State officials say young people are spreading the virus at indoor parties. They urge residents to gather safely, outdoors, and practice social distancing.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 29, 2020
Another 489 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 180,766 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.
Sadly, 18 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 13,923 lives lost during the pandemic.
Nine of those occurred within the past five days, Murphy said; another five were reported by New Jersey hospitals within the last 24 hours, but are not reported in the totals pending lab confirmation.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state revised down its tally of probable COVID-19-related deaths by 45, from 1,920 to 1,875.
Throughout New Jersey, 761 people are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19: 361 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 400 are awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.
Among those hospitalized patients, 116 are in intensive or critical care, and 49 of ICU and critical-care patients (42 percent) are on ventilators.
Rate of transmission (Rt) hits 1.14, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 2.42 percent July 25; in South Jersey, it’s almost double, at 4.08 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.14 as of July 28, a new high that overtook the most recent peak of 1.11 (recorded two weeks ago).
Any Rt figure of more than 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting more than one other person, on average, which means the virus is spreading.
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 half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Across New Jersey, 592 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and account for 37,615 infected patients and staff, or 21 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,699 residents and 12,916 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 6,784 lab-confirmed resident deaths (50 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. Ten veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 240 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 213 of 1,229 patients and 509 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
To date, 54 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. There are no new cases this week, and one previously suspected case has been removed from the cumulative tally.
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.
Indoor parties, young people blamed for increased spread
As new COVID-19 cases in New Jersey continue to be reported, Murphy warned residents to gather outside and adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing protocols.
The state has backslid to month-ago levels of new cases, the governor warned, citing roughly 2,000 new positive test results in the past four days alone.
“We can’t go backwards,” Murphy said.
The increase is attributed to indoor house parties among young people, he said.
To wit: officials traced 50 new positive cases to a series of parties attended by those aged 15 to 19 in Middletown. Nearly 36 lifeguards from Harvey Cedars and Surf City have tested positive after a party; and a nearly-700-person house party in Jackson required the entire Jackson Police Department plus supporting officers to shut down.
“We simply cannot continue to have crowded house parties,” the governor said. “They are how coronavirus gets passed around more efficiently. They put the hard work that we’ve done together at risk of getting undone.”
Persichilli noted that the uptick in new cases among young people continues to grow. For the first three weeks in July, those aged 18-29 accounted for 24 to 33 percent of new COVID-19 cases, as compared with 12 percent in April and 22 percent in June from the same demographic.
“We understand everyone wants to spend time with family and friends, especially young people who haven’t had the ability to socialize because schools and colleges are closed, but we must gather safely for the sake of your own health and family and community,” Persichilli said.
The commissioner urged residents to host gatherings outside, arranging chairs and tables for social distancing, and wearing masks in close quarters. Symptomatic people should stay home and avoid social gatherings.
“This is no time for anyone to be vying for induction in the Knucklehead Hall of Fame,” Murphy said. “Do not become the person who unknowingly contracts coronavirus at a party and then spreads it to your parents or your grandparents or other loved ones, who may be more susceptible due to their age or underlying health challenges.
“Just because it is summer does not mean that we give up common sense or personal responsibility,” he said.
Travel advisory, return to school plans
With a majority of the country on the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut voluntary quarantine travel advisory list, Murphy was asked whether the list was of any significance at present.
The governor argued that “there’s still an enormous amount of travel” by New Jersey residents among many of those states that are still excluded from the advisory.
“There’s a whole bunch of contiguous [states] right up through New England,” Murphy said. “It’s still meaningful because there’s an enormous amount of natural travel, vacations or otherwise, schools, etc., that would go on.”
Finally, given the statewide prohibition on indoor dining and similar close-congregating, indoor activities, the governor was asked whether it’s sensible to allow children and teachers to return to in-person schooling in the fall.
Murphy said the issue is threefold, and involves balancing “health, education, and equity.” Unlike indoor dining, where patrons may elect to eat at home or ordering delivery, families in many districts don’t have comparable options for their education.
If you don’t provide alternatives for working parents, “they’re cornered,” he said.
“We have too many kids where the second choice either doesn’t exist, or it’s so far inferior [to] gathering them safely and responsibly,” the governor said. “There’s no real plan B. And so we just have to keep that in mind.”
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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