More New Jersey residents are testing positive for the novel coronavirus every day but the total number of patients needing hospital care is still relatively small.

But if the situation changes rapidly, contingency plans are being developed.

New Jersey has a capacity for 700 patients in hospital isolation rooms and there are ongoing discussions about converting certain facilities into temporary emergency rooms if necessary.

“All health care facilities have very detailed plans in place for a variety of scenarios, and one of those scenarios is what we call surge planning,” said Kerry McKean Kelly, vice president of communications and member services for the New Jersey Hospital Association.

She said surge planning involves identifying a number of progressive steps to respond to growing demands, “and that could be both issues involving space to care for patients and also staff to care for patients.”

“Hospitals may be reviewing their plans and doing things like considering postponing elective procedures because that would preserve bed space," she said. “They may be looking, planning longer term, looking for unused space in their facilities, perhaps a unit where they have decommissioned beds.”

She said these kinds of facilities could quickly be brought back into service if needed.

To increase medical staff, Kelly said hospitals could be considering bringing in staff from other sites of care and training them.

“For example, a nurse practitioner who now works in a physician practice or in an outpatient facility could be brought into the acute care setting with proper training," McKean Kelly said.

“Right now, facilities are actively working, planning, taking any kind of preliminary steps that they may need to be taking, we are very well prepared and have planned well across the healthcare community for a situation like this.”

Judy Persichilli, the state Health Commissioner, said Thursday that most COVID-19 patients do not need hospital care.

She pointed out the severity of any illness and the intensity of service that is needed determines whether you should or should not be in a hospital.

She noted if there’s a significant uptick of the disease in the Garden State, mild and moderate cases won't be treated by hospitals.

"Just think of yourself if you’ve had the flu — you can stay home.”

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