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COVID In New Jersey: Hospital Official Expresses Concern As Cases Climb Because There's No Backup Available This Time Around

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - New Jersey reported more than 3,000 new COVID infections Friday.

The state's daily case numbers remain at their highest levels since April.

Now, hospitals in the northern part of the state, are being hit hard.

As CBS2's Nick Caloway reports, the number of new infections is rising in Newark, and more people are ending up in the hospital and the ICU.

More: De Blasio Says NYC Parents Should Be Ready 'As Early As Monday' For All-Remote Learning

University Hospital in Newark, which was hard-hit in the spring, passed a milestone in early September: Zero COVID patients for four days. Then came the second wave.

"We're actually approaching 40 as of this morning, Nick. And we're still seeing positivity rates increase out of our community health clinic," said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of UH Newark, the state's only public hospital.


As more coronavirus patients come in, he worries about having enough staff when cases peak again. That's because there won't be as much out-of-state help on the front lines as we had in the spring.

"We, as you mentioned, benefited from agency staffing, folks coming from out of state, the U.S. Army Reserves when the New York and New Jersey area were the global epicenter. But the pandemic was not yet affecting most of the country. Now that's not the case. We're seeing increases in almost every state," Dr. Elnahal said.

In New Jersey, hospitalizations are soaring. On Oct. 1, there were 523 COVID patients in New Jersey hospital beds. That number has since surged to more than 1,900 patients.

More: Tighter COVID-19 Restrictions Go Into Effect Across New Jersey As Cases Continue To Climb

At University Hospital, more patients are getting sicker and ending up in intensive care.

But the news isn't all bad.

"It is encouraging that the death rate is dropping. And that's primarily because the increase in cases has not yet hit, as much, vulnerable and older populations as it was in the spring," Dr. Elnahal said.

Watch Nick Caloway's report -- 

CBS2's Jessica Layton reports Jersey City is seeing its largest caseload of the second wave so far, adding 100 new infections to its daily tally.

"We're seeing a lot more people out than we would have expected," said Stacey Flanagan, director of Jersey City's health and human services department.

She says contact tracers are finding a large number of people who have recently tested positive have been shopping, and possibly spreading.

Specifically, they're going to strip malls or stores that offer food, clothing or housewares under one roof.

"So all of those things kind of push someone into that store, which also might keep them in the store a little longer," Flanagan said. "You're spending hours in a store inside with other people."

The mayor of Jersey City warned about big box stores, as well as indoor gatherings, which have proven to be a problem all over the state.

Meanwhile, four popular restaurants owned by the Harvest Group have temporarily closed after several employees became ill.

Roots, a popular steakhouse in Summit, posted any customers who were in the bar area between Nov. 3 and Nov. 12 should be tested.

Back in Jersey City, officials say common sense can still rule over the coronavirus.

"Keep your guard up, keep your mask up," Flanagan said.

As the second wave hits New Jersey, Newark has become the epicenter of the state's outbreak, where new restrictions are in place on restaurants and non-essential businesses, and curfews enacted in three zip codes. Statewide, restaurants must end indoor dining after 10 p.m.

It's all in an effort to flatten the curve, yet again.

Beginning this weekend, state officials will be ramping up efforts to enforce those new restrictions in Newark and across the state.

Health officials say they do plan to set up more testing sites between now and the holidays.


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