Even though a vaccine isn’t far off, the best approach to limiting the impact of the virus is prevention, health officials say. Plus: NJ offers discounts of as much as 70 percent on PPE purchases for small businesses.
By Matt Skoufalos | November 23, 2020
Another 3,592 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 309,588 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
Sadly, 11 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 14,960 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, 456 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 170 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 5.67 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 3.48-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.32, spot positivity on par with state average in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 8.65 percent November 19; South Jersey paced that average, at 8.65 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.32 from samples taken November 21.
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, 2,693 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Yesterday, 333 COVID-positive patients were admitted to New Jersey hospitals, while 247 were discharged.
Among those hospitalized patients, 537 were in intensive or critical care, and 240 of the ICU and critical-care patients (45 percent) are on ventilators.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 981 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 307 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 41,857 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 14 percent of total cases.
That includes 26,510 residents and 15,347 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,277 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, 403 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, 259 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.
Health officials bracing for wave of new cases after Thanksgiving
Dr. Ed Lifshitz, who directs the New Jersey Communicable Disease Service, said that authorities expect “a bump up overall in cases” in the two weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday, as cases surge throughout the Garden State.
Of the 21 counties in New Jersey, only Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland Counties presently offer a “moderate risk” of contracting COVID-19, Persichilli said; based on Rt and positivity percentages, the rest of the state is considered to be “high risk” by the state Department of Health.
Since October, transmission of the virus has been highest among those aged 19 to 49, Persichilli said, meaning that “younger individuals are exposing older, more vulnerable loved ones,” who comprise the majority of COVID-related fatalities.
“This has to stop,” she admonished. “You need to be more careful.”
Across New Jersey, 80 percent of those who died from COVID-related complications were aged 65 and older, she said; 47 percent were older than 80, and 32 percent were aged 65-79.
Persichilli urged residents to “be vigilant during this upcoming public holiday,” adding that, once a COVID-19 vaccination is cleared for public use, “there is still much work to be done.”
“We believe this virus story gets worse before it gets better,” Murphy said, echoing the commissioner’s sentiments.
Vaccine distribution no small undertaking
Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for public use, the work of “building public confidence in a safe and effective vaccine is essential” if the state is to hit a 70-percent vaccination goal within six months of its availability, Persichilli said.
To hit that mark will mean inoculating 4.7 million New Jerseyans in order to build statewide immunity to the virus, she said.
Vaccination sites would need to be open six days a week or more and providing 67,000 vaccinations per day to hit that mark. If sites are only open five days a week, they’d still have to vaccinate 3,200 to 3,500 people per day, or 87,000 a week, to make that goal.
“In the meantime, we have to take this pandemic seriously,” Persichilli said. “There is no specific cure. Prevention is the key. Please wear a mask when around individuals outside of your immediate household.”
Additional PPE discounts for small businesses
New Jersey is expanding its PPE Access program for small businesses, which offers bulk purchasing discounts for personal protective equipment (PPE).
Businesses with 100 or fewer employees are now eligible for a total discount of nearly 70 percent off retail prices for items like facemasks, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Those businesses previously approved for 25 percent discounts will have their discount raised to 65 percent for all future purchases, the governor said.
The program expires December 10.
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