Gov. Murphy Discusses What NJ Would Look Like Without Social Distancing, An ‘Absolute Nightmare Scenario’

By: Christian Oberly

Governor Phil Murphy discusses a projection of what COVID-19 cases in New Jersey would look like without social distancing procedures.

TRENTON, N.J. — Today Governor Phil Murphy held another press briefing at 2 p.m. to go over updates in New Jersey’s “war against the coronavirus.” Included in the briefing was a comparison between what things would look like for New Jersey’s case numbers without mitigation, and what it will look like if about one-third of New Jerseyans practice social distancing.

Two charts from Gov. Murphy’s presentation — depicting NJ’s cases of COVID-19 without social distancing measures, and with.

Currently, New Jersey has 16,636 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Out of those, 198 people have lost their lives to the disease.

New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli also spoke at the press briefing and went over some of the data coming in. Her office is using the “CHIME” tool to forecast what the growing number of cases will mean for New Jersey hospitals.

Developed by Penn Medicine, CHIME stands for COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics. The tool can be used to plan a response to the outbreak by assessing currently known regional infections, currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and hospital market share to determine the disease’s doubling time — how quickly the number of cases in an area will double.

Governor Murphy elaborated on how prepared New Jersey’s healthcare facilities are for the further spread of COVID-19. Based on the projection, if hospitals in New Jersey took no precautionary steps, they would have a capacity of approximately 18,000 medical/surgical hospital beds and about 2,000 critical care beds.

Because about 5% of cases require hospitalization and 2% require intensive care, under these conditions all of our hospital beds would be filled by mid-April, a situation Murphy referred to as “an absolute nightmare scenario.”

On the other projection chart, assuming 31% of New Jerseyans practice proper social distancing — our only real tool against the virus right now — then the number of cases will peak later (somewhere around May or June) and will peak at a lower number, allowing more people to get the medical care they need.

In an effort to prepare for the amount of patients requiring hospitalizations, efforts are being made to stand up field hospitals throughout the state as well as re-opening hospital wings that had been closed due to low admission. During today’s briefing, the governor’s office said these efforts could add another 1,500 — 2,000 hospital beds to our total.

Persichilli also said that New Jersey would likely need closer to 50% compliance with social distancing to avoid having a terrible shortage of beds throughout the pandemic.

Governor Murphy touched on a few other topics, including the news that PNC Bank would also be joining in on the 90-day grace period for mortgages that was announced on Saturday.

For more local updates, see our dedicated COVID-19 page.

And to access the New Jersey COVID-19 information dashboard, check out