'Omicron tsunami': 2 pediatric deaths as NJ COVID hospitalizations surge

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey is in the middle of an "omicron tsunami," Governor Phil Murphy said during his weekly COVID-19 briefing Monday, this as the state reported a spike in hospitalizations and more concerning, in pediatric cases.

Murphy said more residents are hospitalized right now than at any point since the end of April 2020, and over the past week alone, both the ICU and ventilator numbers are up significantly and have roughly doubled since Christmas.

"It's a sad moment when we are grateful the spot positivity rate is down to 30%," he said. "I mean, my God, the levels of folks testing positive is through the roof."

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported the highest number of pediatric COVID hospitalizations since the pandemic began, and she said there have sadly been two pediatric fatalities, though she did not offer any more information.

Hospitalizations have increased steadily throughout the past week, with 5,155 patients on January 3 skyrocketing to 6,075 reported Sunday. Officials said 843 patients were in the ICU, with 474 on ventilators.

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About one in every five Americans has now tested positive for COVID-19 as children under five are being hospitalized with the virus at record high numbers.


Officials said the percentage of infections among individuals who have at least completed their primary vaccination courses has been creeping up over the past several weeks, but the unvaccinated are testing positive by a rate of more than two to one.

New Jersey also reported an additional 29 COVID-related deaths, bringing the cumulative total to 26,625.

Since schools have reopened at the end of the summer, there have been 384 total outbreaks impacting just under 1,900 students and just over 340 staff. Still, Murphy said masks will still be required in schools because of the omicron variant.

"The mandate is going to have to stay in place for some amount of time," he said. "We are in the thick of this latest fight of this omicron tsunami washing across the state."

Roughly 168,000 more New Jersey residents got booster shots over the past week.

Elsewhere in the state, Newark's vaccine requirement to enter certain establishments took effect Monday.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka reminded residents, visitors, and businesses proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is required for customers age 5 and older to enter certain establishments and facilities, including bars, restaurants, nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms and exercise establishments, indoor event sites, and all indoor public spaces, among others. A full list can be found here.

The city said it will continue to monitor the impact that the rise in the positivity rate is having on its residents, and it will revisit the impact and effectiveness of the mandate on February 1.

"Most recently, our three-day test positivity rate has risen to more than 36%, and we can't afford for COVID-19 to exponentially spread throughout our community if everyone is not vaccinated," Baraka said. "We know that the vaccine is another form of protection and although it may not stop someone from contracting the virus, it can keep you from being hospitalized. We will continue to be guided by data, and will continue to do what is necessary to prevent further spread to protect the people of Newark, those who work here, and visit."

Establishments affected by the executive order must prominently post signage at their entrances notifying the public of the vaccination entry requirement. Masks are also still required at all times for all residents and visitors over the age of 2 years old while indoors at any public facility in the city.

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Additionally, all patrons must be seated at a bar and wear masks unless they are actually eating or drinking.

In Orange, the mayor said that due to the increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the area, all municipal buildings will be closed to employees and the public through Friday, January 14, 2022, and will reopen Monday, January 17, 2022, safety permitting.

Buildings closed to the public will include: City Hall, the Orange Police Station, The Orange Municipal Court, The Orange Fire House, the Orange Public Library, and The Brook Alley Public Works Facility.

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