As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its 19th month, hospitalizations continue to slowly rise in New Jersey, all 21 counties have high transmission rates and over the past week the average number of residents testing positive for the virus every day has topped 2,000.

Some wonder when things will ever get back to normal, and when we will get to the point where COVID will be considered a seasonal illness, something that is manageable, much like influenza.

According to Dr. Ed Lifshitz , the director of communicable disease services for the state Health Department, there is no easy answer to the question.

“It’s a bigger question as to what is acceptable as far as death and illness and overall bad events,” he said.

Lifshitz said he takes some exception to comparing COVID to the flu “because you’re comparing it to the worst communicable disease prior to COVID that’s occurred on a regular basis in the United States and in New Jersey.”

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He pointed out in a typical bad flu season about a thousand Garden State residents die from flu related complications, but lately the state has been averaging 4,000-5,000 COVID deaths a year.

“If we were to get down to a thousand, would I consider that a success ...? I certainly wouldn’t be happy with that, I’d want to go further,” he said.

"Those thousand deaths a year that we get in a bad flu season, they shouldn’t be a thousand, they should be lower than a thousand, and COVID should be lower than that as well," Lifshitz said.

Murphy said he firmly believes COVID will eventually be considered an illness that’s manageable, “but the distance between today and that, and the complexities between that and today should not be underestimated.”

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