By: Ana Altchek, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – As the recent omicron wave continues to trail off, South Jersey continues to demonstrate a low number of new cases throughout the state.
Salem and Cape May County have both reported an average of under ten cases per day, marking some of the lowest numbers per county in the state. Atlantic, Cumberland and Gloucester County have had under 30 new cases per day. Camden reported 34 new cases on Thursday and Burlington County maintains the highest number of cases in Southern Jersey with 37 new cases reported the same day. This number is still considerably low compared to where it was a month ago, at a daily average of 238 new cases per day.
Brian Sweeney, President and COO Of Jefferson Health New Jersey, said South Jersey is now in the most favorable position. He attributed the region’s success to two essential pieces. First, he emphasized the importance of communication between federal and state government agencies, as well as the New Jersey Hospital Association. This collaboration was crucial during times when facilities were over occupancy limits and supplies were low.
Sweeney also noted that staying prepared with medical supplies and equipment was another crucial task for hospitals. He refers to this constant monitoring and state of vigilance as surge planning. During periods of rest, health care workers have a responsibility to make regular assessments on the most efficient way to increase capacity and create more space within the hospitals.
“Being ready, having a good plan and being able to look at the data just based on the circumstances has been our formula for success over the last two years and we’ve become pretty good at it in terms of emergency management.” Sweeney said.
According to Sweeney, during the peak of the Omicron outbreak, there were 250 patients in the three Jefferson Health Hospitals. As of this week, there were only 15 positive patients across the three locations. Due to the positive progression, New Jersey Hospital Association just cleared the green status for South Jersey hospitals this week.
The Green code refers to hospital visitation guidelines and protocols, which depends on the risk level of patients and staff being infected with COVID. While South Jersey went through periods of Red and Yellow status over the last year, the steady decrease of rates has enacted the Green code, which allows hospital visitors again with some limits.
Although rates are fairly consistent throughout the state, some counties in Northern Jersey are still experiencing higher numbers of new cases every day. Bergen County has an average of 140 new cases per day and Middle Sex County has about 200 new cases every day, although that represents over half of what it was a month ago.
Higher rates in Northern Jersey are most likely due to higher populations and crowded environments, Sweeney noted. This is generally the geographic trend with viral spread.
Despite differing rates in North and South Jersey, Sweeney emphasized the importance of unity across all regions in the state. Even though medical centers compete against each other, they all have the same goal of keeping patients safe and minimizing hospitalizations. Especially during surges, hospitals cross-collaborated throughout the state, making community impact their priority.
The state overall has improved their rate of new cases dramatically. On February 3rd, New Jersey reported an average of 3,909 new cases. A month later, that number more than halved reaching 1,200 cases a day.
Currently, New Jersey has vaccinated 6,765,034 people, which puts it in the top ten most vaccinated states in the country. Although the state has been a leader across the country in terms of vaccination rates and protocols, residents have trailed off with getting the booster shot. As of a month ago, just about 50 percent of New Jersey residents receive booster shots. That number seems to have remained relatively the same since then.
As of March 7th, Gov. Phil Murphy will officially release the former mask restriction, which will allow New Jersey residents to remove their masks indoors. With the mandate, Sweeney reminds residents to continue getting vaccinated and encourages others to do so as well.
“It’s really important for our community to come together. We’re still at a risk point,” Sweeney said. “The best guidance I’m giving everyone is get your vaccines if you haven’t gotten them.”
Sweeney stresses the importance of the booster shot so that residents can protect themselves, their families and the workforce. Although positive developments have taken place, there remains no guarantee of when the next variant will emerge. In order to prevent that from happening, communities need to stay cautious and continue to get vaccinated.
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