive up to 160,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by Christmas if the company wins emergency use approval from the federal government.

And if Moderna’s vaccine takes a similar path, that could mean a total of 460,000 vaccine doses in the state by early January, while a broader rollout to the general population could come by April or May.

Still, the key numbers health officials use to track the pandemic keep trending in the wrong direction.

Of the 2,568 patients in hospitals, 466 were in intensive or critical care and 237 were on ventilators. Despite 297 discharges on Saturday, it was the 23rd day of increased hospital admittances.

The state is averaging about 45,000 tests a day this month, and that number does not include recently deployed rapid tests. Murphy reminded residents that more than 400 testing sites are available throughout the state.

The latest statewide rate of transmission dropped to 1.35. Any number above 1 means the outbreak is continuing to expand. New Jersey has been above that mark since early September.

Thirteen of 21 counties reported at least 100 new cases Sunday, led by Bergen (403), Hudson (360) and Essex (340) counties.

The state did not announce when the 15 newly reported deaths occurred.

To fight the spread, Murphy has ordered indoor bars and restaurants in New Jersey to close at 10 p.m. daily and canceled interstate indoor sports up to the high school level. Indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people, down from 25, and starting Monday, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150, down from 500.

Thus far, Murphy has stopped short of ordering another statewide lockdown like he did in the spring, but he has stressed that he is considering all options as cases soar.

COUNTY-BY-COUNTY NUMBERS (sorted by most new)

  • Bergen County: 31,851 positive tests (403 new), 1,855 confirmed deaths (246 probable)
  • Hudson County: 29,116 positive tests (360 new), 1,399 confirmed deaths (158 probable)
  • Essex County: 32,778 positive tests (340 new), 1,972 confirmed deaths (230 probable)
  • Camden County: 16,862 positive tests (325 new), 608 confirmed deaths (56 probable)
  • Middlesex County: 27,987 positive tests (315 new), 1,273 confirmed deaths (203 probable)
  • Burlington County: 11,996 positive tests (299 new), 491 confirmed deaths (41 probable)
  • Monmouth County: 18,624 positive tests (288 new), 796 confirmed deaths (92 probable)
  • Union County: 26,043 positive tests (280 new), 1,249 confirmed deaths (171 probable)
  • Passaic County: 27,065 positive tests (262 new), 1,155 confirmed deaths (144 probable)
  • Ocean County: 20,087 positive tests (207 new), 1,031 confirmed deaths (67 probable)
  • Mercer County: 12,450 positive tests (194 new), 615 confirmed deaths (36 probable)
  • Morris County: 12,252 positive tests (165 new), 707 confirmed deaths (147 probable)
  • Gloucester County: 8,066 positive tests (117 new), 259 confirmed deaths (7 probable)
  • Atlantic County: 7,257 positive tests (96 new), 265 confirmed deaths (13 probable)
  • Somerset County: 8,333 positive tests (81 new), 532 confirmed deaths (75 probable)
  • Hunterdon County: 2,236 positive tests (52 new), 76 confirmed deaths (54 probable)
  • Warren County: 2,259 positive tests (43 new), 160 confirmed deaths (13 probable)
  • Cumberland County: 4,733 positive tests (42 new), 162 confirmed deaths (8 probable)
  • Sussex County: 2,315 positive tests (41 new), 162 confirmed deaths (36 probable)
  • Salem County: 1,476 positive tests (20 new), 86 confirmed deaths (5 probable)
  • Cape May County: 1,524 positive tests (9 new), 96 confirmed deaths (10 probable)

There were 2,568 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Saturday night. That’s 16 more than the night before.

Of those, 466 were in critical or intensive care (14 more than the night before), including 237 on ventilators (four more).

There were 313 coronavirus patients admitted and 297 discharged Saturday, according to the state’s online dashboard.

New Jersey’s 71 acute-care hospitals are two-thirds full, according to the New Jersey Hospital Association. Patient ages have tended to be younger, making for shorter hospital stays, and hospitals have become better at treating the virus.

New Jersey’s latest transmission rate of 1.35 is down from the 1.38 reported Saturday.

A transmission rate of 1.35 means means every 100 infected people will spread the virus to 135 others on average. Any number above 1 means each newly-infected person, on average, is spreading the virus to at least one other person.

But 135 is far lower than the rate above 5 recorded in late March as the extent of the outbreak was still coming into focus and testing was scarce.

Although hundreds of school districts have announced coronavirus cases and dozens of New Jersey schools have temporarily shut down since the start of the school year, state health officials have said 56 schools have had confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks.

The state’s dashboard shows 239 cases in those 56 schools, but those numbers only include confirmed in-school transmissions. Students or staff believed to have been infected outside school, or cases that can’t be confirmed as in-school outbreaks, are not included.

Murphy has resisted ordering schools to close statewide, saying those numbers are better than expected.

Broken down by age, those 30 to 49 years old make up the largest percentage of New Jersey residents who have caught the virus (31.6%), followed by those 50-64 (24.6%), 18-29 (18.5%), 65-79 (11.7%), 80 and older (7.0%), 5-17 (5.4%), and 0-4 (1.1%).

On average, the virus has been more deadly for older residents, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Nearly half the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents 80 and older (47.1%), followed by those 65-79 (32.2%), 50-64 (16%), 30-49 (4.3%), 18-29 (0.4%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).

At least 7,274 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. That number has also been rising at a steeper rate in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, at least 17,500 more people in New Jersey have died this year than would be expected, state mortality data shows, which suggests the pandemic has claimed even more lives than state totals, according to an ongoing analysis by NJ Advance Media.

As of Sunday morning, there have been more than 58.3 million positive COVID-19 tests across the globe, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.38 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.

The United States has the most positive tests in the world, with 12.1 million, and the most deaths, at more than 255,000.

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Jeff Roberts may be reached at jroberts@njadvancemedia.com.