South Jersey also reports a spot positivity that’s more than double the state average, and officials report encountering resistance from farmers as they work to test migrant workers.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 6, 2020
Another 216 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 173,611 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
Sadly, 20 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,373 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state also recognized another two probable COVID-19-related deaths, bringing its total to 1,856.
Throughout New Jersey, 861 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19, or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.
Among those patients, 187 are in intensive or critical care, and 152 of ICU and critical-care patients (81 percent) are on ventilators. All three categories decreased over the Fourth of July weekend, Murphy said.
Overnight, 44 New Jersey hospitals admitted 51 new COVID-19 patients, and 83 others were discharged, either to a lower-acuity care setting or to their homes.
Rate of transmission (Rt) above 1.0, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 2.14 percent June 2; in South Jersey, it’s more than double, at 5.38 percent.
For the first time in 10 weeks, Rt, or the estimated rate of transmission of new cases of the virus, exceeded 1.0.
That means every new case of COVID-19 is leading to at least one other new case, and the virus is spreading more rapidly.
On July 4, Rt stood at 1.03—up significantly from a low of 0.62 recorded June 9—as North Jersey communities reported new outbreaks of the virus tied to travel to other COVID-19 hotspots nationwide, including a June wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“This is an early warning sign that quite frankly we need to do more,” Murphy said. “Just one selfish person can undo the hard work that the rest of you all have done.
“I do not want to have to hit another pause on our restart because a small number of New Jerseyans are being irresponsible and spreading COVID-19 while the rest of us continue to work hard to stop it,” he said.
“But we all need to be traveling down this road together.”
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said reports from the weekend indicate a critical need for travelers to and from hotspot states to quarantine upon arriving in New Jersey. She pointed to the availability of housing resources and other social services for those who need them.
“We know it is an inconvenience to separate yourself from others and to stay home for 14 days, but it is vital for breaking the chain of transmission,” Persichilli said. “State and local governments can assist you with quarantine; please reach out if you need support.”
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 36,461 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,199 residents and 12,262 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,476 lab-confirmed resident deaths (49 percent of the statewide total) and 117 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. Seven veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 239 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.
To date, 51 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Persichilli said; no 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. Nine children are still currently hospitalized. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
Concerns about farmers’ opposition to testing of migrant workers
Last week, NJ Spotlight reported that some New Jersey farm owners are refusing to allow their migrant worker populations to be tested for COVID-19, even though the state has said that testing vulnerable communities remains a priority in battling the virus.
“Those familiar with the process in the communities say the number of growers is in the dozens, with most in Cumberland County and recently six blueberry growers in Atlantic County,” NJ Spotlight reported.
Persichilli said the state health department has a dedicated task force working to test migrant workers.
About 3,900 have been tested thus far, but the total number of migrant workers is unknown, she said.
“We are working with the farmers to try to encourage testing at all the sites,” Persichilli said. “The workers themselves have been very cooperative.
“The workers,” she repeated.
Finally, Murphy reported Monday that the state’s live COVID-19 briefings will switch to Monday, Wednesday, Friday only, with digital updates in the intervening days as necessary.
Asked repeatedly about his perspective on mask-wearing outdoors, in the wake of Pennsylvania’s July 1 order to wear masks “whenever anyone leaves home,” Murphy said “masking outdoors is something we’re looking at.” The governor also underscored that viral transmission patterns and rates really make masking an indoor necessity foremost.
He also urged anyone quarantining at home who hasn’t yet submitted a mail-in ballot for tomorrow’s primary elections to “get a hold of your county clerk.”
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