The number of people hospitalized in New Jersey with COVID-19 continued an encouraging — and steep —downward trend overnight Sunday, to 5,307. That's the fifth consecutive day with fewer hospitalized COVID patients, after an update of Saturday's numbers by the state Health Department to 5,388.
It also marks a 13% decline since the peak of 6,089 patients on Jan. 11.
Among those hospitalized Sunday, 900 were in intensive care, down six from the prior day, and 560 needed ventilators to breathe, also down six.
The steep decline in patients mirrors the sharp rise in patients earlier this month, the latest wave of the pandemic driven in part by the spread of the omicron variant. When plotted out in a graph, the current wave of the pandemic stands out as distinctive because of how sharply it rose and fell, while prior waves look more like rolling hills that gradually increased and declined over a longer period.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced an additional 32 deaths attributed to COVID in New Jersey. That brings the total number of New Jerseyans who died during the pandemic to 30,120.
Murphy also announced Monday there were 8,267 new COVID infections confirmed through PCR tests, and 1,155 confirmed through antigen tests. That's the fourth consecutive day of declining new cases, and a 75% drop from the peak of 33,459 cases confirmed through PCR tests on Jan. 7. It's also the lowest daily total since Dec. 21.
Of course, the numbers provide an incomplete picture of the extent of new cases, since they don't include results from at-home test kits or those who are infected but didn't get tested.
Another encouraging sign is that for the fifth consecutive day fewer health care workers reported out sick with COVID, easing the strain on hospitals caring for COVID patients. On Sunday, there were 116 new infections reported among hospital workers, down from 151 the prior day, and 245, 307 and 536 in the days before that. New cases among hospital staff peaked at 853 on Jan. 6.
Hardest hit over the past 30 days has been University Hospital, with 711 workers infected, followed by Morristown Medical Center with 650, St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson with 627, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with 586, Hackensack University Medical Center with 572, and St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton with 550.
Story continues below chart
Data from other countries have shown that the latest COVID surge, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, has lasted about a month. South Africa, where scientists first detected omicron in late November, reached its peak in late December and has seen case counts plunge. Likewise, it took about a month for omicron to peak in the U.K before key COVID numbers began to drop sharply this week.
Many currently hospitalized patients who have COVID were admitted to the hospital because of other medical conditions. State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said last 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.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ COVID hospitalizations decline for fifth day in a row