Phil Murphy admits state inflating New Jersey COVID-19 hospitalization figures by as much as 50%

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Staff member cleans medical equipment inside ward set up for Omicron coronavirus variant infected people at the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad

TRENTON, NJ – As the omicron surge spikes, so is the hospitalization of COVID-19 positive patients. This week, Governor Phil Murphy reported 6,000 patients in the hospital for COVID-19, a sharp increase and a staggering number.

It turns out, that more than half of them were not in the hospital because they had COVID-19, but tested positive for COVID-19 while going to the hospital for other injuries or procedures.

“We’re seeing more of our residents hospitalized right now than at any point since in the end of April of 2020. April 29, 2020, to be exact was the last day that we had more than 6,000 folks in our hospitals,” Murphy said on Monday.

After being pressed by reporters on his claim, Murphy later admitted his figures were artificially inflated.

“I think we have a fair number of what I’ve started to call incidental COVID, meaning you went in because you broke your leg, but everyone is getting tested. It turns out you’ve COVID,” Murphy said, admitting the 6,000 figure was intentionally misleading. “You didn’t even know it. My wife didn’t know it and still she’s not back in the game, but never had any symptoms. There is a significant amount of that. Judy, any color on either the requirement for folks to return and secondly, incidental COVID?”

Incidental COVID is the term that is used for patients who might show up in the hospital ICU from a car crash or traumatic accident, and pop positive on the hospital admittance COVID-19 test. They are counted by the state in the overall hospitalizations, despite most having no symptoms or signs of the virus.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli also admitted Murphy’s 6,000 hospitalization figure was not the actual amount of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 being the primary reason for their hospital stay.

“Today with about 6,000 individuals in our hospitals with confirmed COVID positive tests, about 2,963 of them are in with a principle diagnosis of COVID, which means it’s the reason for the admission, the reason for the hospitalization. About 32% of them are fully vaccinated, 68 to 70% of them are either unvaccinated or are partially vaccinated,” Persichilli admitted.

It turns out, this is how New Jersey has been counting COVID-19 hospitalizations and in some cases, deaths to artificially inflate the caseload. On Tuesday, based on that data, Murphy declared a new public health of emergency for the state of New Jersey.

When asked again if the 2,963 cases are the real number, Murphy waffled.

“I think the answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the true picture. The true picture is 6,000 – where is it, and 75% [50%] are in the hospital with COVID. That’s the picture. I do think you’re right that about half of them are, if I understood Judy’s numbers right, about half of them are incidental versus primary.”

Persichilli then tried to say that if somebody is in the hospital with heart problems, and go to the hospital and test positive for COVID, they are now a COVID patient.

“Half of them have a principal – what they call the principal diagnosis so the main reason for being admitted. The other half, on the other hand, are testing positive for COVID. COVID then becomes a contributing or comorbid condition that could or could not worsen their principal diagnosis, their principal reason for being admitted,” she said. “You can’t really parse it out totally, half and half. If you’re admitted to the hospital with cardiovascular problems, and you have a – you’re COVID positive, that maybe adding to the problems that you have. It’s not as clean-cut as half and half.”

“You can’t parse it. The answer is yes, it’s about 50/50, but that doesn’t mean the other 50% are – to use an old phrase, hunky-dory. These things feed on each other in terms of the conditions,” Murphy said.