Plus, personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and state facilities remains an ongoing concern, and visitor guidance for pediatric patients and those with disabilities in long-term-care sites.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 15, 2020
Another 396 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 176,278 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 27 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,660 lives lost during the pandemic.
Of those newly reported deaths, 17 occurred in the month of July.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state also recognized another 27 probable COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total of COVID-probable deaths to 1,974.
Throughout New Jersey, 923 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Among those patients, 151 are in intensive or critical care, and 78 of those ICU and critical-care patients (51 percent) are on ventilators.
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 2.13 percent July 11; in South Jersey, it’s slightly higher, at 2.68 percent.
On July 11, Rt, or the rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, declined slightly to 0.93, up slightly from 0.91 on Monday, but overall down from a week-ago high of 1.10.
That figure 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, recorded June 9.
Long-term care accounts for almost half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Across New Jersey, 566 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 36,997 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,431 residents and 12,566 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,614 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, 213 of 1,234 patients and 506 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.
Out-of-state-travelers and mask enforcement
Murphy said the state would rely on “appeal[s] to people’s personal responsibility” instead of fines to ensure compliance with its COVID-19 travel advisory.
He said the tristate policy, which is shared among New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, deliberately was rolled out “before we had all of the underpinning elements of it in place” because officials would rather use “the bully pulpit” to influence public behavior.
Instead, New Jersey will rely on contact tracers and broad messaging campaigns to convey the need for people to account for their personal health status.
Murphy also pointed out that federal law prohibits denying American citizens the right of free travel across state lines and within national borders, which makes moot the argument of simply closing New Jersey to outside visitors.
“We can’t,” the governor said. “That’s not the way the United States works. But we want to appeal, and we want folks to know we mean business.”
NJDOH is also working on developing a mobile application by which travelers arriving in New Jersey may submit their health and travel information directly to state health officials. Persichilli said the app could be released next week, and that her office is working with airlines to use it to collect air passenger data.
Asked about how or whether officials will enforce the outdoor mask mandate, Murphy said people in close quarters must mask up when social distancing isn’t possible.
“We expect folks to be warned, and action to be taken, if there is intense congregation, where folks are not socially distancing, and it’s for a meaningful amount of time,” the governor said.
He urged elected officials, faith leaders, and community leaders to set a good example for the public by wearing masks as requested.
Visitation for pediatric patients, those with disabilities in LTC sites
On Wednesday, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) will issue guidance on visitation for parents and guardians of children and people with disabilities in New Jersey’s long-term care centers.
Those visits will be outdoor-only, as per prior orders, unless the facility has had no new probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 28 days, and can provide a dedicated indoor environment to host guests.
All visitors must be screened for symptoms, must wear masks, and facilities must create guidelines before hosting visitors. They must also file attestations with the state that they can comply with the NJDOH directives.
Patients and visitors must sign an informed consent form acknowledging the risks of a visit and promising to report any positive COVID-19 test or onset of symptoms within two weeks of visiting.
PPE procurement, allocation still ‘a daily conversation’
Finally, New Jersey State Police Colonel Pat Callahan reported that New Jersey still struggles to obtain full complements of personal protective equipment (PPE) for its hospitals or state facilities.
“That very first resource request we made of FEMA, which might have been in the first week of March, they still are delivering on that, and it’s probably going to be months before they can fill that,” Callahan said.
Increased demand and consumption make procurement a daunting task, he said, citing a present, “global shortage” on nitrile gloves.
“Whether it’s the long-term care facilities or hospitals stockpiling on their own… it is a daily conversation, and our logistics team and OEM stays on top of that daily,” Callahan said.
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