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January 03, 2022

COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record high in South Jersey as omicron surges

In Pennsylvania, the first FEMA strike teams are set to assist hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus

Health News COVID-19
COVID Update Hospitalizations NJ PA Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached an all-time high in South Jersey. In Philadelphia, COVID-19 hospitalizations have nearly doubled within one week amid the omicron surge.

Hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are filling with COVID-19 patients and facing staffing and capacity issues amid the ongoing omicron surge.

As of Sunday night, South Jersey hospitals had 1,055 COVID-19 patients, the highest total since the pandemic began. In Philadelphia, 949 people were hospitalized Monday with COVID-19 – nearly double the 509 people hospitalized just one week ago. 

On the state level, New Jersey had 4,715 COVID-19 hospitalizations – the highest total since early May 2020, when the pandemic was in its infancy. The state's highest total came in April 2020, when COVID-19 hospitalizations surpassed 8,000. 

In Pennsylvania, there were 5,629 people hospitalized Monday with COVID-19, including more than 1,000 patients in intensive care units.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy emphasized the need to address hospital capacity and staffing concerns amid a surge that isn't expected to peak until mid-January. He noted the importance of "intensification on our hospital campuses, which is one way for us to address the staffing challenges." 

Health Commissioner Judy Persichelli said she is working to coordinate strike teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist New Jersey hospitals overwhelmed by the latest COVID-19 surge. 

That's a strategy that is getting underway in Pennsylvania. Two FEMA strike teams are expected to begin assisting hospitals in York and Scranton early this week. Additional teams are slated to aid other hospitals that have sounded the alarm about capacity and staffing issues. 

Public officials in both states are working to increase testing capacity, too. 

New Jersey recently opened a federal testing site in East Orange, Essex County. Murphy said he wants to add large-scale testing facilities in South Jersey, too. Camden County is opening two new testing sites this week to meet the surging demand.  

In the Philly suburbs, a new drive-thru testing site is now open at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Yeadon, Delaware County. The clinic is located between St. Bernard's Hall and Friendship Circle. 

In the last two weeks, 38% of COVID-19 tests in Philadelphia have come back positive, health officials said

Murphy's briefing, held over Zoom, came following the announcement that his wife, Tammy, had tested positive for COVID-19. Murphy said he expects to hold his next COVID-19 briefing Jan. 10 in-person in Trenton, unless circumstances change. 

In Montgomery County, Commissioner Chair Val Arkoosh, who is running for U.S. Senate, announced that she has tested positive for COVID-19. In a tweet, she said she feels fine, attributing her health to the vaccine and booster shot she has received. 

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