Key COVID number to watch: Jerseyans on ventilators at 298, most since last February

It can be argued that the astronomical number of new COVID-19 cases (24,710 were reported Sunday afternoon) is actually lower than the actual amount due to unreported positive results or even a failure to get tested.

It can be argued that the total hospitalizations (now 4,280, or the most since May 2020) is misleading. After all, patients who were admitted for other reasons and are asymptomatic are included in the count.

And it can be argued that hospitals are better equipped to handle this surge than ever before.

First lady tests positive

First lady Tammy Murphy tested positive for COVID-19 on a rapid antigen test Sunday, according to the Governor’s Office. She is asymptomatic. Gov. Phil Murphy and the rest of the family have tested negative, and they will continue to test regularly in the coming days. 

The governor and first lady tested themselves due to a recent known non-family contact in their home, the Governor’s Office said.

Since the governor is vaccinated and boosted, he is not required to quarantine per CDC guidance. Monday’s regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefing will shift to a virtual format and stream online.

This can’t be argued: The number of New Jerseyans on ventilators — those needing help just to breathe — is now at 298, or the most since there were 300 such patients on Feb. 18, 2021.

The state also reported there are 595 Jerseyans in intensive care, the highest number since Jan. 24, 2021, when there were 598.

The ventilator total is the most serious data connected to the latest surge of cases, caused by the Omicron variant. A surge most medical experts said is expected to continue for the rest of the month.

Gov. Phil Murphy, after returning from his eight-day vacation in Costa Rica on Friday, called the rapid increase in cases staggering — it was at just 9,711 (still a state record) when Murphy left on Dec. 22.

Hospitalizations are now higher that last winter’s surge — and are quickly approaching the numbers seen in the earliest months of the pandemic.

“The problem is, we don’t see any sign of letup,” Murphy said last Friday.

Murphy continues to push vaccinations (1 million New Jersey residents are unvaccinated, and 2 million residents who are eligible to receive a booster have not done so).

And testing.

“The best way we can get a handle on this phase of the pandemic is through testing,” Murphy said. “When you get tested and know your COVID status, you can take the necessary steps and precautions to limit the further spread.”

Last Friday, Murphy was at the opening of a federal testing site in East Orange.

The site, located in the East Orange Senior Center at 90 Halsted St., is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — and is expected to have up to 1,000 swab tests available each day. (Preregistration is requested, but not required. Click here for more info.)

Here is a look at the numbers. Days listed are the days the numbers were reported — they are from totals from 10 p.m. the night before.


The number of people hospitalized has been rising steadily since Thanksgiving, when only 825 people were hospitalized. Here are the milestone days since:

  • Topped 1,000: Nov. 30 (1,046)
  • Topped 1,500: Dec. 10 (1,526)
  • Topped 2,000: Dec. 21 (2,034)
  • Topped 2,500: Dec. 27 (2,654)
  • Topped 3,000: Dec. 29 (3,273)
  • Topped 3,500: Dec. 29 (3,604)
  • Topped 4,000: Jan. 1 (4,005)


  • Jan. 2: 24,710
  • Jan. 1: 29,740
  • Dec. 31: 28,512
  • Dec. 30: 27,975
  • Dec. 29: 20,483
  • Dec. 28: 11,889
  • Dec. 27: 8,831
  • Dec. 26: 12,538
  • Dec. 25: 16,626
  • Dec. 24: 15,482
  • Dec. 23: 9,711
  • Dec. 22: 6,840