Plus: Gov. Phil Murphy blames a technical error for ‘erroneously double-booked appointments’ through the NJVSS, and the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant has now been detected in eight New Jersey counties.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 29, 2021
Another 5,023 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 615,202 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Friday.
New Jersey is also reporting 1,186 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 72,067 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, 83 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 19,254 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,129 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Since March, 686 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 219 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 9.32 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 6.99-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) holding at 0.91, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 8.37 percent January 25; 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, held at 0.91 from samples taken January 27.
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.
Hospitalizations continue to decline
Throughout New Jersey, 3,116 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (232) or confirmed (2,884) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 548 are in intensive or critical care, and 378 of the ICU and critical-care patients (69 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 361 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 363 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,225 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 425 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 53,756 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, less than nine percent of total cases.
That includes 32,302 residents and 21,454 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,748 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, 435 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 155 have died from complications related to the virus.
Six veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 294 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.
Pediatric cases, schools, vaccinations
To date, 84 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome—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, 724,371 vaccinations have been administered to date; 610,110 first doses, and 110,698 second doses. Of those, 42,475 have been administered in Camden County, seventh-most in the state.
Of the first 1,270 first LTC vaccination clinics scheduled, 927 have been completed, and of 1,245 second LTC clinics scheduled, 156 have been completed. In total, 113,275 vaccinations have been administered in those visits.
Vaccinations outstrip positive tests, Gov. apologizes for scheduling error
Health officials have now vaccinated more New Jersey residents than have tested positive for COVID-19, and the state is averaging 20,000 more vaccinations daily than it is recording new cases, Murphy said Friday.
“We have now put more shots in arms than we have had total, cumulative, confirmed PCR and positive rapid tests results,” the governor said.
Unfortunately, however, what Murphy described as “a technical issue” with the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling Service (NJVSS) led to the overbooking of a number of residents who had been scheduled for their immunizations. The state is working to rectify it, he said.
“We regret the confusion this technical issue caused, and we are working with our vendor—and as you can imagine, those exchanges are spirited—to address the root causes,” Murphy said.
Additional clarity from the U.S. federal government distribution system is enabling officials to “know what our allotment will look like at least three weeks down the road,” the governor said.
Murphy also touched on the encouraging clinical reports about a new, one-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson and Johnson of New Brunswick.
The formulation is reportedly 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 28 days after vaccination, 85 percent effective in preventing severe disease, and “demonstrated complete protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death as of Day 28,” according to statements from the company.
“These are numbers that cannot be overlooked,” Murphy said. “We need every tool in our toolkit. A vaccine that only requires one dose and does not require cold chain storage… could be a game-changer.”
11 cases of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant detected in eight counties
Another three cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, also known as “the UK strain,” have been detected in New Jersey, according to Dr. David Adinaro, Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health.
Adinaro filled in for New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli at Friday’s briefing, as she was quarantining because a member of her staff tested positive for the virus.
According to Adinaro, 11 B.1.1.7 cases in total have been identified in New Jersey: two in Essex County, one each in Hudson and Middlesex Counties, two in Morris County, four in Ocean County, and one in Warren County.
Of those, two cases involve patients with “a known travel history,” he said.
Unemployment claims down; childcare assistance, hockey ban extended
Another 16,618 New Jersey workers filed an initial claim for unemployment benefits last week, down from week-ago levels (80,047).
In total, 1,970,816 workers in the state have filed claims, and have received $21.7 billion in state and federal benefit payments.
The New Jersey child care subsidy for families who need additional support covering the cost of their children’s tuition payments has been extended throughout the end of February. For more information about the program, visit the state site here.
Finally, Murphy joined the governors of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont in extending their suspension of interstate youth hockey competitions for public and private schools and youth hockey leagues through at least March 31, 2021.
“The prohibition will not impact interstate collegiate, professional, or U.S. national team hockey activities, which will remain subject to existing health and safety protocols and/or restrictions,” officials said in a statement.
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