New Jersey residents are reminded regularly of the lives tragically lost to COVID-19, but a deeper dive into data suggests that a much higher number of deaths in the Garden State can be indirectly linked to the pandemic.

The uncounted lives lost represent people who could still be alive today if they weren't hesitant about receiving medical care in the first place.

Even when you take away all of the New Jersey deaths in 2020 with COVID-19 listed as the primary cause, you're left with a death count of 79,257, which is still significantly higher than the tally in a typical non-pandemic year. From 2017 through 2019, total deaths never exceeded 76,000 in a single year, according to the New Jersey Hospital Association.

'It's impossible to really know how many of these deaths could have been prevented, but the trends raise a red flag'

In a review of those "excess deaths," NJHA's Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation (CHART) found that at-home deaths were approximately 28% higher in 2020 than the prior three-year average, while hospitalizations for serious medical conditions such as heart attack and stroke experienced double-digit declines.

Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes were the top three causes of deaths at home in 2020 in New Jersey. For each of those conditions, the number of at-home deaths were significantly higher compared to previous years.

"This data begins to shed light on the uncounted toll of COVID in individuals who delayed seeking necessary healthcare," said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett.

"It's impossible to really know how many of these deaths could have been prevented, but the trends raise a red flag," added Sean Hopkins, senior vice president of CHART.

'Hospitals have done an incredible job making the facilities safe'

Prior to 2020, CHART's report finds, admissions for four key emergent conditions — heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease — never shifted more than 1.9% annually. But in 2020, hospital admissions for those conditions decreased by more than 16%.

As officials and healthcare professionals take on another surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, NJHA is urging residents not to delay the medical care they may need.

"Hospitals have done an incredible job making the facilities safe for people to come and receive care, and people should not forgo the care that they need," Hopkins said.

New Jersey on Monday announced more than 1,900 COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the state. That number was 300 lower than in July.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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