phil murphy 041320 Governor Phil Murphy speaks at his Monday briefing, with a sign language interpreter seen in inset at left. (YouTube screengrab. Click to enlarge.)

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More positive signs emerged in the COVID-19 crisis Monday even as New Jersey’s government braced for critically ill patients to soon swamp the state’s hospitals, officials said Monday.

The preparation included issuing triage guidance to hospitals for use in “last resort” scenarios, they said.

The administration of Governor Phil Murphy sent the guidance to hospitals Saturday in the event they find themselves overwhelmed with critically ill patients, said state health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Three forecasting models relied on by state officials all point to a peak number of hospitalizations at about 36,000, which would be more than four times the current 7,781, she said.

Under the unprecedented guidance, all patients would undergo individual assessments before a “last resort” decision about “the allocation of critical care resources during a public health emergency” is made, Persichilli said.

Under no circumstances would a patient’s age, disability status, race or other characteristics be a factor, she said.

There would be “no exclusionary criteria, period,” Murphy said at his daily briefing. “No judgment of a person’s worth.”

Of the worst-case bed-usage projections, some 7,800 patients could need access to ventilators, Persichilli said.

“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” she said, reciting an administration mantra heard throughout the monthlong crisis.

Signs that the worst might not come to pass continued to emerge. The number of additional deaths statewide attributed to COVID-19 dropped sharply, to 94, with new hospitalizations at their slowest rate in a month, despite forecasts made late last week of a growing wave within two or three days.

In addition, the number in critical or intensive care declined from Sunday, and the percentage of those on ventilators also declined.

Persichilli said she had heard from hospital CEOs who told her that “things seemed calmer” in their facilities in recent days.

Still, the encouraging data should not be taken as a signal to end or ease social distancing mandates or other measures imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Murphy said.

The curve of new cases “is undeniably now flattening,” he said. “But it is still rising.”

Even with ample sunshine forecast for Tuesday, following Monday’s downpours, “we need to stay home,” Murphy said.

Here are the latest statewide COVID-19 figures:

Deaths in the monthlong pandemic: 2,443, up 94 from Sunday

Positive tests: 64,584, up 3,699 [Correction: 3,219]

Patients in hospitals: 7,781, up 177

Patients in intensive/critical care: 1,886, down 28

Patients on ventilators: 1,611, down 33, for 55 percent of capacity utilization

Patients discharged in preceding 24 hours: 556, down 102

Monmouth County’s death toll rose to 127, up 4, the state reported, and its caseload grew by 106 patients, to 3,875, the slowest increase in more than three weeks.

A town-by-town count of patients is below:

  • Aberdeen: 110
  • Allenhurst: 2
  • Allentown: 2
  • Asbury Park: 75
  • Atlantic Highlands: 14
  • Avon-by-the-Sea: 10
  • Belmar: 8
  • Bradley Beach: 15
  • Brielle: 20
  • Colts Neck: 48
  • Deal: 22
  • Eatontown: 112
  • Englishtown: 15
  • Fair Haven: 15
  • Farmingdale: 10
  • Freehold Borough: 112
  • Freehold Township: 322
  • Hazlet: 149
  • Highlands: 14
  • Holmdel: 126
  • Howell: 342
  • Interlaken: 1
  • Keansburg: 54
  • Keyport: 47
  • Lake Como: 11
  • Little Silver: 24, unchanged
  • Loch Arbour: 1
  • Long Branch: 210
  • Manalapan: 296
  • Manasquan: 21
  • Marlboro: 277
  • Matawan: 101
  • Middletown: 313
  • Millstone: 45
  • Monmouth Beach: 14
  • Neptune City: 22
  • Neptune Township: 209
  • Ocean: 163
  • Oceanport: 41
  • Red Bank: 78, up 2 from Sunday
  • Roosevelt: 2
  • Rumson: 23
  • Sea Bright: 7
  • Sea Girt: 9
  • Shrewsbury Borough: 22
  • Shrewsbury Township: 6
  • Spring Lake: 6
  • Spring Lake Heights: 15
  • Tinton Falls: 67
  • Union Beach: 26
  • Upper Freehold: 27
  • Wall: 133
  • West Long Branch: 40
  • Unknown: 4