State health officials link new cases to indoor parties and out-of-state travel, not beach-going or protests. Plus: two more kids contract COVID-19-related multisystem pediatric inflammatory syndrome.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 13, 2020
Another 231 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 175,522 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
Sadly, 22 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,613 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state also has recognized 1,947 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Throughout New Jersey, 892 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Among those patients, 166 are in intensive or critical care, and 81 of ICU and critical-care patients (48 percent) are on ventilators, a fourth consecutive day of declining ventilator usage.
Rate of transmission (Rt) retreats below 1.0, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 1.51 percent July 9; in South Jersey, it’s more than double that, at 3.5 percent.
On July 11, Rt, or the rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, declined slightly to 0.91, down from 1.10 last week. That means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting nearly one other person, on average, which means the virus is retreating.
The lowest recorded Rt since the mid-April COVID-19 spike in New Jersey was 0.62 on June 9.
Long-term care accounts for almost half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Across New Jersey, 558 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 36,939 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,422 residents and 12,517 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,613 lab-confirmed resident deaths (49 percent of the statewide total) and 119 facility-reported staff deaths.
Of 654 veterans residing in a state-run home, 388 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 146 have died from complications related to the virus. Six veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 240 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 212 of 1,235 patients and 503 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven staffers and 13 patients have died from complications related to the virus.
To date, 53 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said; two new cases this week.
All have tested positive for an active COVID-19 infection or the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, indicating exposure to the virus. Two children are still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
Young people, parties, out-of-state travel associated with new cases
Persichilli reported Monday that New Jersey’s young adults are the fastest-growing demographic of new positive COVID-19 cases, and that health officials attribute those upticks to indoor parties and out-of-state travel.
In April, New Jerseyans aged 18 to 29 comprised just 12 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state; as of June, they accounted for 22 percent of all cases.
Among that age group, 730 have been hospitalized with complications from the virus; 53 have died.
Over the weekend, Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle attributed a cluster of new COVID-19 cases to Fourth of July and graduation parties. Last week, Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla had reported something similar, as more than a dozen new cases were connected with out-of-state travel.
As shared yesterday, all 13 COVID cases Thurs/Fri were travel related, 12 to hot spots. How did we know so quickly? We’ve had non-stop contact tracing in real time every day by our Health Dpt & we have 15 min rapid testing w/ @RiversideMedGrp so we aren’t waiting days for results
— Ravinder S. Bhalla (@RaviBhalla) July 5, 2020
“We certainly have evidence that indoor parties associated with beach towns and other places have occurred,” said New Jersey Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz.
Conversely, Lifshitz said that state health officials “don’t have evidence” tying new COVID-19 cases to visiting the beaches or attending a political protest. Murphy attributed that to mask mandates at the beach and partnerships with shore county health departments.
Back to school plans advance
As hundreds of New Jersey school districts continue to formulate their back-to-school plans against a backdrop of national conversation on what will happen this fall, Murphy said the state has “a strong bias towards getting back to school,” but “only if it can be done responsibly.
“We’re not going to be beaten or bludgeoned into doing this,” the governor said.
“We’re going to do this right, responsibly, and only if we can be convinced that we can protect all lives here: the kids, the teachers, the administrators, [and] the parents and grandparents to whom these kids would go home to,” he said.
The governor also acknowledged complications to the calculus, including how the digital divide complicates remote learning environments for some families, and how the state education system also provides a vital safety net for feeding many of its most vulnerable children.
Mass transit back to full ridership capacity
Murphy also signed an executive order restoring public transit services to full ridership.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, the current 50-percent capacity limits will be repealed.
This action applied to all NJ Transit, buses, trains, light rail, and Access Link modes of mass transportation. All riders and employees must wear face coverings both while in transit and while waiting for the bus or train, indoors and outdoors.
The governor also ordered municipal and county reorganization meetings that would have been held as an outcome of last week’s elections moved to July 27 and 28, pending the collection of all mail-in ballots.
Any elections scheduled to be held between now and November will be moved to the general election in the fall.
Murphy cited “the public health challenges of in-person voting in a pandemic, and frankly, the cost and logistical challenges of all mail-in voting” in making what he determined to be “a prudent and necessary step.”
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