Plus: the state is ramping up its contact tracing program after successfully piloting software in Camden and Essex Counties, and NJ Transit will resume its full weekday service July 6.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 24, 2020
Another 317 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 169,892 infections, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 48 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 12,995 lives lost during the pandemic.
Throughout New Jersey, 1,196 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms—the highest total since last Thursday, Murphy said.
Among those patients, 275 are in intensive or critical care, and 216 of ICU and critical-care patients (79 percent) are on ventilators.
Overnight, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 77 new COVID-19 patients, and 110 others were discharged, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
Rate of transmission (Rt) climbing steadily for 15 straight days
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 2.83 percent June 20; in South Jersey, it’s higher, at 3.92 percent.
However, officials are tracking a steady climb in Rt, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, which was 0.86 percent on June 22.
That figure indicates that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one other person, on average, but it’s climbed daily from a low of 0.62 recorded on June 9.
“Ten counties have seen their Rt rate increase by at least 50 percent over the past week,” the governor said.
“We have to continue with our social distancing, folks,” he said. “We have to wear the face coverings. There are no excuses to let up even one bit.”
Long-term care accounts for almost half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Across New Jersey, 557 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 36,202 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,000 residents and 12,202 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,288 lab-confirmed resident deaths (48 percent of the statewide total) and 133 facility-reported staff deaths.
Of 654 veterans residing in a state-run home, 386 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 146 have died from complications related to the virus. Ten veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 234 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 211 of 1,237 patients and 498 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus.
Thirteen patients are presently receiving care at one of the state’s field medical stations, which have served 491 people in total.
To date, 44 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
All have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. Six children are still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
NJ, NY, CT institute two-week quarantine for travelers from COVID-19 hotspots
On Wednesday, Murphy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont jointly announced a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for travelers “from states with significant community spread of COVID.”
The advisory takes effect at midnight, and involves travelers from states where 10 percent of the total population is positive for the virus on a seven-day rolling average.
Cases are increasing in 27 states, Cuomo said. Those that presently exceed that 10-percent infection rate are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North and South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
“What happens in New York happens in New Jersey happens in Connecticut,” Cuomo said during the press conference, adding that the policy is uniform across all three partner states, which will enforce it individually.
Travelers found to be violating the quarantine could be subject to a judicial order and a mandatory quarantine, plus potential fines, Cuomo said. The quarantine does not prevent people from traveling altogether.
Lamont said the regional approach has allowed the three states to suppress community spread of the virus, particularly among travelers 18-35, who are not at greatest risk of dying from the virus, but who can circulate it.
In his Wednesday briefing, Murphy described the measure as a matter of personal responsibility.
“Constitutionally, we’re not allowed to put up border checks around New Jersey,” the governor said. “This is an advisory, so it’s more than a recommendation.
“We’re asking folks to take on a big amount of personal responsibility here, to do the right thing for themselves as well as for their families, communities, and the rest of us,” he said.
All three states will publish a rolling list of states to which the new advisory applies, Murphy said in a press release following the briefing. They will advertise the advisory through “uniform parameters and messaging on highways, airports, websites, and social media,” and will also ask hotels to notify out-of-state guests of the quarantine.
Indoor recreation reopens July 2, NJ Transit resumes full weekday service July 6
Starting July 2, libraries, museums, aquariums, and indoor recreational business, including bowling alleys, batting cages, and arcades, may resume operations at 25 percent of capacity.
Exercise facilities may reopen but only for individual, one-on-one training sessions, and only by appointment. Family members who’ve been quarantining together may train together, Murphy said.
All businesses that reopen will be required to maintain face coverings, hygiene, sanitization, and social distancing standards.
Movie theaters, concert venues, and nightclubs will remain closed for now.
“We’d love to open things up,” Murphy said. “We’re not there yet. We just don’t think it’s the responsible thing to do.”
Starting July 6, NJ Transit rails and light rails will resume full weekday service.
“Without a doubt, more trains running means we are closer to taking our next steps along the road back,” the governor said.
Contact tracing underway
Throughout the state, 2,152 residents have applied to become contact tracers; 231 are being on-boarded, said Perry Halkitis, Dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health and head of its community contact tracing program.
They represent each of the 21 counties in the state and collectively speak 22 languages.
“Once we train the 1,000 contact tracers, they will be deployed to county and local departments of health throughout the state,” Halkitis said.
New Jersey’s contact tracing program has already begun piloting CommCare, a health informatics software platform, in Camden and Essex Counties; Atlantic, Burlington, Gloucester, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Salem Counties will follow on Monday.
Tracers must complete an 18-hour online training course that includes education on COVID-19 as well as information specific to the needs of New Jersey residents.
For those who’d like to apply to become a contact tracer, the temporary positions pay $25 an hour at a maximum of 35 hours a week, and will run for six months.
Getting the news that you may have been infected and must self-quarantine can be difficult, Persichilli said, but contact tracers can also connect those with whom they speak to resources for housing, childcare, food assistance, unemployment benefits, and job protection as needed.
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