Susan K. Livio
The coronavirus overwhelmed New Jersey hospitals so completely nearly 15 months ago that many cafeterias and conference rooms were transformed into bed space to accommodate the onslaught of the sick.
On Friday, the New Jersey Hospital Association announced the number of people across the state treated in the hospital for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases fell to its lowest number since the pandemic began, with 385 patients.
At the peak of the outbreak, on April 14, 2020, New Jersey’s 71 hospitals were treating 8,270 patients, according to Association President and CEO Cathleen Bennett said. Without the hasty conversion of open space to treatment beds, there would have been an ICU bed shortage of 251, Bennett said.
“For 16 months, New Jersey hospital teams and their patients have ridden this rollercoaster of COVID cases and surges,” Bennett said. “But this milestone represents a steady, sustained decline that signals to us that New Jersey may finally be putting the worst of this pandemic behind us.”
Out of the 385 patients in the hospital on Friday, 85 were in the intensive care unit and 53 relied on a ventilator to help them breathe, according to the state Health Department’s COVID-19 data dashboard.
The majority of patients, 202, were in North Jersey hospitals, followed by 102 in Central Jersey and 81 in South Jersey facilities, hospital association spokeswoman Kerry McKean Kelly said.
“With vaccination increasing, we are once again able to enjoy the social activities and the greater freedoms that signal a return to normalcy,” Bennett added. “The data is clear — New Jersey is on its way back.”
About 4.5 million New Jersey residents are fully vaccinated, according to the health department.
New Jersey hospitals doubled the number of ICU beds from about 2,000 to 4,000 in April 2020, and expanded the total number of beds from 23,000 to 37,000, according to the health department.
Susan K. Livio may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio.
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