Plus: ‘high-risk’ contact sports may resume outdoor practices, state police are concerned about high-speed highway crashes, and travel advisory compliance will be enforced if necessary.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 20, 2020
Another 177 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 176,963 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
The governor cautioned that those figures could be revised, citing “some noise in our data” owing to “reporting issues” from Quest Laboratories.
“We are looking to solve this problem, which may require uploading the data manually, and it will appear in future reports,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Dr. Ed Lifshitz, who heads New Jersey’s communicable disease service, said an estimated 15,000 test results from Quest have not been included in the data, which, assuming the state’s ongoing two-to-three-percent positivity rate, could increase the total by another 250 to 400 cases.
Sadly, nine more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,741 lives lost during the pandemic.
Two of the deaths occurred in June and the other seven in July. Two of the nine reported Monday died within the past 24 hours; seven other deaths transpired within the past three days.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state also recognized another 1,974 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Throughout New Jersey, 798 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19 or while awaiting confirmation of their symptoms. Among those patients, 146 are in intensive or critical care, and 72 of ICU and critical-care patients (49 percent) are on ventilators.
Rate of transmission (Rt) falls to 0.90, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 2.8 percent July 16; in South Jersey, it’s nearly one-and-a-half times higher, at 4.11 percent.
On July 18, Rt, or the rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, fell to 0.90, coming down from a high of 1.11 last week.
An Rt figure of less than 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting less than one other person, on average, which means the virus is contracting.
The lowest recorded Rt since the mid-April COVID-19 spike in New Jersey was 0.62, which was recorded June 9.
Long-term care accounts for almost half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Across New Jersey, 578 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 37,215 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,527 residents and 12,688 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,824 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, 214 of 1,237 patients and 507 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, Persichilli said; unchanged since last 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.
Fall school plans will include fully remote schooling option
One of the biggest announcements Monday was the news that families of New Jersey schoolchildren will be able to opt into fully remote education when classes resume in the fall.
Murphy promised guidance would follow this week or the next on particulars of the plan, citing its complexity.
“There are a lot of moving parts with this,” the governor said. “This is about as complex a step as we or any American state will take, and we want to get it right.”
Outdoor contact practices can resume for ‘high-risk’ sports
Outdoor contact drills, practices, and competitions may resume for sports determined by the New Jersey Department of Health to be “high-risk” for COVID-19 transmission.
They include football, rugby, boxing, martial arts, and cheerleading, Murphy said Monday.
Athletes, coaches, and staff should continue to be screened for the virus, limit equipment sharing, and follow sanitization and social distancing protocols. To read the full executive order, click here.
Travel advisory compliance, highway fatalities linked to speed, driver inattention
Today is the first day of New Jersey rolling out its new mobile application for out-of-state travelers. Announced last week, the tool is designed to collect voluntary, self-reported data on visitors from hotspot states throughout the country.
Asked what authority the state has to compel participation in the program, Persichilli said those who don’t cooperate could face actions similar to fines levied in New York state for non-compliance.
“There’s been no enforcement at this point in time,” she said; “but we would only do that if we find that personal accountability is not being upheld.”
Finally, New Jersey State Police (NJSP) Colonel Pat Callahan reported that “speed and driver inattention” have contributed to an uptick in highway deaths during the pandemic.
According to the NJSP, 260 people have died in 242 accidents on state highways so far in 2020 (in Camden County, 18 crashes have claimed 19 lives this year). As of July 9, overall fatalities were down from 269 a year ago, and fatal crashes were down by seven.
Yet even with fewer vehicles on the roadway, “cell phone use and speed” are major contributors to fatalities, Callahan said, reporting that troopers are “stopping cars and motorcycles going 145 miles an hour.”
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