Plus: contact tracers report that only half of all people they call provide contacts for follow-up, and 20 percent refuse to answer the phone.
By Matt Skoufalos | August 14, 2020
Another 585 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 187,164 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.
Sadly, 10 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 14,064 lives lost during the pandemic.
Two of those deaths occurred in July, and eight occurred in August, the governor said.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state acknowledged another 1,839 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Rate of transmission (Rt) falls to 0.92, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 1.63 percent August 10; it’s highest in South Jersey, at 2.55 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling average rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, fell slightly to 0.92 from samples taken August 12, declining from a recent high of 1.48 recorded August 1.
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 spread of the virus is slowing.
The lowest reported Rt in New Jersey since its mid-April COVID-19 spike was 0.62, recorded June 9.
Long-term care accounts for half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Throughout New Jersey, 514 people currently are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19: 278 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 236 are awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.
Among those hospitalized patients, 91 are in intensive or critical care, and 40 of the ICU and critical-care patients (43 percent) are on ventilators.
Across the state, 622 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, 225 are dealing with an active outbreak.
LTCs account for 37,676 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 20 percent of total cases. That includes 24,643 residents and 13,033 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,011 lab-confirmed resident deaths (50 percent of the statewide total) and 121 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. Eight veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 242 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 213 of 1,202 patients and 514 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
To date, 55 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. There have been 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. No deaths have been associated with this syndrome in New Jersey.
General election to be ‘overwhelmingly’ vote-by-mail, online registration active Sept. 4
The November general election will be “overwhelmingly vote-by-mail,” Murphy said Friday.
Online voter registration will be active by September 4, and ballots will be mailed to all active, registered New Jersey voters by October 5.
The voter registration deadline is October 13, and no sample ballots will be provided, the governor said.
General election ballots must be postmarked by November 3, but those without postmarks that are received by 8 p.m. November 5 will still be valid. No postmarked ballot received later than 8 p.m. November 10 will count.
For those who don’t want to mail their ballots, the state will provide at least 10 secure, monitored ballot collection boxes per county, and voters may deliver their ballots to polling places as well.
“You can literally show up on Election Day with your mail-in ballot in hand and deliver it to a poll worker,” Murphy said.
The 2020 New Jersey primaries produced the second-highest turnout in state history, and “gave us the opportunity to see what worked and where we can make improvements,” the governor said.
“All of us recognize the importance of this year’s election,” he said.
New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way said that the state will also maintain in-person polling places on Election Day.
Its typical roster of 3,400 sites was more than halved, to 1,600, during the primary, for voters casting provisional ballots, which more than 1.5 million New Jerseyans did on July 7.
Way urged voters to follow up with their local Boards of Elections if they haven’t gotten their ballots by the second week of October.
Every voter can sign up to track his or her ballot and follow its path to the board of elections.
Way said that the state also is recruiting younger people to assume the roles traditionally filled by poll workers, “who tend to be older and more at risk of COVID-19,” she said. To register, visit pollworker.nj.gov.
Contact tracing ramps up, with mixed results
New Jersey added 185 new contact tracers to its public health workforce, bringing the statewide total to 1,529, Murphy said Friday.
Every county has at least 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents; statewide, that number averages out to 17 per 100,000. The governor has said that the state will ramp up to 30 tracers per 100,000.
More than half the new cases reported last week were followed up within 24 hours, Murphy said. But nearly 20 percent of those called refused to answer, and half of those contacted refused to provide contacts for follow-up.
“It is incredibly important for everyone to take this seriously and work with our contact tracers,” the governor said.
“Our contact tracers are not out on a witch hunt for any illegal activity,” he said. “Their sole task, however, is to stop the spread of this virus, and to save lives, period.”
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