Plus: guidance will soon be forthcoming on nursing home visits.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 10, 2020
Another 611 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 165,346 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 74 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 12,377 lives lost during the pandemic.
That means more New Jerseyans have been lost to the virus in the 99 days since the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed here than in four years of fighting during World War II, Murphy said.
Throughout New Jersey, 1,701 people are currently hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms, a sixth straight day of fewer than 2,000 hospitalized patients.
Of those 1,701 patients, 471 are in intensive or critical care; 342 of ICU and critical-care patients (73 percent) are on ventilators.
Overnight, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 156 new COVID-19 patients and discharged 171 others, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 3.4 percent June 6; in South Jersey, it’s slightly higher, at almost 4 percent.
RT, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, continued to fall, down to 0.64 June 8 from 0.81 on May 18. Those figures indicate that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one other person, on average, which means the number of new cases continues to decline.
Across New Jersey, 550 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 34,799 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 23,225 residents and 11,574 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 5,635 lab-confirmed resident deaths (45 percent of the statewide total) and 112 facility-reported staff deaths.
Of 654 veterans residing in a state-run home, 385 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 145 have died from complications related to the virus.
Seven veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 214 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 211 of 1,236 patients and 490 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus; unchanged since last week.
Nine patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 474 people in total.
To date, 39 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, unchanged since Monday.
All have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. One is still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
In all, the state has seen just 49 COVID-19-related deaths of people younger than 30, Persichilli said. Nearly 80 percent of fatalities are among those 65 and older.
New Jersey has 900 COVID-19 contact tracers working to identify those who’ve been close to COVID-19-positive residents, and plans to hire another 1,600 by the end of the month, Persichilli said.
Much of Murphy’s presentation Wednesday was focused on explaining the process of contact tracing and its importance in combating the spread of the virus.
“Close contact” is defined as being less than six feet away from someone for a period of ten minutes or more, the governor said. The role of a contact tracer is to notify anyone who may have been exposed to the virus and urge them to get tested and quarantine if they’re found to be positive in order to prevent further transmission.
Murphy said the state has received more than 50,000 submissions of interest in contact tracing jobs. New hires will be trained by the Rutgers School of Public Health and placed with local public health departments in the coming weeks.
Training involves 15 hours of online education, with federal dollars currently reimbursing the cost of tracing and testing, he said.
“We are creating a broad public awareness campaign to make sure our residents know the vital importance of contact tracing and testing, and the resources available to them if they test positive,” the governor said.
Murphy promised that the process would be handled securely and anonymously in keeping with HIPAA compliance, and urged residents to be wary of scams among contact tracers.
“They will never ask for social security, financial, or other personally identifying information, including immigration status or criminal background history,” he said. “Our tracers will be properly trained to prevent the leaking of any information provided to them.”
The governor touted encryption and security processes involved in the state’s contact tracing database as being “central to our contact tracing program,” which he said was built around “consent, transparency, security, [and] limits.”
New Jersey will allow “no wild goose chases or rogue investigations,” Murphy said.
“We will rely on those who test positive to be open and transparent with us for the common good,” he said. “We will not tolerate any tracer that steps outside professional bounds.”
Finally, Persichilli said residents can expect guidance on nursing home visitation soon. Officials are taking their time putting such information together because “the disease in nursing homes is still there, so we have to be extremely vigilant,” she said.
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