NSW has reached a grim milestone, with the state recording 100 deaths from the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Some 1116 more people tested positive for the virus in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, taking the number of cases acquired locally since the outbreak began in mid-June to 22,308.
Four women died overnight, aged in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
Each was from southwest Sydney or western Sydney, where the virus is raging, with two thirds of cases recorded there. All four women were unvaccinated and had underlying conditions.
NSW has recorded 156 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Almost 1000 people are in hospital with the virus, with 150 in intensive care and 66 on ventilators. Of those in the ICU, 127 are not vaccinated.
Despite predicting a surge in hospitalisations next month, Premier Gladys Berejiklian says better days will come as vaccination rates rise.
"September is the month when we're asking everybody to get ready," Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
"Get vaccinated if you're an individual. If you're a business, start dusting off your COVID-safety plan. Make sure your employees are vaccinated so we can get back to life."
The government is working on a road map out of lockdown once NSW meets the targets of 70 and 80 per cent double-dose vaccination of people over 16.
At 70 per cent double-dose coverage, vaccinated people in NSW can expect to go out for a meal and attend public events, the premier suggested.
Home visits and indoor events are likely to be off the table as they are higher risk.
Ms Berejiklian refused to confirm whether vaccinated people in Sydney areas hardest hit by the virus will enjoy the same freedoms.
"Everyone should expect a level of freedom they don't have today," she said.
NSW will hit 70 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage as early as this week, with the double-dose threshold likely in mid-October.
But as that triggers freedoms for the vaccinated, October will also be the time when hospitals are under the most pressure.
Ms Berejiklian again refused to expand on the government's modelling, including what a worst-case scenario looks like for hospitals.
Case numbers are expected to rise for the next few weeks, before they start to fall.
But a senior nurse working in an intensive care unit in a major Sydney hospital says she doesn't know if the NSW public health system will cope with the predicted surge.
Michelle Rosentreter told ABC radio the system is "not as solid or robust as the health minister or the premier would believe it is".
There aren't enough people trained in intensive care, and the system was already relying on staff doing overtime and double-shifts, she said.
"We're racing not pacing and we know that this isn't going away."
Meanwhile, concerns are also growing over an outbreak in the state's prison system which has infected at least 112 inmates, prompting calls for the urgent release of low-risk prisoners to prevent further spread of the virus.
Ms Berejiklian also says Australians overseas will be able to return without doing hotel quarantine once the state hits 80 per cent coverage, after NSW halved the cap on international travellers.
Some 750 returning Australians will be allowed to fly in to Sydney Airport each week to allow health staff to be diverted back to the state's hospital system.
The premier described it as a "temporary issue".
NSW residents will be able to go overseas at 80 per cent, which is predicted for November.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is reportedly working on an economic recovery plan with the private sector to boost economic activity when vaccination targets are reached.