CAMDEN, NJ — In the month of October, Camden County has learned of 20 coronavirus-related deaths. On Wednesday, 89 new infections make up the more than 280 reported this week, and the virus’ positivity rate is currently 3.5% — compared to just over 1% in the summer months. 

All to say, according to Freeholder Jonathan Young on Thursday, that the county and the country as a whole are “at the beginning of what's likely to be a very difficult period.”

“It's hard to compare where we are now to where we were in the [earlier] days of this pandemic. When we first started tracking the virus, testing was extremely scarce and reserved for only patients showing serious symptoms. Knowing what we know now about asymptomatic cases, we can assume that there are many more cases of COVID-19 going undetected,” Young said during a virtual coronavirus press briefing in Blackwood on Thursday morning.

Sign Up for Passaic Valley Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Young was joined by Congressman Donald Norcross and Dr. Reginald Blaber, Virtua’s Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer.

“The number of patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals has tripled in the last couple weeks, and when you look across the nation, it's interesting that to there are two phenomenons that are occurring. One is the patients who are being admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 are now younger in age. On average, the age is 40 and last spring, the age was well into the 60s,” said Blaber. “The reason is…I think older folks are much more cautious and are much more likely to be wearing masks, socially distancing, not necessarily eating indoors, [or] going to parties.”

Blaber said the second noteworthy trend is - due to what’s been learned about the respiratory virus - the mortality rate of patients admitted to hospitals is decreasing nationwide. Still, the doctor likened the lack of precaution on the part of youth to “playing Russian roulette with yourself and your family.”

Gov. Phil Murphy similarly cautioned the state during his own virtual press conference Thursday - stating that there are now more than 16,300 COVID-19 deaths and over 234,000 cases in New Jersey.

The numbers, “continue to show that the second wave of the coronavirus is no longer something off in the future,” Murphy said. “It is coming and it is coming in now.”

The governor reported 1,477 new cases, a dozen consecutive days with over 1,000 new cases, and at least eight more deaths. As of Wednesday, 1,072 patients were being treated for the coronavirus in the state (226 still awaiting lab-confirmation). 

“We have been seeing the numbers of new cases grow exponentially across the past several weeks," Murphy said. “And, along with that, the numbers of patients being treated in our hospitals has similarly been on the rise.”

While discussing the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, once one is developed, Norcross said residents should be wary that it won’t be available to all immediately. 

MORE: Read “Murphy Says NJ Will Be Prepared Once A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Available”

“The federal government — through the military — has the infrastructure put together for the vaccine to be distributed,” said Norcross, “and I think that when the vaccine does come out, the Department of Health is going to direct it first at frontline workers…be it firemen, police, health care workers, and then those at greatest risk.”

On Thursday, Cooper University Health Care said it would become the second healthcare system in the U.S. to put the Heroes Health wellness app to use.

The app is geared toward the mental health of frontline workers and first responders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Data collected anonymously from many hundreds or thousands of users from institutions across the nation will be analyzed to better understand the stresses faced by frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic and to help design mental health resources for workers in the future, for example in future pandemics or natural disasters,” said Dr. Christopher Jones, head of the division of clinical research in Cooper’s Emergency Medicine Department.

Jones said data will also be useful to develop additional resources to help medical staff, "cope with the effects of work-related stress before they reach critical stages.”

Camden County will release the latest COVID-19 figures later Thursday. Watch this morning’s press conference below: