Coronavirus Update: 631,309 Infections, 19,506 Related Deaths; NJ Raises Indoor Gathering Limits to 35 Percent of Capacity


Citing declining hospitalizations and the ongoing vaccination roll-out, Gov. Murphy issues an executive order adjusting indoor gathering limits up by 10 percent.

By Matt Skoufalos | February 3, 2021

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 2-3-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 2,021 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 631,309 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.

New Jersey is also reporting 508 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 74,498 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, 52 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 19,506 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,187 probable COVID-19-related deaths—58 more than previously reported.

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 7.16-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) holding at 0.95, spot positivity higher in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 11.65 percent January 30; in South Jersey, it was slightly higher, at 11.94 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, held at 0.95 from samples taken February 1.

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 to November 2020 levels

Throughout New Jersey, 2,986 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (166) or confirmed (2,820) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Among those hospitalized patients, 525 are in intensive or critical care, and 374 of the ICU and critical-care patients (71 percent) are on ventilators.

In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 288 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 162 others were discharged.

Hospitalization levels in the past week have reached lows unseen since the end of November 2020, a sign that the state may be on the downward curve of its second COVID-19 surge after the winter holiday season.

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,226 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 423 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 52,129 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, less than nine percent of total cases.

That includes 31,784 residents and 20,345 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,780 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (41 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 142 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.

Dr. David Adinaro, Deputy Commissioner of NJ Public Health Svcs – COVID Briefing 2-3-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

Pediatric update, school data, vaccinations

To date, 84 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, 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, 837,225 vaccinations have been administered to date; 691,229 first doses, and 145,979 second doses. Of those, 48,636 have been administered in Camden County, seventh-most in the state.

Deputy New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. David Adinaro said officials expect the bulk of vaccine shipments delayed by Winter Storm Orlena to arrive today and tomorrow.

Adinaro also noted that the state is still managing a supply-demand imbalance in the number of vaccines available compared with the number of patients seeking immunizations.

“Our hope is that the federal government will begin to increase vaccine supply, but currently, doses are still very limited, so we continue to ask for the public’s patience,” Adinaro said.

Indoor gathering limits in NJ will increase starting Feb. 5. Credit: NJ Pen.

Murphy relaxes indoor gathering limits slightly

Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, February 5, some New Jersey businesses will be permitted to increase their indoor capacities from 25 to 35 percent, according to a new executive order issued by the governor.

Restaurants will be able to expand indoor dining to 35 percent of capacity, and indoor service may be extended beyond the 10 p.m. cutoff imposed in the fall of 2020. That order doesn’t supersede, however, any local service curfews that may be in place.

Seating at indoor bars is still prohibited, “as it creates a danger of close and prolonged proximity between and among patrons, bartenders, and servers,” Murphy said.

Indoor and recreation areas at casinos, gyms, and personal care businesses, including barber shops and salons, are also allowed to increase their capacity limits to 35 percent.

The executive order also brings indoor gathering limits up to the lesser of 35 percent of-venue capacity or 150 people at performance venues, and for political or religious gatherings, such as memorial services, weddings, and funerals.

“I feel confident in signing this order because of the recent trends in our hospitals and our rate of transmission,” the governor said, while acknowledging that “there are [virus]variants out there.

“That is the one caution or footnote we would put on this,” he said. “We’re going to closely monitor this and make sure we stay ahead of it.”

Murphy added that officials had been considering the capacity increase for as long as a week to 10 days.

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

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