HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- How bad could things get in New Jersey?
Anyway you cut it, COVID-19 cases will continue to surge through the next few months. Moderate models and worst case scenarios are both pretty bleak.
As CBS2's Meg Baker reported Wednesday, the forecast by state health officials shows daily case counts reaching between 6,000 and 9,000, and hospitalizations reaching as high as 7,000 in the next two months -- and that's the moderate model.
"These envision a path where all of us do a little more to continue with our masking and social distancing, where more of us use common sense and smart decision making during holidays. Stay with our immediate households and not take part in indoor gatherings where we know this virus loves to hang out," Gov. Phil Murphy said.
Watch: N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy Give COVID Update
A worst case scenario predicts cases soaring above 12,000 before Feb. 1, with the potential for more than 8,700 hospitalizations.
"Remember the peak in spring, on April 14. That was 8,270. Both of those numbers several hundred higher than what we saw at the worst of it in the spring," Murphy said.
Either scenario puts a major strain on our health care system.
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"There is no easily accessed reinforcements. Unlike the first surge, every state in the nation is experiencing the burden of this disease," said N.J. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Officials warn that holiday behavior can alter the outcome and save lives.
"The joy that you, in your own way, help to protect others and support the doctors and the nurses, and the health care workers, by stopping the spread of this disease in your communities," Persichilli said.
The governor said the initial vaccinations show minimal impact on either model.
The troubling forecast has some municipalities taking extra precautions.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is encouraging employees of businesses to get tested at a new site at 124 Grand St. after contact tracing indicated that recent cases were linked to employees at bars and restaurants.
"We want to make sure that not just all residents, but also people who work for businesses in Hoboken are protected and safe, and also can provide that measure of safety to residents and customers as well," Bhalla said.
The models last week had New Jersey peaking around 5,400 daily cases by mid-December and 5,000 hospitalizations by New Year's Day, but the Garden State has already surpassed this, with a record-breaking weekend of 6,000 cases Saturday, and high numbers throughout this week so far.
Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of Rutgers School of Public Health, said the Health Department was too conservative in its estimate.
"I don't think they recognize how much risk was actually occurring because the models were based on previous behavior, and we had no previous behavior around Thanksgiving or the holidays. And as a result, they just assumed people were going to be engaging in mitigation strategies," Dr. Halkitis said.
Many of these cases are attributed to Thanksgiving gatherings.
"Is this a warning for the upcoming holidays?" Baker asked.
Dr. Halkitis said he believes the next two months will probably be the worst in the nation and in New Jersey.
"This is a huge warning for us about the holidays," he added.
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