COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna could be in New Jersey hospitals by the end of the year. Officials ask residents to double down on health guidelines until they arrive.
By Matt Skoufalos | November 20, 2020
Another 3,635 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 297,370 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.
Sadly, 23 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 14,900 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 1,812 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Since March, 451 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 169 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 5.51 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 3.34-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Through the month of November, New Jersey has averaged 45,000 COVID-19 tests per day. Murphy advised those needing a test to try to schedule one over the weekend, where they may be likelier to encounter shorter lines and shorter waits.
The state is also set to receive 2.65 million BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 antigen tests in the coming weeks, and will work to distribute those to populations in high-density housing.
These will not be counted in the state health dashboard totals, which only report PCR tests; however, they are useful in settings where an immediate response is needed. The tests claim to deliver 97.1 percent sensitivity and 98.5 percent specificity.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.40, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 7.98 percent November 16; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 8.84 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.40 from samples taken November 16.
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 continue to climb
Throughout New Jersey, 2,505 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (233) or confirmed (2,272) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Yesterday 333 COVID-positive patients were admitted to New Jersey hospitals, while 290 were discharged.
Among those hospitalized patients, 452 were in intensive or critical care, and 233 of the ICU and critical-care patients (51 percent) are on ventilators.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 959 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 285 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 41,497 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 14 percent of total cases.
That includes 26,369 residents and 15,128 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,274 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (48 percent of the statewide total), with facilities self-reporting 123 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 401 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 250 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 255 of 1,172 patients and 596 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Fourteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
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, 56 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 239 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.
Vaccines could arrive in New Jersey by December
New Jersey could receive its first few shipments of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna as early as the third week of December, officials announced today.
If the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved for emergency use, the first shipment of some 130,000 doses could be in-state before Christmas, followed by another 130,000 doses at the end of the month.
By January, 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna may arrive.
Vaccines will be shipped directly to hospitals; Pfizer’s will require ultra-cold-chain storage (Scientific American has an explainer here), which Persichilli said is available in 40 New Jersey hospitals; the Moderna-developed vaccine requires regular refrigeration only.
The Pfizer-developed vaccine requires patients to receive two doses spaced 21 days apart; Moderna’s are spaced 28 days apart. The first doses will go to those in healthcare, first responders, and seniors. Supply sufficient to meet the needs of the general population should be available by April or May 2020, Persichilli said.
Until then, she asked residents to “double down on our public health measures as we’re waiting for that help to come.
“We must continue to social distance, wear a mask, and wash our hands frequently, especially now that we have statewide community spread,” Persichill said. “We will also still need individuals to get tested and participate actively in the contact tracing process,” which remains a challenge: according to the governor, some 60 percent of those people reached by contact tracers decline to participate in the process.
“We are in a far, far different place than we were in the early stages of this pandemic,” Murphy said. “We have the testing program in place and it is working overtime. We have the resources to ramp up testing when hot spots emerge, and we can begin to anticipate the arrival of a vaccine.”
Last week, 13,000 New Jerseyans filed for unemployment benefits, down by 8,000 from week-ago levels for a fifth consecutive week of decline, Murphy reported Friday.
Nearly 1.8 million New Jersey residents, or 20 percent of the state population, have sought unemployment benefits since March. 1.5 million have been deemed eligible for payments, and have received $19 billion in state and federal benefits.
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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