Plus: an update on breakthrough cases and how they occur.
By Matt Skoufalos | October 19, 2021
Another 903 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 1.027 million cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
New Jersey is also reporting 208 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 154,559 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, seven more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 24,927 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,810 probable COVID-19-related deaths—seven more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 1,057 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 284 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 15.773 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 11.687-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.92, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 3.96 percent October 14; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 5.01 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.92 on October 18.
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.
COVID Hospitalizations below 1,000
Throughout New Jersey, 890 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (70) or confirmed (820) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 219 are in intensive or critical care, and 111 of the ICU and critical-care patients (53 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 8 3 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 72 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,777 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 161 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 57,068 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 5.7 percent of total cases.
That includes 33,900 residents and 23,168 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,586 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (35 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 146 staff deaths.
Of 654 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 456 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 157 have died from complications related to the virus. Three hundred veterans have recovered from the virus. No resident currently is COVID-19-positive.
The facilities at Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland are staffed by 1,369 workers, one of whom is 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 the 2020-2021 school year, 293 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 1,385 individual cases were traced to in-school activities 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 start of the 2021-2022 school year, 96 reported outbreaks—three or more students or staff who contracted the virus within the school—have been logged, affecting 521 people, a mix of students (444) and staff (77).
Vaccination update: NJ approaches 6M fully vaccinated people, exceeds 12M doses
Across New Jersey, 12.076 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 5.779 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, 646,667 doses have been administered, seventh-most in the state; 362,218 people have been fully vaccinated.
An estimated 459,832 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 197,923 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. At the end of August 2021, the state had exceeded 11 million doses administered and had begun approaching 6 million fully vaccinated residents.
It took until mid-October 2021 to clear the 12-millionth vaccine dose administered, at a time when some residents have begun receiving booster doses or third doses.
Breakthrough case data, January 19 through October 4, 2021
The data on breakthrough infections—circumstances in which fully vaccinated people test positive for COVID-19—continues to show the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing death and infections requiring hospitalization.
In the last 10 months, 5.630 million New Jersey residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (January 19 through October 4).
Of that population, 36,616 tested positive for COVID-19 after having been vaccinated (0.65 percent).
In that same timeframe, 794 fully vaccinated people required hospitalization for the virus, and 215 died of COVID-19-related causes.
Since COVID-19 vaccines have been available, 1,718 breakthrough cases among New Jersey residents have required hospitalization, said Dr. Ed Lifshitz, coordinator of the state’s communicable disease service. Of those, 1,179 (69 percent) had pre-existing conditions.
Similarly, 262 of 326 people who died in New Jersey after having been fully vaccinated (80 percent) had underlying conditions. Those data illustrate both the rarity of severe illness and death among people who’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Lifshitz said.
“Almost everyone out there generates a very good [immune]response [after vaccination],” he said.
Asked how breakthrough infections occur, Lifshitz attributed them to an overexposure to the virus as well as the difference between where COVID-19 attaches in the body (the nasal passages) versus where the vaccine antibodies are generated (the bloodstream).
“It is possible to overwhelm that type of defense,” Lifshitz said. “If you’re getting exposed by a virus all over the place… you can overwhelm your body’s response, and you can get infected. It can begin to replicate before your body’s antibodies can get in there and fight it off.”
In general, he said, breakthrough cases account for about 0.6 to 0.8 percent of all infections, although the risks of hospitalization and death increase among older residents and those with more underlying complications.
Delta accounts for ‘100 percent’ of variants in New Jersey, NJVSS scheduling boosters
The B.1.617.2 “Delta” variant, initially identified in India in December 2020, has gone from being the most common COVID-19 variant in New Jersey to the lone identified variant in the state, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Despite performing gene sequencing on roughly 2 percent of positive samples, mutated offshoots of COVID-19, or “variants of concern,” have been tracked throughout New Jersey since earlier this year.
The high transmissibility of the Delta variant as well as its ubiquity are good arguments for scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine booster, Persichilli said, calling boosters “vital to stopping the spread of the virus in our state.”
“I would urge those eligible for a booster shot to get one as soon as possible so you have that extra protection as the holidays approach,” she said. “More and more people will be eligible for a booster in the coming weeks, so please, schedule your booster now.”
To that end, the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling Service (NJVSS) is now scheduling vaccine booster appointments online and over the phone (1-855-568-0545).
Those who’ve had their first shots by the end of March 2021 are already eligible for a booster, including:
- People 65 and older
- Those with underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe case of COVID-19
- Individuals in a high-risk job for COVID-19 exposure, including education staff, grocery workers, daycare staff, transit workers, first responders, postal workers, support workers, agricultural workers, and some 650,000 healthcare workers in New Jersey.
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