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Head Of University Hospital Says New Jersey's Second Wave Is Here: 'This Is About To Get Worse'

PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- New Jersey reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Tuesday.

It's the third day in a row that number has surpassed 1,000 as hospitalizations increase and more schools are delaying reopening.

A surge in new COVID cases has flooded New Jersey, reported CBS2's Nick Caloway. More schools are facing the possibility of closing again.

It's no longer just a few hotspot counties causing the virus to spread in New Jersey. The problem is now widespread, from north Jersey to south.

But experts say a second wave is here.


"This is not something we didn't expect. We expected a second wave to happen in the fall. But the question is how bad it gets. That means peak, and how quickly we get to that peak," said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital, Newark

Dr. Elnahal says the hospital is already nearly at capacity with non-COVID patients. Now the COVID hospitalizations are increasing again.

"Signs are pointing that this is about to get worse," Dr. Elnahal told CBS2's John Dias. "When you start to hit levels of 3 or 4% positivity, you can expect even more admissions. And most concerningly, John, we did have one COVID-19 death last week for the first time in many weeks."

"The other patients will have to delay their care even more," Dr. Elnahal added.

State health officials say it's mostly indoor gatherings and parties contributing to the spike, not schools or businesses.

New Jersey's governor says that makes it harder to contain.

"As far as we can tell, these are mostly gatherings that are beyond our ability to effectively regulate or easily enforce compliance," said Gov. Phil Murphy

Schools may not be driving the outbreak, but they are affected by it. New Jersey's largest public school district, Newark, has joined Paterson in delaying reopening until at least January.

More suburban districts could be next.


Paramus public schools sent a letter to parents warning that the statewide spike in cases means a greater likelihood that schools and/or entire districts may be ordered back to full remote learning for all students.

Parents CBS2's Nick Caloway talked to say they're worried, but safety comes first.

"It will definitely be difficult to work, as a working parent, from home and have kids at home. But again, safety is number oone. So if we have to close the schools, we close the schools," said Paramus parent Igor Fridlyand.

As for potential restrictions or closures, the governor told Caloway he hopes to avoid any rollbacks or closures like we saw in the spring, but further limiting the capacity of gatherings is on the table.

"Don't gather indoors, even if it's your family," Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday. "Particularly concerned with holidays coming up."

As cases in New Jersey soar, the website classifies several counties, including Essex, at risk of an outbreak. The daily positive rate has nearly doubled since last month.

"It is scary and I don't know how it's going to become," said Newark resident Madge Williams.

Williams and her boyfriend say they only leave the house if it's a necessity, like going to the doctor Tuesday, fearing they may close again.

"I'm trying to do everything I can before it does shut down," Keno Johnson said.

New Jersey and Connecticut now technically qualify for the Tri-State travel advisory list, where travelers from states with rising infection rates must quarantine for two weeks.

Gov. Ned Lamont wants to ease the advisory rules so fewer states are on the list.

MORE: Tri-State Coronavirus Travel Advisory

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the situation in New Jersey a problem, but said you can't limit access within the Tri-State.

While commuters to New York will not have to quarantine, local leaders are urging people to avoid leisure travel.

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