General Business

New Jersey calls public well being emergency amid omicron hospital surge

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks to volunteers as he meets with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka during the gubernatorial election in Newark, New Jersey November 2, 2021.

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey reinstated a public health emergency Tuesday as hospitals struggle to keep up with an influx of patients as Covid cases surge amid a persistent shortage of medical staff.

The recent spike is being fueled by the rise of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has in its possession These account for about 95% of the sequenced Covid-19 cases in the US Although vaccines, and especially booster doses, provide statistical protection against serious illness and death, experts say the sheer volume of cases is overwhelming hospitals.

Murphy said the state is seeing nearly 35,000 new Covid cases a day and more than 10,000 residents have been hospitalized in the past two weeks.

The re-declaration allows the governor to exercise certain emergency powers, including mask mandates in schools.

Murphy said the renewed state of emergency will have “no new impact at all” on local residents’ daily lives.

“That’s what it doesn’t mean,” he said. “It doesn’t mean new universal mandates or passports. It means no bans. It means no business restrictions or collection limits.”

Half of the hospital beds at Newark University Hospital are filled with patients who have been diagnosed with Covid-19, some of whom were admitted for something else but subsequently tested positive, said hospital president Dr. Shereef Elnahal in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk box” On Wednesday.

But Elnahal said the Covid infection itself is not his main concern.

“Actually, I’m more worried about a health issue than a Covid-19 issue,” Elnahal told CNBC Becky Swift. “Right now we see our workforce demoralized. There is no light at the end of the tunnel to paint now like I did in Spring 2020.”

He said the industry is losing talented clinicians between the ages of 45 and 60, “often the most energetic and knowledgeable people in the hospital.” That’s a problem that may actually outlast omicron, “which appears to have already plateaued, at least in cases in the New York metro area.”

Elnahal said nearly 10% of his hospital’s staff are traveling with Covid, bringing the hospital closer to a staff crisis with “awkward” staff-to-patient ratios.

Elnahal said he would like the government to come up with a “clear definition” of the endgame in relation to Covid-19.

“Which case level defines the endemic case?” What does this mean for healthcare regulations and what can we do, what should we avoid? How much capacity should we create? What is the guidance for healthcare organizations that will be dealing with this pandemic but also with the aftermath?” are some of the questions he wants answered.

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WATCH: University Hospital CEO on Covid staff crisis: Our workforce is demoralized