Coronavirus Update: 880,635 Infections, 23,170 Related Deaths; NJ ‘Will Have to Scrap’ to Hit 4.7M Vaccinations by Start of Summer


New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli projects that the state may have to provide another half-million vaccination doses through May and June to hit its target.

By Matt Skoufalos | May 10, 2021

NJDOH COVID-19 Dashboard – 5-10-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 459 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 880,635 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.

New Jersey is also reporting 106 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 127,411 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, 10 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 23,170 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,640 probable COVID-19-related deaths.

Since March 2020, 878 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 263 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

More than 13.803 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with an 10.016-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.67, spot positivity highest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 3.55 percent May 6; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 3.90 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.67 May 10.

That’s adjusted down from an Rt of 0.97 reported May 8, due to a reporting of backlogged antigen cases from May 5, which affected the seven-day rolling average, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

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. Prior to reports of 0.34 last week, the lowest in the past year was 0.62, recorded June 9, 2020.

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

Hospitalizations continue to decline

Throughout New Jersey, 1,063 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (68) or confirmed (995) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Among those hospitalized patients, 250 are in intensive or critical care, and 165 of the ICU and critical-care patients (62 percent) are on ventilators.

In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 92 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 114 others were discharged.

LTC update: NJ must increase staff vaccinations

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,441 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 199 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 55,041 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.2 percent of total cases.

That includes 32,870 residents and 22,171 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,037 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (35 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 144 staff deaths.

Of 615 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. Three hundred veterans have recovered from the virus.

The facilities at Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland are staffed by 1,344 workers, three of whom are presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to 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.

The governor again expressed his displeasure with the number of LTC outbreaks attributed to staff infections, describing it as “one of the few areas that, frankly, is somewhere between frustrating and angering for us.

“At a certain point, our patience runs thin on that,” Murphy said.

MISC cases and schools

To date, 116 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, 270 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 1,198 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: NJ surpasses 3.6M fully vaccinated people

Across New Jersey, 7.652 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.

Throughout the state, 3.631 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, 426,245 doses have been administered; seventh-most in the state.

An estimated 357,974 New Jersey residents have received a vaccine dose outside of the state, of which 162,349 are estimated to have been fully vaccinated.

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. By May 3, 2021, the state had cleared 7 million doses administered.

The state is working to make access to vaccinations easier to come by, facilitating walk-up vaccinations at its vaccine megasites—no appointments necessary—and incentivizing inoculations with free beers at participating craft breweries through the statewide “Shot and a Beer” program.

Coronavirus. Credit: CDC on Unsplash.

NJ records 3,655 cases of variants of concern

Mutated offshoots of COVID-19, or “variants of concern,” continue to circulate throughout New Jersey; the state has traced 3,655 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, 3,376 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, Persichilli has said.

New Jersey also has recorded 122 cases of the P.1 “Brazilian” variant, 11 reports of the B.1.351 “South African” variant, and 146 reports of the California variants B.1.427 and B.1.429.

The South African variant has 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.

An unknown number of cases has also been reported of strain B.1.526, which has been reported as originating 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.

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; i.e., 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 expects to be able to report it “within the next week or so.”

Gov Phil Murphy – NJ COVID Briefing 5-10-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

New Jersey is ‘going to have to scrap’ to get to its herd immunity goal

For months, the state has set a target of vaccinating 4.7 million adults, or 70 percent of the statewide population 16 and older, as a threshold for beating back the pandemic.

With an eye to the end-of-month Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial kickoff to summer, “we’re going to have to scrap to get there,” the governor said.

To hit its targets, Persichilli said New Jersey would have to administer 280,000 first doses this month and another 220,000 second doses through June. That breaks down to 3,000 to 35,000 first doses weekly throughout May and 3,000 to 23,000 second doses weekly in June.

Even after the threshold is cleared, Murphy said the state would continue to press for additional vaccinations to continue to mitigate its risk, including awaiting guidance for potential vaccines for children younger than 16.

“No one knows yet: is this an annual flu shot, or does this look like a once-in-a-lifetime [shot]?” the governor said. “[Is it like]  tetanus, every 10 years?”

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

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