The state hit a single-day record of new, PCR-confirmed infections the same day it crossed the 18,000-death threshold. Meanwhile, vaccine rollouts at long-term care sites are not going as planned; officials blame pharmacy partners.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 13, 2021
Another 6,922 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 543,974 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
That total represents a single-day pandemic record, Murphy said.
New Jersey is also reporting 1,265 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 58,655 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, 95 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide death toll to 18,070 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,091 probable COVID-19-related deaths, 32 more than previously reported.
“All told, we have now crossed the threshold of 20,000 residents lost to COVID-19,” the governor said. “For New Jersey it’s almost unfathomable. This is more than 25 times the number of residents lost in 9/11, and we still mourn their loss.”
Since March, 609 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 205 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 6.11-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.10, spot positivity lowest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 13.53 percent January 9; in South Jersey, it was lowest in the state, at 13.14 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, rose to 1.10 from samples taken January 11.
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.
Hospitals brace for potential staff shortages amid predicted surge
Throughout New Jersey, 3,726 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (278) or confirmed (3,448) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 648 are in intensive or critical care, and 452 of the ICU and critical-care patients (70 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 460 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 438 others were discharged.
According to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, “community spread remains high” across the state, and health officials “are preparing for the predicted surge that may start as early as next week into the middle of February.
“We will have PPE [personal protective equipment],” Persichilli said. “We will have ventilators. What we will not have is the appropriate level of staffing that people are familiar with; conventional staffing. We will be working with our hospitals as they progress to contingency staffing, and hopefully, never crisis staffing.”
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,190 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 454 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 51,309 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or nine percent of total cases.
That includes 31,051 residents and 20,258 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,628 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (42 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 126 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 436 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 154 have died from complications related to the virus.
Five veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 283 have recovered from the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 302 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.
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 564 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 expands vaccine availability to seniors, those with chronic conditions
Anticipating the release of additional vaccine doses from the federal government allocation system, New Jersey will expand availability of the inoculations to some of its most vulnerable residents.
All residents 65 and older, plus those aged 16 to 64 with any of several chronic medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus may begin receiving their vaccinations tomorrow, Murphy said.
In New Jersey, 80 percent of fatalities have been of those 65 and older, and 67 percent of those were people with one or more reported underlying condition, Persichilli said, adding, “However, we know that this number is likely higher.”
“This is folks with chronic, real-time health challenges,” Murphy said, distinguishing them from patients with comorbidity risk factors.
Those chronic conditions for which a resident may be eligible for earlier access to the vaccine include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down syndrome
- Heart conditions
- Obesity and severe obesity
- Sickle-cell anemia
- Type II diabetes
The list also includes 2 million New Jersey smokers, Persichilli said.
Pregnant women with any of these conditions as well as those who are immune-compromised are eligible for the vaccine, but should consult with a doctor before scheduling, the commissioner said.
No documentation, either of a medical condition or to verify age, will be required to schedule or receive a shot, Persichilli noted.
Those who have pre-registered through the state vaccine portal—some 1.2 million New Jersey residents—will be notified by e-mail to coordinate their appointments, the governor said.
Delays in LTC vaccinations rankle officials
Reports in delays vaccinating the state’s long-term care residents are being chalked up to both a shortfall in available vaccine doses and difficulty with some of its pharmacy partners.
According to Persichilli, New Jersey’s initial order of 756,000 vaccine doses was reduced to 474,000, of which 215,000 were reserved for long-term care.
Thus far, 236,503 doses have been delivered, and 28,500 nursing home residents and staff have received their first vaccine doses at 220 clinics throughout the state, Murphy reported.
Overall, residents and staff at 310 congregate LTC sites have received their first inoculations, for a statewide total of 33,000 doses administered to this population, he said.
Persichilli said the difficulty in reaching residents at 656 long-term care facilities across the state represents “a pretty significant task” for its corporate pharmacy partners, CVS and Walgreens, which are handling the scheduling of vaccine clinics for residents there.
“CVS was quite prepared for this; Walgreens not so much,” the commissioner said, but added that LTC residents “will get their vaccinations.”
“It’s not that they have to wait in line for a dose; they have it,” she said. “It’s the vaccinators getting into 655 long-term care facilities.”
“We’re pounding away to make sure that they get on track,” Murphy said.
Overall, 264,681 vaccinations have been administered throughout New Jersey: 236,503 first doses, and 28,045 second doses. Of those, 14,776 have been administered in Camden County.
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