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New Jersey Reports Record-High COVID Cases: 'I Think We're In For A Brutal 2-3 Months,' Gov. Murphy Says

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- For the second day in a row, New Jersey is reporting record-high COVID-19 cases, with 5,673 positive tests and 48 new deaths.

As CBS2's Meg Baker reported Friday, the outlook for the coming months is bleak.

"I think we're in for a brutal two or three months. People have gone indoors. We're in the holiday season, enormous pandemic fatigue, a lot of transmission in private settings. So no matter how good you are at enforcing your rules of the road, we can't get in everybody's living room," said Gov. Phil Murphy.

On Friday there were more than 5,000 positive cases and more than 3,000 patients hospitalized, with 615 in intensive care and 386 on ventilators -- the highest percentage of people in ICUs in six months. The positivity rate jumped for tests conducted on Monday jumped to 10.42%.

MORE: More Than 170 Staffers At 3 New Jersey Hospitals Test Positive

New models show COVID cases spiking in New Jersey now and staying very high through February, sending thousands into hospitals. Gov. Murphy said behavior can change that future for better or worse.

Watch: Gov. Phil Murphy Holds COVID Briefing

"Stay away form each other. If you wear your face masks, if you continue to have small holiday celebrations with your own family or the bubble with whom ... inside of which you are living, and you don't travel. If you don't feel well, you take yourself off the field, and at the appropriate point get tested, those are the basic things," Murphy said.

"Just stay at it. I know people are fatigued, frustrated, sick and tired of this, but we are getting there," he added.

MORECoronavirus Impact: All Indoor Youth Sports In New Jersey Suspended From Saturday Through Jan. 2

Newark took the extreme measure of a 10 day lockdown to get its numbers down. Mayor Ras Baraka says it worked -- keeping people inside and away from large gatherings mitigated the significant rise in cases.

"The winter months are gonna be tough. We need to buckle down and keep each other safe," Baraka said.

"We're seeing the low blood-oxygen levels, the air-starvation symptoms. That is really kind of scary," Dr. Alexander Salerno of Salerno Medical Associates told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

Salerno said that's driving people straight into our hospitals. At his offices in Newark and East Orange, Salerno was testing 150 people a day a month ago. Now, it's about 800 a day.

"The volume is just off the charts. For every 100 people we're testing, about 40 are positive," Salerno said.


Dr. Perry Halkitis with Rutgers School of Public Health said a vaccine priority plan is imperative to get this virus under control. First health care workers, then what he calls front-line workers.

"People who work in restaurants and in big box stores and deliver our mail... in some ways, are at much greater risk," he said.

"How should the state get the word out that it's necessary for everyone to get vaccinated?" Baker asked.

"Oh, vaccine hesitancy is nothing new in our society," he said.

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Dr. Halkitis said local health departments will need to work with community leaders to do boots on the ground soliciting, and use someone like Elvis.

Yes, Elvis.

"In 1956, Elvis Presley on TV, took the Salk vaccine, and that affected how people thought about the vaccination. So I want, I want some stars like Taylor Swift, you know, Kanye perhaps, and Beyonce, to come forward and take the vaccination live on TV and encourage especially young people to be vaccinated," Dr. Halkitis said.

Murphy said the numbers Friday do not include cases caused by Thanksgiving gatherings. Those are likely still in the incubation period, so expect another spike in cases in the coming days.

More: New York City, New Jersey Working On Ways To Shorten COVID-19 Testing Lines

As for vaccinations in New Jersey, the governor said all are signed up automatically, and if you don't want the vaccine, you must opt out. But this way, vaccinations will be organized.

"Opted-in system -- make sure first dose second dose -- same-source mixing and crossing wires, something we have to avoid," Murphy said.

A state vaccine prioritization plan is still in the works. Dr. Halkitis said social justice and health equity must be kept in mind.

"Think about the populations that are most at risk. And again, frontline workers people who work in restaurants people work in stores. Often, people who are black or brown are at extremely high risk," he said.

Murphy said vaccines are still not a light switch to lift advisories. It will take months still to get back to any sort of normal.


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