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Health officials: A lack of health care workers could be biggest challenge in 2nd wave of COVID-19

Hospital administrators and state health officials say that New Jersey’s second wave of COVID-19 is intensifying after the number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization has been over 1,000 for more than two weeks.

News 12 Staff

Nov 12, 2020, 11:12 AM

Updated 1,317 days ago

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Hospital administrators and state health officials say that New Jersey’s second wave of COVID-19 is intensifying after the number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization has been over 1,000 for more than two weeks.
The increase in hospitalizations is coupled with an increase in patients in the intensive care unit and on ventilators. And while the numbers are not as severe as they were in March and April, health officials say that the concern now is that as the weather changes, the curve could take a steep climb upward.
“It’s not as much where we are now, it’s the trend and when cases really start to increase exponentially, and we’re right on the cusp of that occurring,” says University Hospital president and CEO Dr. Shereef Elnahal.
Elnahal says that the middle of November is the inflection point for COVID-19 in New Jersey’s hospitals. There are over 1,800 COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization as of Wednesday. He says that the numbers are climbing.
“We broke 30 patients in the hospital for the first time since the spring when we had a surge that overwhelmed the hospital with more than 300 patients at a time,” Elnahal says. “And now we have 30. It may not sound like a lot, but the thing we’re concerned about is the trend.”
At the height of the pandemic's first wave in mid-April, over 8,000 COVID patients were in the state's 71 hospitals. It is more than four times the number of people in hospitals now. Since then, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has ordered hospitals around the state to have a 90-day supply of PPE. Elnahal says that he knows from experience that stockpiles can go quickly.
“We assumed a burn-rate that was quite high. The same burn-rate that we are using back in the spring with the surge and that in some cases was over 1,000 N95 masks a day,” Elnahal says.
Persichilli and Elnahal say that the largest strain in the second wave could be a need for health care workers.
“That’s our highest risk right now and I would think that every hospital in New Jersey would agree,” Elnahal says. “Almost all of us use staffing agencies that source staff from outside of New Jersey. We won’t be able to use that as much if everywhere in the country is surging.”
Elnahal says the number of COVID-19 deaths is still lower than it was in the spring due to better therapeutics and the fact that younger people are now the ones getting the virus. He says that he is also working on President-elect Joe Biden's transition team to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs.


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