TRENTON, NJ – The state’s top health official said that the number of COVID-19 cases in some parts of New Jersey could peak in the next two or three weeks.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at a press conference Tuesday that positive cases in Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties could soon surge based on a projection made a day earlier by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“We know we are slightly behind New York and our trends are tracking our neighbors,” Persichilli said. “Cases of COVID-19 are rising exponentially, and Gov. Cuomo has shared that they expect their peak in the next 14 to 21 days. Our exponential growth rate based on the number of positives reported daily is similar in northern New Jersey. So, when we see this peek in New York, I think we can expect Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties will follow the trend.”
It was the first big of insight - predictive modeling, to use Persichilli’s words – into the nature of the virus’ spread and what the near future could hold.
Persichilli seemed to hedge her bets later in the press conference when she said the peak could come “probably 21 to, it could be 60 days even." Persichilli said. “Our exponential growth rate based on the number of positive cases reported daily is similar in northern New Jersey."
After the predicted surge, the effects of the aggressive social distancing measures taken by Gov. Phil Murphy will begin to be seen, Persichilli said.
Until then, the state continues to look to increase its capacity to care for those infected with COVID-19.
Murphy announced that there are 736 new cases in New Jersey, including 18 news deaths. In all, the total number of positive cases is up to 4,402 and the death toll is 62.
Murphy reiterated the need to continue social distancing as the best defense against the spread of COVID-19 and repeated that law enforcement officials have been instructed to crackdown on any gatherings.
To illustrate his point, Murphy continued to site individual instances.
He said Wednesday that two summonses were given to Lakewood residents who ignored the order.
One disorderly persons charges were handed out at a large gather and a wedding at a private residence.
Murphy also called out a “knucklehead” from New Providence who allegedly coughed on police and medical personnel when they responded to a call and indicated he was infected with coronavirus. Murphy said the man faces obstruction and harassment charges.
And farther south, in Gloucester and Camden counties, Murphy said police have added disorderly persons charges when responding to other criminal cases.
On Tuesday, Murphy publicly scolded a Manalapan man who said he was COVID-19-positive and coughed on a Wegmans supermarket employee.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has since revealed that George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, has been charged with third-degree terroristic threats and other offenses.
“We want to put them up in lights — particularly people who are being jerks,” Murphy said.
Persichilli said the first of four field hospitals being constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers will be built in northern New Jersey.
The shuttered hospital in Woodbury is relocating services to another location and the site has plans for expert decontamination and cleaning.
She expects 400 beds to come online soon as hospitals reopen dormant wings. Then, another 450 beds will be available in a few weeks.
The increase in bed capacity is coming at a time when Persichilli says the hospitals in northern New Jersey are beginning to feel the “strain” of COVID-19 patients.
“We’ve asked the hospitals and the healthcare providers in those counties to just be aware," she said.