The statewide vaccine supply could increase if the Johnson and Johnson formulation is approved after a planned Feb. 26 federal review. Plus: 31 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been reported in 11 New Jersey counties.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 8, 2021
Another 2,218 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 647,194 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
New Jersey is also reporting 516 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 77,534 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.
Murphy noted that Monday’s counts may be lower than normal because of a reporting issue at the laboratories that process COVID-19 testing results.
Sadly, 25 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 19,824 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,187 probable COVID-19-related deaths.
Since March 2020, 700 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 225 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 9.63 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 7.33-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.92, spot positivity lower in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 8.5 percent February 4; in South Jersey, it was lower, at 8.25 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.85 from samples taken February 6.
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, 2,814 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (181) or confirmed (2,633) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 540 are in intensive or critical care, and 373 of the ICU and critical-care patients (69 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 256 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 255 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,232 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 417 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 52,478 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, eight percent of total cases.
That includes 31,897 residents and 20,581 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,818 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (41 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 143 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 436 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.
MISC cases; schools
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 331 of 1,150 patients and 919 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Fourteen patients and seven staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
To date, 88 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC), according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
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. Three are currently hospitalized.
Since August 1, 137 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 655 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, 1.037 million vaccinations have been administered to date; 813,216 first doses, and 224,237 second doses.
Of those, 60,442 have been administered in Camden County, seventh-most in the state.
“Even with the continued scarcity in supply and the re-schedulings caused by snowstorms, we have put 500,000 doses in arms in just a little over two weeks,” Murphy said.
“This is definitely forward progress and it shows how we are working to maximize every dose we receive from the federal government to administer the vaccine to those currently eligible, including our seniors,” he said.
The governor described those gains as “a significant milestone” on the way to vaccinating 4.7 million New Jerseyans—the number believed to approach herd immunity in a state of 8.8 million—by the beginning of the summer vacation season.
Since the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System has been staffed with live agents, Persichilli reported that they have fielded more than 50,000 calls, registered more than 6,000 people within the system, and scheduled more than 600 appointments for immunizations.
Federal vaccine supplies are increasing, albeit slowly, Persichilli said, but there’s hope on the horizon, as the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine formulation has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval. The FDA is scheduled to review its clinical data February 26.
By April 2021, the pharmaceutical manufacturer intends to produce 100 million doses of its vaccine, which is administered in a single dose and doesn’t require ultra-cold chain storage.
“The vaccine will travel better, and it will be easier to deploy closer to where individuals live,” Persichilli said.
31 B.1.1.7 cases reported in New Jersey
New Jersey has now identified 31 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, also known as “the UK variant,” Persichilli reported.
That’s up from a total of 19 cases last week. They are dispersed across the state as follows:
- Ocean County – 12
- Essex and Burlington Counties – four each
- Middlesex, Monmouth, and Morris Counties – two each
- Atlantic, Hudson, Mercer, Passaic, and Warren Counties – 1 each
Only three of the B.1.1.7 patients had known travel histories, the commissioner said.
Officials continue to track the incidence of the variant, which is believed to be no more dangerous than other strains of COVID-19, but significantly more easily spread.
Finally, Murphy announced that in-person and mail-in voting will be available for the April 20 school and fire district elections and May 11 nonpartisan municipal elections.
The governor said no decision yet has been made as to the organization of the June 2021 primary elections, but is “optimistic that we will be able to conduct in-person voting in June as well.”
Murphy added that all polling places will require voters to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, including face coverings, social distancing, and sanitization.
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