Coronavirus Update: 204,107 Infections, 14,316 Related Deaths; NJ to Get 2.6M Rapid Antigen Tests


Plus: health officials battle a persistent outbreak in Ocean County, and New Jersey isn’t close to achieving herd immunity thresholds.

By Matt Skoufalos | September 29, 2020

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 9-29-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Another 561 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 204,107 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.

Sadly, one more resident has perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 14,316 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 1,791 probable COVID-19-related deaths.

In the past six months, 265 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 163 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

More than 3.5 million people have been tested for the virus statewide, with a 2.32-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.12, spot positivity higher in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 2.48 percent September 24; in South Jersey, it was higher, at 2.58 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.12 from samples taken September 26.

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.

Camden County OEM ships PPE to long-term care sites across the county. Credit: Rich Ratner.

Long-term care accounts for half of all deaths, a fifth of those infected

Throughout New Jersey, 421 people currently are hospitalized with a case of COVID-19: 236 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 185 are awaiting confirmation of their symptoms.

Among those hospitalized patients, 91 are in intensive or critical care, and 39 of the ICU and critical-care patients (43 percent) are on ventilators, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Across the state, 723 long-term care (LTC) centers have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and 165 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 38,736 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 20 percent of total cases.

That includes 25,123 residents and 13,613 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,158 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (50 percent of the statewide total), with facilities self-reporting 121 staff deaths.

Of 656 veterans residing in a state-run home, 390 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 146 have died from complications related to the virus. Five veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 243 have recovered from the virus.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 214 of 1,174 patients and 523 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.

To date, 58 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Persichilli said, the first additional case in weeks.

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, although several children have been hospitalized during their treatment.

The Abbot BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card. Credit: Abbott Laboratories.

NJ to get rapid, point-of-care COVID-19 tests

Through federal aid, New Jersey will receive 2.6 million Binax NOW COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, produced by Abbot Laboratories, Murphy said.

The first 170,000 are expected within the next two weeks, which would bring the state “just shy of doubling our testing capacity,” he said. The test, which boasts 97.1-percent sensitivity and 98.5-percent specificity rates, “could be a game-changer,” the governor said.

The exam is a nasal swab accompanied by a mobile application, and can provide results within 15 minutes of being conducted. Murphy said it could be used to “plus-up” testing in a hotspot area or confirm COVID-19 cases in schools, among other applications.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – COVID-19 Briefing 9-29-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Northeast not close to ‘herd immunity’ figures, DOH battles Ocean County outbreak

Health officials are concerned specifically about a spike in numbers from Ocean County, which has accounted for 28 percent of all new cases in the state in the past six days, Persichilli said.

In response, the state health department is planning to deploy 20 contact tracers to support case investigation there.

“Our goal is to contain the transmission of the virus in that county,” the commissioner said.

Finally, Persichilli reviewed the results of a recent CDC data study to estimate the national seroprevalence of COVID-19 antibodies; that is, the population with a verifiable immune response to the virus in its bloodstream.

According to the findings, between July 9 and August 12, New Jersey had the second-highest percentage (15 percent) of people with COVID-19 antibodies in their blood in the country, right behind New York. But that figure is far short of the presumed 70 to 80 percent of seroprevalence that epidemiologists believe would confer “herd immunity,” or, as Persichilli identified it, “community protection.”

The data have some limitations, she said. It’s not known from which communities they were sampled, or whether the findings are representative of statewide conditions.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about serology,” Persichilli said, including whether a person exposed to COVID-19 is immune to future exposures. Yet the data “are valuable for epidemiology and research studies,” she said, and the CDC plans on doing additional rounds of data sampling in the coming weeks.

Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.

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