However, widespread vaccination of the population is still months away. Plus: ICU beds have reached one-third of their spring 2020 peak, and nearly 80 percent of residents aren’t participating in contact tracing.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 14, 2020
Another 4,805 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 405,448 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
Sadly, 25 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 15,907 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 1,868 probable COVID-19-related deaths, 675 of which are among residents and staff at long-term care (LTC) centers.
Since March, 499 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 181 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 6.78 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 4.56-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.13, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 10.95 percent December 10; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 12.39 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, rose to 1.13 from samples taken December 12.
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.
ICU bed usage hits one-third of spring peak
Throughout New Jersey, 3,635 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (210) or confirmed (3,425) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 704 were in intensive or critical care, and 491 of the ICU and critical-care patients (70 percent) are on ventilators.
By comparison, Murphy noted that the peak ICU bed usage New Jersey experienced in the spring of 2020 occurred on April 13, 2020, when 2,080 beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.
“We’re just over one-third of that total,” he said Monday.
Yesterday, 350 COVID-positive patients were admitted to New Jersey hospitals, while 300 were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,096 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 395 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 45,400 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 11 percent of total cases.
That includes 28,130 residents and 17,270 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,389 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (46 percent of the statewide total), with facilities self-reporting 124 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 417 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 147 have died from complications related to the virus. Nine veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 250 have recovered from the virus.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the state health department has had “a big focus” on the Vineland Veterans Memorial home, where “asymptomatic spread from employee groups” has sickened four more residents with COVID-19 this week.
Officials are managing prevention activities there, testing staff twice weekly, and requesting additional testing supplies from the federal government to continue a pilot testing program there.
By way of describing the transmission of the virus throughout New Jersey, Persichilli noted that Vineland had no cases at its veterans home during the spring 2020 surge, whereas presently, the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home, which was affected heavily in the spring, has none now.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 267 of 1,172 patients and 684 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Fourteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
To date, 65 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
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, 88 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 388 individual cases have been traced to schools in 19 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, 12 outbreaks have been linked to 63 cases, second-most in the state.
Statewide, 87 New Jersey schools are open for fully in-person instruction, 423 are operating a hybrid model of remote and in-person instruction, 258 are fully remote, and 43 are operating with a mix of all of the above.
First New Jersey healthcare workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine this week
At least 70 percent of New Jersey adults, or 4.7 million residents, must be vaccinated to achieve COVID-19 herd immunity numbers in the state, and the first of those are expected to get their inoculations Tuesday at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School vaccine clinic in Newark.
The first 76,050 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer will be delivered to the state this week; 20,000 of them are being shipped to long-term care sites throughout the state, and the remainder to hospitals.
That initial disbursement will be followed by another 86,000 doses next week to 56 New Jersey hospitals, in the second of three shipments expected this month from Pfizer.
First to receive the shots will be healthcare staff with the greatest chance of exposure to patients or infectious materials, including LTC residents and staff, Persichilli said.
The COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical manufacturer Moderna could get emergency federal authorization as early as Friday, with 154,000 doses traveling to New Jersey in its first shipment, and 65,000 in a second batch. The Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage, which allows for its wider distribution to the 18 New Jersey critical care hospitals that aren’t getting the Pfizer vaccine.
Despite the arrival of the vaccines, the state is “in for several hard months,” Murphy said, noting that, “as vaccinations move forward, we are going to be facing stiff headwinds from the second wave [of the virus].”
First responders won’t be mandated to receive the vaccine, but “we want them to come of their own free will,” the governor said.
“We get through the next six weeks, I believe we’re gonna have the worst behind us,” he said.
Contact tracers still facing opposition
New Jersey added another 233 contact tracers to its statewide total of 3,313, bringing the average to 30 tracers per 1,000 residents in every county except Bergen.
Yet as many as 78 percent of those called by a contact tracer last week refused to participate in the process, which stymied the governor.
“We have done everything we can to give our communities the tools to fight COVID, and yet they hit walls because the people they are trained to help aren’t helping them or themselves,” he said.
That frustration is particularly poignant as “the share of new infections continues to skew towards younger residents, while the share of deaths continues to skew toward older ones,” the governor said. With the holidays approaching, he fears that intergenerational spread could continue to be deadly.
“You may be young, you may feel fine and not show a symptom to anyone,” Murphy said. “But you could be passing this on to your parents or grandparents, essentially, I hate to say it, killing them.”
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