With COVID hospitalizations on the rise in New Jersey recently, state officials have rolled out two new models that project how the pandemic may take shape over the coming weeks and months.

During his coronavirus update in Trenton on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said the moderate case scenario model takes into account the Passover and Easter holidays, spring break activities and expected increases in vaccination doses. It also assumes the COVID vaccines will be effective at protecting people from the variants.

He said this moderate model predicts daily COVID cases would peak at 5,445 on April 18 and hospitalization would peak on the same day, at 2,669, with 574 patients in the ICU.

He noted the model predicts hospitalizations would not drop down near 1,000 until August.

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The governor said the high case scenario, which assumes the COVID vaccines only prove to be 65% effective against the variants, and more people will lower their guard, disregarding social distancing and masking requirements, predicts “a long hot summer, so please God this is not what we have to live through.”

Under this bleak scenario, the state would hit a new high of more than 8,000 new positive cases a day in mid May and then again in mid June, and hospitalizations would reach around 3,500 from mid May until mid June.

The high case scenario also predicts ICU counts would not drop below 600 until late July and ventilator use would not drop to 300 until August.

Murphy said if this model is accurate, doctors, nurses and other hospital support staff would be stressed and exhausted.

When the governor was asked if we reach a 70% herd immunity level with 4.7 million residents vaccinated by Memorial Day what the New Jersey reality will be, he said: “I think we’re in store, I still believe, for a great summer. But particularly when we’re indoors, we’re going to have to continue, as my late mother would say — I’m not even sure what this means — mind our P’s and Q’s.”

He also said the state will continue to reopen incrementally when the metrics allow.

He pointed out the prediction models are simply projections and they can be changed through behavior.

“The fewer new cases, the fewer new hospitalizations. And the fewer new hospitalizations, the fewer patients in ICU on vents and the fewer deaths,” he said. "It really is that simple.”

Murphy said he believes Garden State residents are up to the task of driving the curve down again, the way it was crushed last spring.

“I know that we can do this,” he said. “We have to push through fatigue and re-focus, get vaccinated as soon as you can when you become eligible. Let’s get this done, let’s make this pandemic history.”

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

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