Coronavirus Update: 423,226 Infections, 16,216 Related Deaths; NJ to Open Vaccine Mega-Sites, but Dose Shipments Shorted


After being told New Jersey would receive nearly half a million vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna in the coming weeks, officials say the federal logistics platform distributing them now shows a 20-percent overall reduction.

By Matt Skoufalos | December 18, 2020

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 12-18-20. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 3,975 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 423,226 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.

Sadly, 44 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus—21 in the past three days—bringing the statewide death toll to 16,216 lives lost during the pandemic.

That’s equivalent to the populations of 417 of the 565 communities that comprise the state, the governor said.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 1,908 probable COVID-19-related deaths.

Since March, 507 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 184 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

Nearly 7.1 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 4.77-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.03, spot positivity highest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 10.08 percent December 14; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 11.26 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, fell to 1.03 from samples taken December 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.

Gov. Phil Murphy – COVID-19 Briefing – 12-18-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Hospitalizations plateau

Throughout New Jersey, 3,582 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (207) or confirmed (3,375) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Yesterday, 397 COVID-positive patients were admitted to New Jersey hospitals, while 461 were discharged.

Among those hospitalized patients, 715 were in intensive or critical care, and 480 of the ICU and critical-care patients (67 percent) are on ventilators.

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,108 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 402 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 45,893 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 11 percent of total cases.

That includes 28,347 residents and 17,546 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,430 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.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 267 of 1,130 patients and 721 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, 98 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 428 individual cases have been traced to schools in 19 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, 13 outbreaks have been linked to 66 cases, second-most in the state.

Finally, Murphy reported that, starting the week of December 28, the New Jersey Hospital Association will begin daily reporting the numbers of its COVID-19-positive hospital workers.

New Jersey planned vaccine mega-sites. Credit: NJPEN.

NJ to open six vaccine ‘mega-sites’ in January 2021, but dose deliveries are being shorted

In order to help New Jersey develop its herd immunity to COVID-19, health officials say some 4.7 million people, or 70 percent of the adult population of the state, must be vaccinated against the virus within six months.

To support that push, the state will create six “mega-sites” at which inoculations will be delivered.

They are: the Meadowlands Complex (Bergen County), the Rockaway Townsquare Mall (Morris County), the NJ Convention and Expo Center (Middlesex County), the Moorestown Mall (Burlington County), Rowan University (Gloucester County), and the Atlantic City Convention Center (Atlantic County)

These sites will be in position to vaccinate New Jersey’s 650,000 front-line healthcare and essential workers first, followed by adults 65 and older, and those with high-risk medical conditions. To date, 2,149 healthcare workers have received their first doses of the vaccine.

“With each successive wave, we will get closer to opening our vaccination sites to the general public,” Murphy said.

In addition, the state is working to open 200 satellite vaccination sites, including hospitals, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), urgent care centers, and chain pharmacies. Starting on December 28, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies will help manage the vaccination roll-out for the state’s long-term care sites, starting with veterans homes and skilled nursing facilities, followed by assisted living residences, Murphy said.

“Suffice it to say, as each successive group of New Jerseyans becomes eligible to be vaccinated… we will have the infrastructure in place to administer to every resident in those groups who wishes to be vaccinated,” Murphy said.

“Getting ourselves to the 70-percent vaccination level that helps to foster herd immunity to the virus will take months,” the governor said, during which time, everyone should adhere to mitigation behaviors from face-masking and social distancing to hand-washing and “common sense.”

“The vaccine’s mere presence in our state is not enough to move the needle,” Murphy said. “Everything together is how we will ultimately defeat this virus.”

“We anticipate that demand for the vaccine will outpace supply,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

However, the state will have to make do with a 20-percent reduction in vaccine shipments, Persichilli said, as Tiberius, the U.S. Department of Defense logistical platform created to deploy COVID-19 vaccines under “Operation Warp Speed,” is showing that New Jersey won’t get the full allocation of doses it had anticipated.

Of the 492,075 vaccine doses that New Jersey was expected to receive from manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, Tiberius shows now that the state is only on track to get 392,800, a 20-percent shortfall, Persichilli said.

Of 86,775 Pfizer doses expected in New Jersey next week, the state will only get 53,625, a reduction of 38 percent, Persichilli said; overall, Pfizer doses have been revised down from 273,375 to 183,300 doses, a 33-percent decrease.

(The Moderna vaccine hasn’t yet been approved for use by the general public, although the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration is expected to do so on an emergency basis this weekend.)

Murphy said he’s had high-level conversations with Pfizer executives who cannot account for the discrepancy in those reductions; moreover, the company reports that it has “millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

According to reports from The Washington Post, New Jersey is one of a few states that reported sudden reductions in their vaccine allocations amid negotiations between the manufacturer and the Trump administration.

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

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