Plus: a 45th child is diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and an update on unemployment benefits.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 25, 2020
Another 406 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 170,196 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Thursday.
Sadly, 26 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,018 lives lost during the pandemic.
Throughout New Jersey, 1,182 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.
Among those patients, 252 are in intensive or critical care, and 210 of ICU and critical-care patients (83 percent) are on ventilators. Overnight, 71 New Jersey hospitals admitted 56 new COVID-19 patients, and 108 others were discharged, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
Rate of transmission (Rt) still climbing steadily
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 3.65 percent June 21; in South Jersey, it’s higher, at 5.39 percent. Spot positivity is a snapshot statistic, and the state’s report excludes serology tests, which can confirm the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, but not whether a patient actively has the virus.
Officials are still tracking a steady climb in Rt, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, which was 0.88 percent on June 23.
That figure indicates that every person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one other person, on average. However, it’s increased continuously from a low of 0.62 recorded on June 9.
Over the past week Rt is up in 16 New Jersey counties, with six counties recording rates of transmission at least 50 percent greater than they had been last Wednesday, Murphy said, urging people to get tested at one of 150 locations throughout the state.
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 36,247 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,039 residents and 12,208 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,303 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, 45 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said—one additional case since last week.
All 45 have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. Five children are still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
COVID-19 probable deaths reported
For the first time Thursday, Murphy also reported another 1,854 probable COVID-19-related deaths; those, he said, “whose passing could, with great reliability, be attributed to COVID-19.
“We know that there are those upon whom a COVID-19 test was never performed, even though the underlying symptoms and causes of death point to the probability that they did in fact have COVID-19,” the governor said.
“Given our current testing protocols and decreasing number of fatalities overall… we do not anticipate that this number will grow significantly,” Murphy said; “however, some changes are to be expected, and we will be reporting the number of probable deaths each week.”
Dr. Ed Lifshitz, who oversees New Jersey’s communicable disease service, said the COVID-probable death counts include three categories of cases:
- people who’d had “a less-specific” COVID-19 test, like a serology exam and not a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which confirms the presence of antigens
- symptomatic individuals who died amid a known COVID-19 outbreak, but who were never tested for the virus
- those whose death certificates included a physician’s conclusion of COVID-19 as a cause of death
The first two determinations are most commonly made by local health department investigations, while reviewing death certificates is a more laborious process, Lifshitz said.
Slightly less than one-third of those probable cases are associated with long-term care centers, he said.
Travel advisory update
During Thursday’s briefing, Persichilli also offered an update on yesterday’s tri-state travel and quarantine advisory, explaining that New Jersey residents are not exempted from it if they return home from a COVID-19 hotspot state.
People arriving in New Jersey from a state with a COVID-19 positive test rate higher than 10 infected people per 100,000 residents, or a state with a 10-percent-or-higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average, are asked to self-quarantine for 10 days.
Travelers can seek a COVID-19 test when they come into the state, but should self-quarantine until they get the results. Those who test positive should self-isolate for 10 days, including three days after any fever subsides.
The New Jersey Department of Health will update a list of which states are considered to be at risk under those terms. It currently includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North and South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
Workers in “critical infrastructure” are exempted from the quarantine, Persichilli said, including truckers and transportation workers.
“Although this is voluntary, we do expect compliance,” she said.
33,000 more unemployment claims
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development processed another 33,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits last week while sending out almost $1 billion in benefits, Murphy said Thursday.
In total, 1.3 million New Jerseyans have claimed benefits during the pandemic, and have been paid out $8.2 billion; the governor said that 96 percent of everyone deemed eligible for benefits has received at least one payment.
More complex claims are now being handled by specialists at the department’s newly established call center.
Murphy described their cases as “specific and individualized,” and said they may require determinations on prior appeals, or out-of-state information to resolve.
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