Delays in the president signing the federal COVID relief act could cause out-of-work New Jerseyans to miss out on benefits, but the bill’s passage extends child care subsidies through January 2021.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 28, 2020
Another 2,745 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 463,965 cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
Sadly, 21 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 16,706 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 1,945 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Since March, 527 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 190 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 7.6 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 5.24-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) down to 0.96, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 10.98 percent December 24; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 12.63 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, fell to 0.96 from samples taken December 26.
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.
Additional veterans home deaths and hospitalizations
Throughout New Jersey, 3,684 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (202) or confirmed (3,482) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 715 were in intensive or critical care, and 505 of the ICU and critical-care patients (70 percent) are on ventilators.
Across New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals yesterday, 396 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, while 286 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,145 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 430 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 47,972 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 10 percent of total cases.
That includes 29,375 residents and 18,597 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,476 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (45 percent of the statewide total), with facilities self-reporting 125 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 425 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 149 have died from complications related to the virus — two more than previously reported. Eleven veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 277 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 273 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, 67 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, 105 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 459 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.
First wave of LTC residents getting vaccinated
The first of New Jersey’s LTC residents received her COVID-19 vaccine dose Monday, as health officials visited the Roosevelt Care Center in Old Bridge for the occasion.
Mildred Clements, 103, a resident at the center, and Esther Moodey, a staff nurse there, were the first residents and health care staffer, respectively, to get the shot on Monday.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said 120,000 of the first 405,000 vaccine doses the state received this month have been dedicated to staff and residents at long-term care facilities across the state. Another 280,000 doses have been allocated to hospitals and community healthcare sites, Persichilli said.
Some 299 LTC sites are already scheduled to receive them, and 134 community-based healthcare sites have received vaccines this week, or will, the commissioner said.
The first batch of inoculations is reserved for “paid and unpaid healthcare personnel serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct and indirect exposure to infectious material,” Persichilli said.
That doesn’t include political figures, regardless of the need to help spread public confidence in the viability and safety of the vaccine. When asked whether he and members of his administration would be lining up for their shots, the governor said they’d wait their turns.
“Folks like us are not on that list,” Murphy said. “There’s some benefit to be seen taking it, but when there’s a supply-demand imbalance as great as it is, and you still have not gone through healthcare workers, long-term-care residents, essential workers, folks meaningfully older than we are, I just can’t justify it.”
Federal stimulus bill delays could mean a week of lost benefits for NJ workers
Some half-a-million New Jersey workers may lose a week of unemployment benefits included in the latest federal stimulus package after President Donald Trump waited four days to sign it.
According to Business Insider, the package approved by Congress included $300 per week in unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans, starting December 26 and ending March 14.
Although Trump was given the bill December 24, he didn’t sign off on it until the 27th, meaning that instead of 11 weeks of payments, recipients will only get 10. Moreover, they might not receive a final week of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUC), nor of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
New Jersey is waiting for guidance about how to make up the lost payment from the federal Department of Labor, Murphy said. Relaying a message from New Jersey Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo, the governor said claimants don’t have to reapply but may have to reopen a prior claim to access those funds.
“The New Jersey Department of Labor is working to implement these benefits, but the actual timing for these benefits to be resolved and be received will be made in Washington,” Murphy said.
“For many families across New Jersey, this delay was a failure,” he said. “This bill should have been signed immediately as a down payment, and further assistance taken up, and hopefully, it will be.”
NJ extends COVID-19 child care subsidies through January 2021
The extension of federal COVID relief aid did, however, open up opportunities for the extension of child care benefits for New Jersey families through January 31.
These include subsidies for kids aged 5 to 13 to receive child care during the school day at licensed child care centers or registered family child care providers. The subsidy typically covers before- and after-care, but has been extended to school-day hours amid remote learning models.
There’s also child care tuition assistance for families whose kids aren’t eligible for the typical state subsidy: households earning as much as $150,000 annually may access it.
The state Department of Human Services also will continue to pay child care centers an additional $300 per enrolled, subsidy-eligible infant, toddler, and school-age child for the month of January.
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