NJ gets another 200 ventilators — and says it desperately needs them
New Jersey has secured another 200 ventilators from the federal government, Gov. Phil Murphy said Sunday — putting the state closer to overcoming one of its most significant challenges in the novel coronavirus crisis.
It's unclear just how severe New Jersey's need for ventilators, critical care beds and conventional hospital beds will be as the novel coronavirus approaches its peak in New Jersey, with projections anticipating a broad range of possibilities.
In best-case scenario Gov. Phil Murphy described just last week, New Jersey would have seen its peak need for hospital beds around April 10, with 9,000 people hospitalized at once — a possibility Murphy said only came about because of extensive social distancing and government-mandated shutdowns of businesses and schools. That's well within the state's normal capacity for beds. But a worst-case projection puts the peak toward the end of this month, with a need twice as high as the state's normal allotment of beds.
Still, Murphy and other officials have stressed that with FEMA-backed field hospitals going up, closed hospitals and closed wings of running hospitals reopening, and plans to use hospital and dorm rooms for patients in recovery, New Jersey would have enough places to put its ill and injured.
Ventilators, Murphy has said, remain the big concern — even with plans in place to convert anesthesia equipment and to share individual ventilators among multiple patients.
"Ventilators are our number one need right now. We won’t stop fighting to get the equipment we need to save every life we can," Murphy said in a tweet Sunday.
The need persists, state officials say, even after several awards of hundreds of ventilators from the federal stockpile. In all, New Jersey had asked for about 2,300 ventilators to supplement its hospitals' existing supply of about 2,000. A state bioethics panel has been working to craft rules for who would qualify to receive care in the event supply runs out.
In all, the Trump administration has agreed to send New Jersey 1,550 of the ventilators it has sought, NJ.com reported Sunday.
Saturday, state Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli said New Jersey had just 61 ventilators in storage.
"On ventilators at least, we're literally at the edge," Murphy said during his daily media briefing.
According to the state Department of Health, patients in New Jersey were using 1,644 ventilators as of Saturday night — 56 percent of the state's capacity. More than 7,600 were hospitalized, and about 1,9000 of them in critical care or intensive care. The state said 823 ICU beds were being used, and just 306 available — though it has plans in place to expand capacity as needed.
Murphy and other state officials have said in recent days New Jersey appears to be flattening its curve — with the proportionate growth of new infections and deaths slowing relative to the existing base. Even so, each day for the past several days, New Jersey has measured new deaths in the hundreds, and new confirmed infections in the thousands.
At the current rate, it takes only a little more than a week for New Jersey coronavirus deaths to outpace flu and pneunomia deaths combined for an entire season.
New Jersey continues to see the second-most cases of any state. Neighboring New York has the highest count in the United States, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases as of Sunday.
When will New Jersey reopen?
Murphy has said he has a team working on plans to reopen New Jersey's economy, schools and institutions, but he told CNN Sunday morning that health care recovery must occur before economic recovery takes place, and he's concerned that reopening and relaxing social distancing too early could backfire.
“And I fear, if we open up too early, and we have not sufficiently made that health recovery and cracked the back of this virus, that we could be pouring gasoline on the fire, even inadvertently,” Murphy said.
The governor said his administration devoted significant attention this weekend to planning about how to keep people safe once restrictions begin to be lifted.
Murphy also told CBS that he supports a regional approach to reopening and that he has been having “discussions with our neighboring states on the whole question of testing, contact tracing, what are the rules of the road going to be for things like bars and restaurants."
Connecticut Gov. Phil Lamont — who has been coordinating efforts with New York and New Jersey leadership — suggested on Twitter Saturday more specific plans for getting residents could be coming soon:
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