Vaccine boosters “are critical for us to get ahead of the epidemic curve continuing to go up,” says NJ Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan. NJ is trending towards 3,500 hospitalizations per day by mid-January.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 13, 2021
Another 2,968 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 1.131 million cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
New Jersey is also reporting 513 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 175,298 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.
New Jersey State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan said the current spike in cases is disproportionately affecting younger people.
“If you look at our epidemic curve, we’re seeing an increase in the last several weeks due to a combination of the holiday surge and waning immunity,” Tan said. “Boosters are critical for us to get ahead of the epidemic curve continuing to go up.”
Sadly, 11 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 25,754 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,835 probable COVID-19-related deaths—five more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 1,137 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents (more than one out of every 100) have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 293 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 16.266 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 12.84-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.41, spot positivity higher in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 8.02 percent December 11; in South Jersey, it was higher, at 8.43 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, rose to 1.41 on December 13.
An Rt figure of 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting more 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.
COVID hospitalizations up 81 percent in two weeks, 80 percent are unvaccinated
Throughout New Jersey, 1,650 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (93) or confirmed (1,557) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 316 are in intensive or critical care, and 130 of the ICU and critical-care patients (46 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 227 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 163 others were discharged.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported that 80 percent of hospitalizations are of unvaccinated people, and that hospitalizations are up 81 percent in the past two weeks.
She added that COVID-19 hospitalization rates could peak in the middle of January at around 3,500 cases if caseloads hold at their current rate. If trends worsen, New Jersey could see as many as 10,000 new infections daily, and 5,000 hospitalizations, before they level off.
“So far things are pretty steady,” the commissioner said, noting that “every hospital is required to have a surge plan” in the event of higher caseloads.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,927 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 160 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 58,018 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 5.7 percent of total cases.
That includes 34,396 residents and 23,622 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,735 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (35 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 145 staff deaths.
Of 633 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, eight of whom are presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to the virus.
At state-run psychiatric hospitals, 378 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, 150 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC). One is previously hospitalized. 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, 248 reported outbreaks—three or more students or staff who contracted the virus within the school—have been logged, affecting 1,345 people, a mix of students and staff.
In Camden County, 24 COVID-19 outbreaks have accounted for the in-school infections of 206 people, which is the most of any county in the state, and more than the county had sustained in the entire prior school year.
Vaccination update: NJ clears 6M fully vaccinated in-state, Dec. 15 ‘Boost NJ Day’
Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the administration of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in New Jersey; in that time, 12.668 million COVID-19 doses have been administered.
In that time, 73 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated, with 84 percent having received at least one dose of vaccine, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
The state must now work to increase vaccination rates among children who are eligible and encourage more residents to get boosters. On December 15, which officials are calling “Boost NJ Day,” sites across the state will host walk-ins to administer boosters to those who need them.
Of the 4.5 million New Jersey residents eligible for a booster, 36 percent have received one; the state is averaging about 35,000 booster doses per day, “but we need to do better,” she said.
‘With cases increasing, it is critical that more residents get boosters, because we know immunity is waning,” Persichilli said.
Throughout New Jersey, 6.097 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.
An estimated 520,272 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 235,483 residents are estimated to have been fully vaccinated.
In Camden County, 672,454 doses have been administered, seventh-most in the state; 327,500 people 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.
State employee vaccinations track with public rates
In a first report tracking worker vaccinations at state departments, agencies, authorities, and commissions, Murphy said that state employees are coming in at a 70-percent full vaccination rate. Of those entities surveyed, 43 reported full vaccination rates at or above 75 percent, roughly in line with the overall state vaccination rate.
Those who are unvaccinated must submit to regular COVID-19 testing; the governor said data from other related agencies will be tracked as they come online, and that health officials will work to elevate the vaccination rates among those that are lagging.
“This is about ensuring a safe workplace for everyone,” Murphy said.
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