Coronavirus Update: 1.059M Infections, 25,358 Related Deaths; Booster Uptake Slow Despite Reports of Waning Vax Immunity Over Time


Meanwhile, children aged 5 to 11, for whom the vaccine was most recently approved, continue to get their initial doses, bringing the state closer to lifting its masking mandate for schools.

By Matt Skoufalos | November 15, 2021

COVID-19 Dashboard – 11-15-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 1,147 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 1.059 million cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.

New Jersey is also reporting 174 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 159,940 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, four more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 25,358 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,819 probable COVID-19-related deaths—one more than previously reported.

Since March 2020, 1,080 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 288 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

More than 15.992 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 11.945-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.04, spot positivity highest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 4.88 percent November 11; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 6.58 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, rose to 1.04 on November 15.

An Rt figure of 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting than one other person, on average, and the spread of the virus is increasing.

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.

Simulated COVID-19 patient in a hospital bed. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

COVID hospitalizations up from last week, ICU/ventilator usage holding steady

Throughout New Jersey, 690 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (64) or confirmed (626) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Among those hospitalized patients, 134 are in intensive or critical care, and 63 of the ICU and critical-care patients (47 percent) are on ventilators.

In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 93 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 84 others were discharged.

LTC update

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,818 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 123 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 57,283 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 5.7 percent of total cases.

That includes 34,028 residents and 23,255 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,661 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (35 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 145 staff deaths.

Of 631 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 456 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 158 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 1,372 workers, none 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, 143 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC)—seven more than previously reported. 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, 160 reported outbreaks—three or more students or staff who contracted the virus within the school—have been logged, affecting 860 people, a mix of students (735) and staff (125).

COVID-19 vaccine bottle mock-up. Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Vaccination update: NJ approaches 6M fully vaccinated people, exceeds 13M doses administered

Across New Jersey, 13.064 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.

Throughout New Jersey, 5.910 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, 705,384 doses have been administered, seventh-most in the state; 414,813 people have been fully vaccinated.

An estimated 501,745 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 317,253 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. By late October, New Jersey finally reached an estimated 6 million fully immunized residents, nearly three months after having crossed the 5-million-resident threshold.

By mid-November 2021, New Jersey cleared 13 million vaccine doses administered in-state.

Judy Persichilli – NJ COVID-19 Briefing – 11-15-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

Booster uptake slow across NJ

Thus far across New Jersey, of the 4 million residents eligible for COVID-19 boosters, only 20 percent of them have gotten another shot, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Across the state, 934,986 New Jerseyans have gotten either a third dose or a booster.

Paraphrasing Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden, Persichilli said, “Boosters are not a bonus; they are absolutely essential to fighting the pandemic.”

Citing the “waning immunity over time” afforded by different formulations of the vaccine, Persichilli ran down the depleted efficacy of each after six months, according to a study of vaccine recipients in the Veterans Health Administration, which comprises about 3 percent of the U.S. population, and published by the journal Science.

In that time, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine falls from an 86.4 percent efficacy rating to 13.1 percent, Pfizer falls from 86.9 percent to 43.3, and Moderna falls from 89.2 percent down to 58 percent.

Among children newly approved for the pediatric Pfizer vaccine formulation, however, the news was brighter, as 47,390 children aged 5 to 11 have received their initial doses, up from 9,000 last week, when the opportunity was first announced.

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