Nearly $30 million in federal COVID-19 funds will help places of higher education ‘develop sustainable system-wide reforms’ to help vulnerable college students earn degrees, as well as fighting on-campus hunger.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 24, 2021
Another 2,661 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 689,944 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
New Jersey is also reporting 785 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 85,442 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, 57 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 20,746 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,331 probable COVID-19-related deaths—42 more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 719 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 236 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 10.24 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 7.84-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.86, spot positivity lowest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 10.7 percent February 20; in South Jersey, it was lowest, at 8.7 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.87 from samples taken February 22.
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 trend downward
Throughout New Jersey, 2,070 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (162) or confirmed (1,908) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 435 are in intensive or critical care, and 273 of the ICU and critical-care patients (63 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 253 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 238 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,255 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 362 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 53,108 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 7.6 percent of total cases.
That includes 32,202 residents and 20,906 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 7,890 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (38 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 143 staff deaths.
Of 656 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 439 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 155 have died from complications related to the virus.
Eight veterans presently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 295 have recovered from the virus.
MISC cases and schools
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 332 of 1,151 patients and 935 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Fourteen patients and eight staffers have died from complications related to the virus.
To date, 104 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC), according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli—nine 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, and one currently is.
Since August 1, 152 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 737 individual cases have been traced to schools in 19 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, 14 outbreaks have been linked to 70 cases, second-most in the state.
Across New Jersey overall, 1.76 million vaccinations have been administered to date: 1.192 million first doses, and 566,441 second doses. Of those, 100,200 have been administered in Camden County, seventh-most in the state.
In the state’s long-term care centers, 232,627 doses have been administered in total: 126,319 to residents, and 106,308 to staff.
NJ to release $29.5 million in COVID response funds for colleges and universities
New Jersey colleges and universities will have the opportunity to compete for nearly $30 million of federal COVID relief funds, as the state releases the final tranche of its educational funds, Murphy said today.
The bulk of it, almost $28.5 million, will be allocated in competitive grants through the “Opportunity Meets Innovation” challenge.
Those entities that win the funds will “develop sustainable system-wide reforms” that focus on the “historically disadvantaged, including underrepresented minorities, low-income students, and working-age adults,” according to a memo from the governor’s office.
“Many of these populations were among the hardest hit by the pandemic, which resulted in declines in enrollments, challenges to student success, and unprecedented unemployment figures,” the statement read.
Program goals include:
- Expanding opportunities for students to gain early college exposure
- Improving college affordability
- Fostering student success
- Promoting safe and inclusive learning environments
- Cultivating research, innovation and talent
The final million dollars will be awarded through the “Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program,” which will address food insecurity among students enrolled in public institutions. This funding is only available to public institutions that received “Hunger-Free Campus” designations.
LTCs may welcome indoor visitors in regions where COVID activity levels are low
Persichilli announced Wednesday that long-term care centers in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Salem, and Somerset Counties may begin setting up schedules for indoor, socially distant visits with residents “because they are in a region with moderate COVID activity over the past two weeks.”
Requirements for establishing visits include sufficient staffing, a designated location, an appointment mechanism, and sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning protocols.
Facilities cannot have had any COVID-19 cases within the past 14 days, may not be doing any current-outbreak testing, must collect informed consent, and must submit required attestations to the state Department of Health before welcoming visitors.
“This is good news,” Persichilli said. “We are seeing the outbreaks in our LTCs decrease.”
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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