New Jersey hospitals handling influx of COVID patients, bracing for post-holiday surge

New Jersey COVID-19 live updates, news and information
TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- As COVID numbers rise throughout New Jersey, hospitals have seen an uptick in patients who can't fight the virus at home over the past month.

"We really have learned a lot about how to take care of COVID patients over the last nine months," said Dr. John Matsinger, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Virtua Health.

Matsinger said the hospitals are ready, and much more so than in the spring. Hospitals in New Jersey are now required by the state to have a 90-day stockpile of PPE on hand, and they've fully resumed normal hospital operations and surgeries.

His big worry now: COVID fatigue and Thanksgiving.

"We all have fears that people won't continue with the social distancing and wearing masks. That could cause the spike to be larger," said Matsinger, who also worries that staff members could become infected around the holidays.

WATCH: How COVID is impacting holiday gatherings, travel

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How COVID is impacting holiday gatherings, travel. Bob Brooks reports for Action News on Nov. 10, 2020.



State health officials said several New Jersey hospitals have been on divert status this week - meaning incoming patients are temporarily sent to other hospitals for treatment.

"General increase overall in volume and certainly exacerbated by increase in COVID patients," said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli on Thursday during the state's COVID-19 briefing in Trenton.

St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton was one of those hospitals, on divert eight hours on Wednesday - due to an overall influx in patients and COVID-19.

New Jersey's hospitalization numbers have risen since the beginning of September, but they're nowhere near the peak the state saw in the spring, when hospitals were packed and field hospitals staffed by the National Guard were used for overflow.

AtlantiCare officials in Atlantic County said they're starting to see more COVID patients and people coming in with flu-like symptoms. One of AtlantiCare's two hospitals was also on divert for a short time this week, but officials said that's not unusual, even pre-pandemic.

They do say in some cases, people will come to the emergency department when an urgent care or primary doctor would suffice.

"We're trying to get the patient to the most appropriate place to get their care instead of reflexively coming to the emergency department," said Dr. Thomas Brabson, Chairman of Emergency Services at AtlantiCare.

"Obviously if we're at the appropriate level of care that helps with the emergency department capacity and our in-patient capacity," said AtlantiCare Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Jim Kilmer.

AtlantiCare officials emphasized that you should call ahead if you're going to a hospital or urgent care with COVID symptoms. But if you're having a true medical emergency - like a heart attack or stroke - you should not hesitate to head to the ER right away.

WATCH: New COVID-19 restrictions begin in New Jersey

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New COVID-19 restrictions begin in New Jersey today



Dining restrictions in effect

New restrictions went into effect in New Jersey on Thursday in an attempt to control a COVID-19 resurgence in the Garden State.

All restaurants and bars must close indoor dining from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Bar seating will be prohibited at all hours.

Kevin Meeker, owner of Keg and Kitchen in Haddon Township says for his business, the new restrictions are going to hurt.

"I used to have 50 people on the payroll. It gets smaller and smaller as these restrictions are forced onto us," said Meeker.

He just doesn't think it's fair small businesses continue to suffer.

"We've been open and not one employee has been sick. And we've been here since May. If he shuts down businesses, who's going to make the money? Target, Walmart, and the little guy is going to be hurt," added Meeker.

The new restrictions also impact indoor youth sports. College and professional teams were not covered by the order.

READ MORE: Gov. Phil Murphy imposes new COVID-19 restrictions: Everything you should know

Murphy said Thursday he will sign an executive order to give towns and cities the option to limit hours at non-essential businesses after 8 p.m. Murphy's decision is a change from the spring when he ordered statewide closures and declined to adopt a regional approach.

"As the governor said, since Monday we have reported more than 10,000 new cases. This is a wake-up call. We need your help," pleaded New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judy Persichilli.

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