Flu shots are now required for employees of long-term care centers, through which COVID-19 ravaged in New Jersey this spring.
Another 399 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 188,427 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
Sadly, 11 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 14,097 lives lost during the pandemic.
Six of the 11 deaths occurred within the past five days, Murphy said; the remainder happened within July and August.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 1,829 probable COVID-19-related deaths, revised down by 10 from prior counts.
Rate of transmission (Rt) rises to 1.06, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 1.78 percent August 15, holding below 2 percent for a sixth consecutive reporting day, Murphy noted.
Still, it’s highest in South Jersey, at 2.52 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.06 from samples taken August 17. It’s been climbing steadily since an August 14 recording of 0.92.
An Rt figure greater than 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting more than one other person, on average, and the spread of the virus is increasing.
Since its mid-April COVID-19 spike, the highest reported RT in New Jersey was 1.48, recorded August 1. The lowest was 0.62, recorded June 9.
Long-term care accounts for half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected
Throughout New Jersey, 471 people currently are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19: 262 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 219 are awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.
Among those hospitalized patients, 92 are in intensive or critical care, and 32 of the ICU and critical-care patients (34 percent) are on ventilators.
Across the state, 632 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and 204 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 37,774 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 20 percent of total cases.
That includes 24,669 residents and 13,105 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,020 lab-confirmed resident deaths (50 percent of the statewide total) and 120 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 242 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 213 of 1,198 patients and 515 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 those pediatric patients 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.
Amid COVID-19 pandemic, NJ begins preparations for flu season
Even as healthcare officials seek to contain the spread of COVID-19, Persichilli warned residents that flu season is just around the corner, too.
Flu vaccinations are required for New Jersey children attending daycare and preschool as well as for their caretakers; now, they are also required for employees of nursing homes, health agencies, long-term and acute-care centers, and inpatient rehab and psychiatric facilities.
Those healthcare workers are required to be vaccinated by December 31, and their places of work must offer the flu shot starting in October. Medical exemptions will be available for those who need them, but anyone who can’t get a flu shot will be required to wear a mask full-time, Persichilli said.
“This new requirement is another important way that they can protect not only their patients and residents, but themselves, and their families, and their loved ones,” she said.
Flu vaccinations help “protect you and those around you who may be more vulnerable to the flu,” Persichilli said, including infants, seniors, and those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
Two New Jersey children died from the flu during the 2019-2020 flu season, and 56 experienced severe illness as a result of it, Persichilli said. There were 120 flu outbreaks at New Jersey’s long-term care centers last season, and the virus accounted for more than 24,000 emergency room visits, 4,000 discharges, 529 ICU admissions, and 117 patients on ventilators statewide.
Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the medical director of New Jersey’s communicable disease service, said there will be 200 million flu shots available in the United States this year, “the most ever produced.” They’ll be available within the next two to three weeks, he said, urging residents to vaccinate themselves as early in the season as possible.
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