Coronavirus Update: 865,733 Infections, 22,660 Related Deaths; Variant Cases Continue to Climb


Despite testing about 2 percent of all positive samples, New Jersey is logging significant numbers of COVID-19 variants. Officials are also tracking reinfection rates and ‘breakthrough’ cases—infections after vaccination.

By Matt Skoufalos | April 21, 2021

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 4-21-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 2,961 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 865,733 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.

New Jersey is also reporting 653 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 121,617 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, 46 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 22,660 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,611 probable COVID-19-related deaths—19 more than previously reported.

Since March 2020, 865 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 257 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

More than 13.096 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with an 9.81-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.93, spot positivity highest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 10.94 percent April 17; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 11.43 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.93 on April 19.

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-2020 COVID-19 spike, the highest reported RT in New Jersey was 1.48, recorded August 1, 2020. The lowest was 0.62, recorded June 9, 2020.

Simulated COVID-19 patient in a hospital bed. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

COVID-19 hospitalizations steady around 2,000 patients

Throughout New Jersey, 2,114 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (153) or confirmed (1,961) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Among those hospitalized patients, 455 are in intensive or critical care, and 248 of the ICU and critical-care patients (57 percent) are on ventilators.

In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 263 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 262 others were discharged.

LTC cases and counts

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,399 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 233 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 54,653 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.4 percent of total cases.

That includes 32,729 residents and 21,924 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,018 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (35 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 286 staff deaths.

Of 608 veterans residing in three state-run homes, 456 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 156 have died from complications related to the virus. The facilities at Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland are staffed by 1,352 workers, five of whom are presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to the virus.

Presently, no veterans are hospitalized with COVID-19; 300 have recovered from the virus.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 357 of 1,123 patients and 1,044 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Fourteen patients and eight staffers have died from complications related to the virus.

MISC cases and schools

To date, 115 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC). Four of those cases were reported in Camden County, tied with Cumberland and Monmouth Counties for third-least in the state.

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, 2020, 254 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 1,125 individual cases have been traced to schools in all 21 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, 17 outbreaks have been linked to 76 cases, fifth-most in the state.

COVID-19 vaccine bottle mock-up. Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Vaccination update

Across New Jersey, 6.235 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered, and 3.890 million people have received at least one vaccine dose.

Throughout the state, 2.589 million people are fully vaccinated, having received either a one-shot formulation from Johnson and Johnson or both doses of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

In Camden County, 363,569 doses have been administered; seventh-most in the state.

The first vaccines in the state were administered December 15, 2020; by February 8—55 days later—New Jersey had immunized its millionth resident. Twenty days thereafter, that count hit 2 million, and 3 million within two more weeks. On March 29, New Jersey crossed the 4-million-dose threshold, and the state cleared 5 million doses over the weekend of April 10, 2021. Eight days after that, New Jersey hit the 6-million-dose mark.

Of those New Jersey residents aged 65 and older, 75.4 percent have received at least one vaccine dose, as have 74.8 percent of those age 75 and older, Murphy said.

Coronavirus. Credit: CDC on Unsplash.

NJ records 2,429 cases of variants of concern

Mutated offshoots of COVID-19, or “variants of concern,” continue to circulate throughout New Jersey; the state has traced 2,249 such cases to date.

The most common COVID-19 variant in the United States is the B.1.1.7, or “UK” variant, which has been detected in all 21 New Jersey counties.

In total, 2,245 B.1.1.7 cases have been spotted in the state.

It’s associated with a 50-percent increase in COVID-19 transmission over earlier strains of the virus detected in New Jersey, “and likely increased severity, based on hospitalization and case fatality rates,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said last week.

New Jersey also has recorded 51 cases of the P.1 “Brazilian” variant, three reports of the B.1.351 “South African” variant, and 130 reports of the California variants B.1.427 and B.1.429.

The South African variant demonstrated a 50-percent increase in transmission over other strains of COVID-19, and the California variants appear to show a 20-percent increase in transmission of the virus.

Cases have also been reported of strain B.1.526, which originated in New York.

Roughly 2 percent of positive samples are being tested for variants, said Dr. Ed Lifshitz, head of the New Jersey communicable disease service, adding that state officials would like to increase testing to better be able to trace those variants.

NJ Medical Director Edward Lifshitz – COVID-19 Briefing – 12-23-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Outlier COVID-19 cases

In addition to commonly reported data points, New Jersey health officials are tracking COVID-19 outlier statistics, including the number of residents who’ve suffered repeat infections of the virus, and those who constitute “breakthrough” cases: those who test positive for the virus at least two weeks after having been completely vaccinated.

There are technical issues around calculating these data, Lifshitz said, including communications among various vaccination repositories, and complications related to testing positive as recovered persons continue to shed viral particles.

However, he said that officials “do have a general idea” about this information, and expect to be able to report it “within the next week or so.”

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

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