Twenty percent of those pre-registered for the vaccine aren’t in any of the 1A, 1B, or 1C priority categories, and reports of ‘line-jumping’ have been confirmed by officials.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 11, 2021
Another 5,042 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 532,959 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
New Jersey is also reporting 540 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 57,203 positive antigen tests.
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.
Sadly, 51 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 17,873 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,059 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Since March, 606 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 203 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 8.1 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 6.01-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.09, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 11.32 percent January 7; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 14.15 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, rose to 1.09 from samples taken January 9.
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.
More than 51,000 LTC patients, staff infected
Throughout New Jersey, 3,653 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (251) or confirmed (3,402) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 649 were in intensive or critical care, and 438 of the ICU and critical-care patients (67 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 377 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 347 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,186 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 428 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 51,052 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or nearly 10 percent of total cases.
That includes 30,968 residents and 20,084 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,606 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (43 percent of the statewide total), with facilities self-reporting 125 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 433 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 154 have died from complications related to the virus, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Five veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 283 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 297 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, 75 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Persichilli said—two 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, 111 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 557 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.
1 million signed up to get COVID-19 vaccine, reports of some ‘line-jumping’
Throughout New Jersey, more than 1 million residents have registered or pre-registered for the COVID-19 vaccine through the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System.
Of them, Persichilli said:
- 7 percent are in Group 1A, “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,” according to the state vaccine distribution plan.
- 31 percent are in Group 1B, which includes sworn law enforcement, firefighters, other first responders, and those 75 and older.
- 43 percent are in Group 1C, which includes “other essential workers, adults 65 and over, and persons aged 16-64 with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 as defined by the CDC,” according to the state.
- 20 percent are in Phase 2, which includes the general public.
Persichilli added that 650,000 healthcare workers, 50,000 police and fire, and 2.7 million essential workers are in the state’s top priority lists.
Currently, New Jersey is only vaccinating individuals in the first two groups owing to a shortfall in the availability of the inoculations. The health commissioner also said that healthcare workers are receiving reports of people who do not fall within the 1A or 1B categories “showing up and registering at some sites.
“What we ask those sites to do is take their information, and call them back; if, at the end of the day, no one else is there and there’s a possibility of wastage, call them back and give it to them,” Persichilli said. “We’re trusting that people will do the right thing here. We know it’s difficult.
“Everybody will get vaccinated,” she said. “We will have enough. It’s just a matter of time.”
“We’ve heard anecdotal evidence, but there’s no rampant, systemic jumping of the line,” Murphy said. “I haven’t heard one case that is so-called illegitimate… and I think there’s been some honest mistakes.”
According to the state COVID-19 dashboard, 214,433 New Jerseyans have been vaccinated to date, with 199,293 first doses having been administered as well as 14,984 second doses.
New COVID strain, first identified in Britain, showing up in USA
Variant B-117 hasn’t yet been identified in New Jersey, but it has come through neighboring New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, said New Jersey State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan.
“At this time, the evidence suggests that there isn’t more severe disease associated with this variant, but because it’s more transmissible, we have to make sure that we don’t lose our guard,” Tan said.
Murphy waives graduation test requirements, teacher evaluation criteria
Finally, in an executive order today, Murphy made a number of changes to the requirements for students and teachers due to the pandemic, waiving the graduation assessment test requirement for high-school seniors, removing student growth objectives from teacher evaluations, and extending the time in which certified teachers can serve as substitutes.
“This is not a normal or regular school year,” the governor said. “We have to be more flexible and more understanding” given the “limited opportunities to meet the state’s graduation requirement,” he said.
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