Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that the state will allow the resumption of elective surgical and other invasive procedures, effective May 26.
Murphy said the Department of Health, in coordination with the Division of Consumer Affairs, will provide guidance no later than May 18 as to how these procedures may resume, and under what conditions.
Murphy, speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing Friday, said the guidance will take into account the needs for protecting all patients from COVID-19, for providing PPE to staff, for prioritizing procedures and for allowing visitors.
“Allowing for these procedures to resume is a big step forward for public health,” he said.
It also is a big step for hospitals to improve their bottom line.
Elective surgeries and procedures are a big part of a hospital’s income. The inability to do them for nearly two months caused a large financial strain, numerous hospital executives said.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said facilities must develop plans to test patients 72 hours before surgery, quarantine patients three days before the surgery and conduct symptom screening on the day of surgery.
Murphy said he made the decision based on the continual lowering of key statistics.
New COVID-19 hospitalizations are down nearly 70% from peak — they dropped below 4,000 this week. And they are down more than 40% in just the past two weeks. Overall, hospitalizations are down by more than half since the peak, and more than a third in the past two weeks.
In addition, the number of patients needing intensive care, or a ventilator, are both well off where they were both from the peak.
“This data relates directly to the slowing spread of COVID-19 that you have made possible by sticking to social distancing and doing all the other seemingly small things — like washing your hands, or wearing a face covering when out — that you have made part of your routines,” he said.
“Moreover, it means that our hospitals are no longer on a crisis footing. It means that our health care system, while still clearly focused on the tasks that still lay ahead, can also begin to assist more residents with their non-COVID-19 and non-emergency needs.”