Coronavirus Update: 606,492 Infections, 19,091 Related Deaths; Six More B.1.1.7. Cases Detected


Plus: state officials direct all vaccination sites to automate scheduling of second-dose shots when patients get their initial doses. Even if there’s a lag between appointments, patients still need both doses.

By Matt Skoufalos | January 27, 2021

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 1-27-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 3,950 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 606,492 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.

New Jersey is also reporting 1,080 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 70,045 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, 107 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 19,091 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,129 probable COVID-19-related deaths—eight more than previously reported.

Since March, 679 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 216 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

More than 9.2 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 6.86-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) down to 0.91, spot positivity highest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 12.62 percent January 23; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 12.88 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, fell to 0.91 from samples taken January 25.

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

Hospitalizations fall below 3,200 for the first time since Nov. 30, 2020

Throughout New Jersey, 3,190 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (221) or confirmed (2,969) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

That’s the least number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in almost two months (on November 30, 2020, it stood at 3,108).

Among those hospitalized patients, 578 are in intensive or critical care, and 406 of the ICU and critical-care patients (70 percent) are on ventilators.

In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 375 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 416 others were discharged.

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,224 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 430 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 53,426 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, less than nine percent of total cases.

That includes 32,123 residents and 21,303 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,733 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (41 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 144 staff deaths.

Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 434 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 155 have died from complications related to the virus — one more than previously reported, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

Five veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 290 have recovered from the virus.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 330 of 1,141 patients and 808 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Fourteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.

To date, 83 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Persichilli said—one 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, 131 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 629 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.

Across New Jersey overall, 642,613 vaccinations have been administered to date; 550,526 first doses, and 90,084 second doses. Of those, 37,430 have been administered in Camden County.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – COVID-19 Briefing 1-27-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

Six more cases of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant detected in NJ

New Jersey has identified six more patients who have contracted the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant strain, for a total of eight patients overall, Persichilli said.

Four people have contracted the variant in Ocean County, two in Essex County, and two in Morris County.

They range in age from 10 to 65, the commissioner said.

Only one had a history of international travel, and one has died with the variant amid some underlying health complications.

These patients cases “will be investigated and contact-traced like any other case,” Persichilli said.

Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, medical adviser to the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) national SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance system (NS3) analyzes samples of the virus on a weekly basis.

New Jersey laboratories are working to become certified within the NS3 system as well as helping to identify anyone who contracted the virus after having been vaccinated against it, Bresnitz said.

Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, NJDOH Medical Advisor. Credit: NJ Pen.

Second doses must be scheduled—and patients must show up

Attempting to assuage residents who may have received the first of their two-shot COVID-19 vaccinations without being scheduled for their boosters, Persichilli said NJDOH “is working with sites to ensure that they are able to make this happen.

Patients who register with the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System (NJVSS) will be notified of their second appointments—which will be automatically generated within the system—by e-mail, the commissioner said.

“Everyone who wants to get vaccinated will be able to receive a vaccine when the supply is available,” Persichilli said.

“Right now, the supply is very limited.”

Although officials recommend that patients get their second doses within 21 days of having received the first dose, ideally within six weeks overall, Murphy said officials don’t want anyone to panic if they can’t be scheduled within that timeframe.

“In the world that we’re in with the supply-demand imbalance that we’re in… I think the message is, it’s not the end of the world if that slips,” the governor said. “Relative to the baseline efficacy of these vaccines, you’re still going to be highly protected.”

Bresnitz added that, based on observations of immunologic response in vaccinated patients, “the efficacy really is not going to change that much” whenever the second shot is administered.

A bigger problem, he said, is “people who are not coming back for the second dose purposely” after having experienced discomfort as a result of getting the initial dose.

“They’re concerned that if they come back for the second dose, they’re going to have a bigger reaction,” Bresnitz said. “You need to come back to get the maximal efficacy out of the vaccine.”

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

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