Gov. Phil Murphy laid out scenarios Wednesday that show dark days that could be ahead this winter if people don't stay vigilant to slow the spread of coronavirus this holiday season.
Murphy laid out models done independently by the New Jersey Department of Health and Office of Innovation that look at worst-case and moderate scenarios for the weeks ahead.
The worst-case scenario models where people don't take measures to prevent the virus and gather for the holidays show a major strain on the health care system by the middle of January at the earliest. The worst-case models predict around 12,000 and 10,000 daily cases respectively at the peak of each.
Murphy had a warning should the virus surge to these new records: "If the numbers threaten our health care system, like in these models, we will have to act."
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
The moderate model lays out a path where the health care system wouldn't be overwhelmed. The moderate model reaches around 6,500 hospital patients at its peak compared to more than 8,500 in the worst-case models.
The models assume that no changes occur when it comes to state policies and restrictions, Murphy said. The modeling also didn't predict future death totals.
Murphy said that the models are just that and not static and that personal behaviors -- like face mask wearing and keeping apart from each other -- can change them.
Murphy has noted that the state is far more prepared for the increased cases now than in the spring, but the first-term Democrat has expressed alarm at people not practicing social distancing and gathering in groups with the virus raging and the strain that could cause on the health care system.
"The more we can change them for the better, the sooner we can crush the curve of the second wave," Murphy said while noting that while vaccines are coming, the quicker New Jersey gets the virus under control, the sooner the state can return to more normalcy.
On Wednesday, Murphy announced 4,665 new confirmed cases of coronavirus to bring the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to more than 381,000.
With 91 new deaths confirmed to have come from coronavirus-related complications, 15,674 New Jerseyans have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic. Wednesday marked the second-straight day with 90 or more deaths reported.
More than 3,500 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in New Jersey entering Wednesday, with 630 patients in intensive care units.
"The more people who contract COVID-19, the more people who will eventually need hospitalization," Murphy said. "The numbers in our hospitals are our greatest concern when it comes to determining the steps we need to take as a state."
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that people having a smaller than normal holiday season can help bring them joy by knowing they are helping to protect front-line and health care workers dealing with a new surge of cases.
"These cannot be normal holidays… which stinks," Murphy said.
The rate of transmission ticked up to 1.1 and the rate of positivity for Saturday was at 13.18%.
"We’re beginning to see the impact on our transmission rate from the recent surge in positive tests," Murphy said.
He urged anyone who wants a test to get tested at more than 400 sites throughout the state to ensure the state has more data to use in its projections. Click here to find a testing location.