Persichilli: Omicron surge should peak around Jan. 14

Health commissioner says state’s model indicates between 6,000-9,000 could eventually be hospitalized

Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Monday the state’s models show it expects the fast-moving and fast-spreading Omicron variant to peak around Jan. 14.

“Hopefully, the trajectory comes down as fast as it goes up,” she said.

The impact, however, could still be great.

The state reported Monday morning that the number of hospitalizations is up to 4,715, an increase of more than 10% from Sunday’s total of 4,280 — but a 78% increase from last Monday.

Persichilli said modeling by the state shows the number of hospitalizations could be between 6,000 and 9,000 at its peak.

Gov. Phil Murphy said those numbers — at already short-staffed and overstressed health care facilities — are a major concern. He urged residents to be even more cautious. And to not follow the daily case counts, as those are almost certainly an undercount.

Murphy called Monday’s new confirmed case count of 22,625 just a floor.

“We need everyone to really take to heart the need to mask up, to get boosted and to just practice basic common sense,” he said. “Yes, the data shows us that illnesses due to Omicron do not lead to hospitalization at the rates that we had seen with prior variants, and most directly when compared against Delta.

“But — and this is a very big ‘but’ — when we are seeing case counts as high as we are, and knowing the real number is much higher, whatever solace we get from a lower hospitalization rate goes out the window. The sheer numbers of new cases are directly leading to hospitalization figures we have not seen in well over a year.”

Nearly two years, actually. Monday’s hospitalization rate was the highest it has been since 4,722 were hospitalized on May 7, 2020.

While the Jerseyans in intensive care jumped significantly to 644, from 587, the number of people on ventilators dropped to 284, from 298.

Until Omicron peaks, Murphy said residents need to be vigilant.

“Here’s our message,” he said. “Take Omicron seriously. Wear your masks. Get your booster. Don’t take a cavalier attitude. And go get tested.

“The symptoms between a cold and Omicron may not be much, but there is a world of difference between the two.”

Murphy said he is tested daily — and that he remains negative. First lady Tammy Murphy tested positive Sunday. The governor said she has been asymptomatic to this point.