COVID cases are surging in the Garden State, and recent modeling indicates things could soon get significantly worse.

During the coronavirus update on Monday, officials announced another 2,968 new positive cases, with 1,650 individuals now hospitalized with the virus.

What's causing the uptick?

As the delta variant continues to circulate in New Jersey, state epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan said we’re seeing COVID cases increase because of large gatherings that took place for Thanksgiving.

“But also the fact that we know there is some waning immunity, so that’s why the importance of getting that booster shot is really critical for us to get ahead of the epidemic curve," she said.

'We cannot allow our healthcare system to get overrun.'

What do state health officials fear?

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said hospitalizations have increased more than 37% over the past week alone, and if the trend continues we could easily have 3,500 New Jerseyans hospitalized with COVID by mid-January.

She said if infection rates start to increase there could be "10,000 cases a day and maybe 5,000 individuals in our hospitals.”

She said the Health Department is keeping in close contact with all hospitals “and we have what we call a trigger plan, so we would know how the hospital is doing regionally. I’m on a call with the regional collaborators on a weekly basis about capacity, and every hospital is required to have a surge plan.”

More than 90% of hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated.

The governor said this is very important because “the one thing that we know cannot happen, we cannot allow our healthcare system to get overrun.”

He said the state can afford high positive case numbers as a general matter, “but we cannot breach the capacities in our hospitals.”

“The irresponsibility for not getting vaccinated, among other fallouts, are unnecessarily stressing nurses and doctors and other healthcare staff,” he said.

Tan noted the vast majority of hospitalized COVID patients, more than 90%, are unvaccinated.

She added recent data indicates more younger people getting infected with COVID, because vaccination rates are lower for kids than adults, especially those 65 and older.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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