As the national focus shifts to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is yet to be reported in the United States, New Jersey is reporting an increase in hospitalizations for cases of the Delta strain.
Figures given by Governor Phil Murphy reflect a nearly 20% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide two weeks in a row. That number increased 22% between November 15 and 22, and 18% between November 22 and 29.
“We are still registering over a thousand new confirmed cases in one day and our hospitalizations have increased dramatically in recent weeks,” Murphy said Monday. “Our numbers continue to be driven by the delta variant.”
The upward shift has not brought about any immediate change in hospital policy, especially with regard to elective surgeries. Murphy called the cut in such surgeries “draconian” and said there was no indication that the state would have to take that step anytime soon.
“I had surgery for cancer, for a malignant tumor, and I learned later that it would have been considered elective surgery. So that’s a pretty draconian step and we’re not even remotely there,” the governor said.
The state Department of Health is monitoring the Omicron variant using PCR testing and virus sequencing. Although it has yet to be detected, Murphy was echoed by many public health officials who believe that the new variant is already in the US.
“We must be prepared now in anticipation of this variant hitting us,” he said.
The best way to be prepared, the New Jersey Governor and Health Commissioner reiterated, is to get vaccinated. The number of New Jerseyans who have completed a full series of the COVID-19 vaccine has reached nearly 5.9 million.
Murphy did not mention the modification of the mask use guide for the state, such as the advisory issued that same day by the New York City Health Commissioner.
“Get vaccinated, people. The added protection of a booster is no longer an advantage but a necessity,” he said.
Over the weekend, Murphy received a booster dose of COVID-19 along with his wife and children. So far, more than 1.2 million booster doses have been administered statewide.