PRINCETON – One year ago on April 14, 2020, New Jersey confronted the height of the COVID outbreak in our state. On that date, COVID hospitalizations reached a record 8,270 patients, straining the healthcare system in ways it had never experienced. Hospitals scrambled to add intensive care beds in cafeterias and hallways. Without that emergency action, New Jersey would have run out of ICU beds last April 14.
Those are among the insights in a new report from the New Jersey Hospital Association, Loss, Lessons, Lives Saved: New Jersey’s Pandemic Year. The report recounts the early weeks of the pandemic when New Jersey was one of the first states to see surging levels of COVID. The report details hospital efforts that allowed the state to narrowly escape running out of ICU beds and the innovations by clinical teams that led to improvements in treatment that saved lives.
Those efforts produced dramatic results: More than 66,000 lives saved among patients with severe COVID disease were discharged successfully in the first year of the pandemic in New Jersey, including 7,000 projected deaths averted as hospitals improved treatment and outcomes to bend the COVID mortality curve.
“New Jersey has endured a year of loss, fear, stress and isolation – but there also is light in this dark year,” said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett. “New Jersey hospitals and their care teams faced a never-before-seen virus with courage, skill and an unyielding drive to save lives. Tens of thousands of our fellow New Jerseyans are still here today, thanks to their efforts.”
The report reviews lessons learned in the past year that are important as New Jersey currently confronts a new wave of COVID activity. It also shares recollections from frontline heroes and patients from Cooper University Health Care in Camden, Hackensack University Medical Center and RWJBarnabas Health Community Medical Center in Toms River.
Key developments covered in the report include:
- On New Jersey’s peak date for COVID hospitalizations April 14, 2020, New Jersey hospitals would have been short 251 ICU beds if hospitals had not converted spaces into surge capacity.
- 86 percent of patients hospitalized with severe coronavirus illness were successfully treated and discharged, totaling more than 66,000 individuals.
- J. hospitals increased the percent of patients discharged alive from 73.7 percent in April 2020 to 88.6 percent in February 2021. That increase in the survival rate projects out to 7,000 deaths averted.
- The innovation and leadership shown by New Jersey clinicians helped reduce the need for invasive ventilation (a 49.1 percent reduction from April 2020 to mid-March 2021) and ICU admissions (an 83.3 percent reduction from April 2020 to mid-March 2021.)
The full report can be found at https://www.njha.com/chart/special/pandemic/.