Coronavirus Update: 494,317 Infected, 17,223 Related Deaths in 10 Months; Vaccination Updates, LTC Concerns


Nearly half-a-million New Jersey residents have been sickened by the virus and nearly 20,000 are believed to have lost their lives to complications related to COVID-19 in the 10 months of the pandemic.

By Matt Skoufalos | January 4, 2021

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 1-4-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 2,292 New Jersey residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 494,317 confirmed cases, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.

For the first time, New Jersey is also reporting COVID-19 antigen tests alongside polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in its statewide data.

To date, the state has reported 50,838 positive antigen tests, to which 822 new probable positive antigen tests were added Monday.

Antigen tests have a faster turnaround time than PCR tests—sometime within 15 to 30 minutes—but are less reliable at detecting active infection of the virus and more capable of reporting false positives. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers a primer on the difference between the two kinds of tests.)

Sadly, 38 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 17,223 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,021 probable COVID-19-related deaths.

Demographically, 47 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths in the state have been of those 80 years and older, 33 percent among those aged 65 to 79, 16 percent among those aged 50 to 64, and 4 percent of those aged 30 to 49.

Since March, 554 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 195 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

Nearly 7.8 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 5.59-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) down to 0.92, spot positivity highest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing stood at 11.22 percent December 31; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 14.48 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, fell to 0.92 from samples taken January 2.

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.

Simulated COVID-19 patient in a hospital bed. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Additional veterans home deaths and hospitalizations, vaccines on the way

Throughout New Jersey, 3,633 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (195) or confirmed (3,438) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Among those hospitalized patients, 664 were in intensive or critical care, and 476 of the ICU and critical-care patients (71 percent) are on ventilators.

In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 395 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 295 others were discharged.

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,165 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 428 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 49,483 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 10 percent of total cases.

That includes 30,162 residents and 19,321 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,547 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (44 percent of the statewide total), with facilities self-reporting 124 staff deaths.

“Despite testing, sufficient PPE and staff, the virus is still circulating in these facilities because it is still circulating at high levels in our communities,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 432 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 153 have died from complications related to the virus — two more than previously reported.

One was a patient who had previously recovered from the virus, Persichilli said. Five veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 283 have recovered from the virus.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 287 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, 72 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Persichilli said — three more than previously reported.

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, 108 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 546 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.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – COVID-19 Briefing 1-4-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

Vaccination updates, LTC concerns persist

Thus far, New Jersey has received 400,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and has administered 101,417 of those to frontline healthcare workers and others in the 1A group of its vaccination plan, which includes “paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials as well as residents and staff of long-term congregate settings.”

Of those 400,000 doses, 120,000 doses have been reserved for LTC residents and staff, Persichilli said; to date, 8,085 have been administered (4,285 to residents and 3,800-plus to staff) with the balance of LTC inoculations to be concluded by the end of the month.

Sixty-nine LTC vaccination clinics have already been held, 193 facilities have clinics scheduled this week, and 615 LTC clinics have been scheduled through the end of the month statewide, she said.

In the coming days, New Jersey plans to open two of its vaccine “mega-sites,” one each in Morris and Gloucester Counties, with the goal of immunizing 1,000 members of the 1A population per week. Persichilli said the state health department is hoping to source qualified healthcare professionals, including those who may already have retired, to help administer those vaccinations.

The process might have been farther along by this point, however, the commissioner said she “did get anecdotal information that people did not want to get vaccinated during the holidays in case they didn’t feel well.”

Asked whether patients should have any reservations about the vaccine, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, who heads up New Jersey’s communicable disease service, said the numbers overwhelmingly favor the vaccine over the virus.

“In New Jersey, we’ve had about half a million cases of COVID with almost 20,000 deaths,” Lifshitz said. “In the United States, we’ve given almost 4 million [vaccine]  doses with zero deaths from the vaccine. I certainly would take my odds with the vaccine over the virus any day of the week.”

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

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