TRENTON, NJ – In a now daily briefing alongside Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli offered the sobering news that she was expecting a surge of cases that could overwhelm the state’s healthcare system.

“We will see more cases in the coming weeks. A lot more cases,” she said.

“As we see more cases, especially in nursing home patients and those with underlying conditions, the stresses on our healthcare system will build exponentially,”  Perisichilli said. “I’m very concerned about that.  That’s why we are continuing to explore unused space in hospitals and long-term care facilities and to look at standing up new hospitals.”

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Two shuttered hospitals, one in Woobury and another in Plainfield, are being readied to re-open and accept COVID patients.  “We’ll have five hundred beds of unused capacity and ready to go when the surge occurs," she said adding “notice that I didn’t say ‘if the surge occurs.’ We don’t know when the peak of that bell-shaped curve is but we know it will happen.”

The Health Department is looking at “seven or eight” closed wings of hospitals to re-open for COVID patients as well as considering building new wings on existing hospital campuses to handle the increased load of patients they are predicting.

"Of the eleven New Jersey residents that have died as a result of coronavirus, nine had comorbid conditions," Persichilli said. “What we are finding are that in most of the individuals, no matter the age, diabetes is in almost every single individual, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity.”

With the elder population still considered very vulnerable, Persichilli also announced the closing of all adult day care facilities. “The CDC data has demonstrated the increased risk of serious complications and death for those over 65,” she said. “In the United States, 80% of the deaths are among this population; and the highest percentage of severe outcomes are among persons aged 85 and older. That is why it is critical that we place restrictions on programs and services that target this population.”

Persichilli concluded her comments with a renewed plea to all residents to take the spread of the virus seriously: "You may not feel sick, but it’s possible that you can transmit the virus to someone who is more vulnerable. We are definitely in this together, and we must take these steps together.”

She finished with: "If you have mild symptoms, stay home and self-isolate. Separate yourself from other people in your homes, avoid sharing dishes and towels, etc.  If your symptoms worsen seek medical care but call first.”