Plus: behavioral health services for children transitioning back to school are needed more than ever, as DCF Commissioner reports 30-percent-over-normal dispatch of mobile interventions for youth in crisis.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 29, 2021
Another 1,608 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 1.001 million cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
That’s a milestone threshold that translates to roughly one in nine New Jersey residents having tested positive for the virus since March 2020.
New Jersey is also reporting 519 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 150,608 positive antigen tests.
Antigen tests have a faster turnaround time than PCR tests—sometime within 15 to 30 minutes—but are less reliable at detecting active infection of the virus, and more capable of reporting false positives.
Sadly, 20 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 24,613 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,787 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Since March 2020, 1,046 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 280 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 15.510 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 11.393-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.01, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 6.10 percent September 25; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 7.99 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.97 on September 29.
Any Rt figure less than 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting fewer than one other person, on average, and the spread of the virus is decreasing.
Since its mid-April-2020 COVID-19 spike, the highest reported RT in New Jersey was 1.48, recorded August 1, 2020. Prior to artificially low, adjusted reports of 0.34 in the first week of May, the lowest in the past year was 0.62, recorded June 9, 2020. On May 21, 2021, it reached a new low, of 0.59.
Hospitalizations holding steady
Throughout New Jersey, 1,060 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (57) or confirmed (1,003) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 233 are in intensive or critical care, and 126 of the ICU and critical-care patients (54 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 120 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 112 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,721 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 151 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 56,603 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 5.7 percent of total cases.
That includes 33,631 residents and 22,972 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,543 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (34 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 145 staff deaths.
Of 651 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 456 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 156 have died from complications related to the virus. Three hundred veterans have recovered from the virus. Five residents currently are COVID-19-positive.
The facilities at Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland are staffed by 1,369 workers, six of whom are presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to the virus.
At state-run psychiatric hospitals, 374 of 1,139 patients and 1,136 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Fourteen patients and eight staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
MISC cases and schools
To date, 133 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC). Four of those cases were reported in Camden County, tied with Cumberland and Monmouth Counties for third-least in the state.
All those pediatric patients have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey, although several children have been hospitalized during their treatment for the illness.
From August 1, 2020 through the end of June 2021, 254 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 1,166 individual cases were traced to schools in all 21 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, 18 outbreaks were linked to 78 in-school cases, sixth-most in the state.
Since the beginning of the 2021 school year, 38 districts have reported 39 outbreaks—three or more students or staff who contracted the virus within the school setting—since the start of the year, affecting 182 students and 37 staff. In Camden County, two outbreaks have been linked to six in-school cases thus far, tied for fifth in the state.
Vaccination update: NJ approaches 6M fully vaccinated people, exceeds 11M doses administered
Across New Jersey, 11.651 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 5.660 million people have been fully vaccinated in-state, having received either a one-shot formulation from Johnson and Johnson or both doses of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
In Camden County, 618,701 doses have been administered, seventh-most in the state; 303,585 people have been fully vaccinated.
An estimated 431,321 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 185,252 residents are estimated to have been fully vaccinated.
The first vaccines in the state were administered December 15, 2020; by February 8—55 days later—New Jersey had immunized its millionth resident. Twenty days thereafter, that count hit 2 million, and 3 million within two more weeks.
On March 29, New Jersey crossed the 4-million-dose threshold, and the state cleared 5 million doses over the weekend of April 10, 2021. Eight days after that, New Jersey hit the 6-million-dose mark. By May 3, 2021, the state had cleared 7 million doses administered, and two weeks later, it had surpassed 8 million doses.
As of June 2, 2021, the state had cleared 9 million administered doses and 4 million fully vaccinated New Jerseyans, and on June 18, hit 4.7 million vaccinated individuals, its target goal for 70 percent of the adult population of the state.
By mid-July, that number had increased to 5.019 people fully vaccinated at New Jersey vaccination sites. By the end of August 2021, the state had exceeded 11 million doses administered and had begun approaching 6 million fully vaccinated residents.
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported Wednesday that nearly 25 percent of cases associated with school outbreaks are attributable to unvaccinated people. She urged parents to get vaccinated and to get their children vaccinated against the virus.
“Vaccines work,” Persichilli said. “They are the path out of this pandemic.”
Across New Jersey, immunization rates continue to improve, she said, as 83 percent of eligible New Jersey residents 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and 60.1 percent of 12-13-year-olds have gotten at least one shot.
Behavioral health supports for youth and families
Christine Norbut Beyer, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, said Wednesday that the transition of children back to school and the new routines that come with it “isn’t necessarily simple or easy,” and “can be further complicated by feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear.”
Call volume to the statewide children’s system-of-care hotline is up from September 2020 levels, and mobile response and dispatch services is up 30 percent from typical demand in September, she said.
“Many of the challenges being reported can be attributed to feelings of stress, anxiety, and grief caused by the pandemic,” Beyer said.
“When we talk about stress and anxiety, it’s not just about social anxiety or being isolated from peers, or having their routines disrupted,” she said. “It’s also fear of contracting a virus; many young people in this state have lost family members, lost friends to the virus.”
Beyer spoke about the availability of services, from community-based organizations to telehealth supports, for families who need them. The state COVID-19 information hub provides a number of resources in its Youth Help section.
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