New Jersey’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising once again — but it’s not surprising in the wake of spring weather and its holiday and travel-related activities.
Public health officials said that while the virus’ BA.2 variant continues to spread rapidly this spring, it’s not causing anywhere near the severe outcomes that the delta and omicron variants did in the past year. But the possibility of BA.2 morphing into another variant poses a threat and makes predictions — no matter how rooted in science — difficult.
“As long as COVID circulates, it’s still a risk,” said Dr. Jerry Zuckerman, vice president of infection prevention and control at Hackensack Meridian Health. “The two unknowns are, one, is the virus going to continue to evolve allowing new variants to emerge that are different from what we’ve seen? And two, how long will our immunity last with vaccine or prior infection?”
COVID numbers were expected to rise with the arrival of springtime. Hospitalizations have surpassed the 455 that had been forecast in the state’s moderate scenario, but that falls fall far short of the agency’s worst-case scenario which was around 1000.
Intensive care admissions and ventilator use among patients have also increased over the past month and were at 72 and 32, respectively, on Wednesday night. That’s still far less than what the state’s worst-case model had forecast.
Newly reported positive cases have been ranging from 2,000 to more than 3,000 daily — about two to four times what New Jersey was tallying in mid-March when cases dipped to their lowest since the omicron surge that began in December.
New Jersey Department of Health models had daily cases reaching 910 by April 27 under a moderate scenario and 3,854 by May 7 under a high scenario. Cases are much closer to the high number.
“Omicron was like having a new virus hit us,” Zuckerman said. “That’s not the case here. Thankfully, we have not seen an increase in the severity of the disease. It’s on a different trajectory for now. BA.2 is a subvariant of omicron.
Because so many people were infected at the height of the omicron surge in December and January, there is a considerable immunity built up in the state’s population.