New Jersey officials are warning of highly contagious coronavirus variants that could send new daily case totals to record levels in the state by mid-May, under the most severe projections.
Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials on Wednesday outlined updated virus projection models that take the impacts of vaccination, spring break travel, holidays and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants into account.
Even the state's moderate-case scenario predicts new daily cases will peak at more than double what the state was reporting early last November.
That moderate model expects cases to peak around April 18 with a daily high of 5,445 cases per day and nearly 2,700 people hospitalized. New Jersey wouldn't expect to see new daily cases drop below 3,000 until mid-June at the earliest, continuing at over 2,000 new cases per day, every day, for another four months.
Under the presumption that vaccines are 95 percent effective against variants and that 70 percent of New Jersey adults are vaccinated by June 1, hospitalizations would top 1,000 until at least August, per the moderate model.
The worst case model shows that the peak may not come until May 18, with daily case highs above 8,160 — a figure that would be the most single day cases in New Jersey since the pandemic started, with hospital admissions at a volume akin to May 2020.
Gov. Murphy added that people should not panic; they should be careful.
"While these models are based on a year's worth of data, they do change practically day-to-day as new data better informs our path forward. These are projections, not certainties — and through our behavior we can change the trajectory of the models," he said. "The more vaccinations we administer, the better we can make the model. And the more we continue to wear our masks and keep social distances even after we've been vaccinated, we can further push these projected numbers lower."
While the case numbers are concerning, he added that the hospitalization numbers are "of the greatest concern when it comes to determining the steps we need to take as a state."
Hospitalization metrics have been rising, along with cases. State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported a 28 percent jump in new COVID hospitalizations, including a 31 percent increase in hospitalizations among those age 20 to 29, a 9 percent increase in those 30 to 39 and a 48 percent increased in those 40 - 49.
Officials have attributed the uptick to more contagious variants and less cautious behaviors.
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