The number of hospitalized COVID patients in New Jersey dropped overnight for the third consecutive day, an encouraging sign that the latest pandemic wave may be peaking or have peaked, according to data released Saturday.
But Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday confirmed 122 more COVID-related deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed or probable deaths in the state to 30,080 since the pandemic began 22 months ago.
There were 5,671 hospitalized patients with COVID Friday night, a drop of 164 from Thursday and a 7% decline since Jan. 11, when 6,089 were in the hospital.
COVID patients needing intensive care also declined Friday night, to 886, a drop of 10, and the number needing ventilators to help them breathe held steady at 524.
Murphy also announced 14,692 new COVID infections Saturday confirmed through PCR tests, and 2,884 confirmed through antigen tests. That's a 56% drop since the peak of 33,459 tests reported on Jan. 7, and the lowest one-day total since Dec. 28.
But those numbers only provide a partial snapshot of the extent of infections, since they don't include positive results from at-home test kits or people who are infected but didn't get tested.
Many currently hospitalized patients who have COVID were admitted to the hospital because of other medical conditions. State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said earlier this week that about 49% are hospitalized primarily because of their COVID diagnosis. The rest were hospitalized for other reasons, and then tested positive for COVID in the hospital.
But those with COVID who are hospitalized for other illnesses still pose a complication for hospitals, since they must be isolated in COVID-only parts of the hospital, away from other patients. In addition, COVID becomes a condition that could exacerbate their principal diagnosis, Persichilli said.
As the number of hospitalized COVID patients starts to decline, the large number of health care workers out sick with COVID has also started to ease a bit.
There were 235 new cases of COVID reported among hospital staff Friday. That follows new case counts of 303, 524, 441, 310 in prior days.
When health care workers test positive they must remain at home for five days, straining hospital staff.
To cope, some hospitals have had administrators fill support roles, and some hospitals have curtailed non-emergency surgeries. In addition, the Biden administration has sent a military medical strike team to University Hospital in Newark to assist.
Hardest hit over the past 30 days has been University Hospital, with 719 workers infected, followed by St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson with 635, Hackensack University Medical Center with 603, Morristown Medical Center with 598, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with 587, St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton with 520, and Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus with 433.
COVID outbreaks remain a major problem at nursing homes throughout New Jersey. There are currently outbreaks at 550 facilities, with infections among 8,566 residents and 11,358 employees, according to the state health department.
Story continues below chart
The worst outbreak has been at Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center, formerly Andover Subacute II, in Sussex County, with 225 cases among residents, 122 cases among staff and three deaths among residents.
The three state-run veterans homes, hit hard during the initial wave of the pandemic in April 2020, are again facing serious outbreaks. The home in Menlo Park has 35 infections among residents and 124 among staff, with four resident deaths. The Paramus home has 30 cases among residents and 103 among staff, with three resident deaths. The home in Vineland has 12 resident infections and 148 among staff, with two resident deaths.
Other facilities with large outbreaks include Bayside Manor in Keansburg with 42 resident infections, 45 staff infected and 12 resident deaths; Sinai Post-Acute Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Newark with 176 resident cases and 66 staff cases, along with one resident death; Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne with 36 resident cases, 130 staff cases and one resident death; Alaris Health at Hamilton Park in Jersey City with 68 resident cases, 44 staff cases and six resident deaths; Willow Springs Rehab and Health Care Center in Brick with 49 resident cases, 36 staff cases and nine resident deaths; and Hackensack Meridian Health Nursing and Rehabilitation in Red Bank with 79 resident cases, 43 staff cases and four resident deaths.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ COVID hospitalizations fall for third straight day