Rather than issue statewide mandates, Gov. Phil Murphy said local officials should have the authority to make precise interventions in response to pandemic outbreaks in their areas.
By Matt Skoufalos | November 12, 2020
Another 3,517 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 266,986 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Thursday.
The state has reported 10,472 new cases since Monday alone, Murphy said.
Sadly, 18 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 14,694 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 1,800 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Since March, 441 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 167 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 5.1 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 3.04-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.30, spot positivity lowest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at a record 12.02 percent November 8; in South Jersey, it was lowest, at 10.80 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.30 from samples taken November 10.
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.
Hospitalizations match levels last seen in June, LTCs dealing with repeat outbreaks
Throughout New Jersey, 1,827 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, numbers unseen since June 4, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 360 were in intensive or critical care (a number last seen June 17), and 117 of the ICU and critical-care patients (33 percent) are on ventilators.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 880 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19. Of those facilities 250 (30 percent) have sustained multiple outbreaks, and 216 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 40,456 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 15 percent of total cases.
That includes 25,920 residents and 14,536 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,247 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (48 percent of the statewide total), with facilities self-reporting 122 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 400 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 146 have died from complications related to the virus. Four veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 248 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 254 of 1,163 patients and 545 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
COVID, kids, and schools
To date, 61 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
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.
Since August 1, 51 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 192 individual cases have been traced to schools in 18 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, nine outbreaks have been linked to 54 cases. That’s the most in the state.
Health officials report that many of the elevated cases seen in schools may be attributable to outbreaks in the broader surrounding communities. Without accurate contact tracing—which requires greater community participation—it’s difficult for them to tell.
Murphy also reported Thursday that the state has narrowed its digital divide—the number of students needing either a device from which to complete school assignments, or Internet connectivity—from an estimated 231,000 in August to fewer than 40,000 presently.
The most commonly reported reason those issues have yet to be resolved is related either to supply chain or delivery delays, the governor said.
Governments given flexibility to act locally to address hot spots
The governor issued a new executive order Thursday giving municipal and county governments the option to limit the operating hours of non-essential businesses to 8 p.m. as necessary.
The mechanism is not compulsory, and no additional restrictions on operating hours are required to be enacted.
Other municipal or county actions that differ from the statewide rules for businesses “are impermissible and will be invalidated,” he said.
Murphy said the measure allows local officials to have “the ability to take action to prevent localized hot spots from becoming COVID wildfires.”
Why shut down early? Murphy said officials “have received numerous reports that, as the night progresses, people begin to congregate, let their guard down, and take fewer precautions.”
The additional local flexibility is being offered as a substitute for broadstrokes interventions, which the governor said he doesn’t want to enact.
“What we are facing today is different from what we faced in the spring, when we were forced to take drastic action statewide to mitigate uncontrolled, statewide spread in the face of scarce testing resources, limited PPE and ventilators, and frankly, with limited knowledge of what this virus was,” Murphy said.
Travel hockey iced
On Thursday, Murphy also announced an interstate compact prohibiting youth hockey games and tournaments among New Jersey and New England, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Those seven states are shutting down play to limit exposure in the face of the second wave of the virus.
“If I had to predict, this group will grow, and I hope it grows soon,” the governor said. “We know that there’s been transmission linked to youth hockey team activities, and with numbers rising across our region, this is an important step to mitigate community spread and continue to protect public health.”
Indoor interstate sports competitions, from youth leagues to high schools, are currently prohibited in New Jersey by an executive order Murphy signed Monday.
Unemployment down for a fourth week
Another 21,000 workers filed for unemployment last week in New Jersey, down more than 3,700 from the prior week, and a fourth consecutive week of decline.
More than 1.78 million workers have filed a claim since March and more than 1.46 million (96 percent) received benefits. In total, $18.7 billion has been paid out to workers in the state.
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