Younger people in New Jersey are increasingly being hospitalized at higher rates for the coronavirus as the number of new daily cases continues to climb.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey are up 28% over the past two weeks — a trend officials say is concerning. New models Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled Wednesday showed the pandemic’s latest wave may not peak until mid-May under a worst-case scenario.

But unlike the early days of the pandemic, it’s not elderly people who are driving the increase.

“When we compare hospitalizations in the first and last weeks of March by age group, we’re seeing the percentage of younger individuals being hospitalized,” state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during the state’s latest coronavirus briefing in Trenton.

That includes:

  • A 31% increase among hospitalizations in individuals between the ages of 20 and 29.
  • A 9% increase among people between 30 and 39.
  • A 48% increase among people between 40 to 49.
  • A 29% increase among people 50 to 59.
  • A 27% increase among people 60 to 69.
  • A 7% increase among people 70 to 79.
  • A 1% increase among people over 80.

That mirrors a national trend as cases rise in states across the U.S. With older adults more likely to be vaccinated, cases among people ages 50 to 65 are increasing more than those older than 65, according to reports.

In all, there were 2,363 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Tuesday night — the most since Feb. 16.

Patients in intensive care have increased 16% across the state over the last two weeks, Persichilli said, though ventilator use is down 4%. The health commissioner said the increase in younger hospitalized patients could explain the drop in the latter.

Daily Hospitalizations

COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey.

The virus has proven much more deadly for older residents, especially those with preexisting conditions. Nearly half the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents 80 and older (46.9%), followed by those 65-79 (32.88%), 50-64 (15.68%), 30-49 (4.06%), 18-29 (0.37%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).

But officials warn that younger people can still suffer severe cases and can pass the virus to older and more vulnerable people.

New Jersey on Wednesday reported another 4,586 confirmed cases and 44 additional confirmed deaths as officials say the new wave is being fueled by numerous, more contagious variants spreading and people being lax with safety restrictions. The state’s seven-day average for newly confirmed cases is 3,977, up 19% from a week ago and 36% from a month ago.

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The modeling released Wednesday shows the state would peak with 5,405 cases and 2,669 people hospitalized with COVID-19 — including 574 people in intensive care, with 319 on ventilators — on April 18 under a moderate scenario.

Under a high scenario, the state would peak at 8,162 cases and 3,644 people hospitalized on May 18, the models show. There would be a peak of 2,030 patients in intensive care, with 778 on ventilators, on May 20.

Persichilli said the state is also expecting deaths to increase and warned the state could be in for “a long and difficult summer” if these numbers materialize. But she added that hospitalizations likely won’t reach the levels they did during the first wave last spring and the state now has adequate supplies to battle the pandemic.

Officials stressed these numbers are only projections and that masking, social distancing, and increased vaccinations can help avoid them.

“We must work together and be vigilant so we can ensure we don’t slip backwards,” Persichilli said. “We have to redouble our efforts. There is still an uncertainty ahead with this relentless virus.”

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Matt Arco may be reached at [email protected].

Brent Johnson may be reached at [email protected].

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