Plus: early evidence suggests reinfection rates among fully vaccinated people is minimal.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 26, 2021
Another 352 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 886,585 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
New Jersey is also reporting 99 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 128,389 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, 25 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 23,489 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,670 probable COVID-19-related deaths—10 more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 883 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 267 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 14.343 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 10.081-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.75, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 2.79 percent May 22; in South Jersey, it was higher, at 2.88 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.75 on May 24.
An Rt figure less than 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting fewer than one other person, on average, and the spread of the virus is decreasing.
Since its mid-April-2020 COVID-19 spike, the highest reported RT in New Jersey was 1.48, recorded August 1, 2020. Prior to artificially low, adjusted reports of 0.34 in the first week of May, the lowest in the past year was 0.62, recorded June 9, 2020. It fell to 0.59 May 21.
Hospitalizations continue to decline
Throughout New Jersey, 641 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (81) or confirmed (560) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 137 are in intensive or critical care, and 94 of the ICU and critical-care patients (69 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 67 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 97 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,465 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 141 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 55,147 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.2 percent of total cases.
That includes 32,877 residents and 22,270 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,050 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (34 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 144 staff deaths.
Of 623 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 1,337 workers, one of whom is presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to the virus; two staffers are currently COVID-19-positive.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 367 of 1,122 patients and 1,071 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, 126 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC)—five more than previously reported. 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 for the illness.
Since August 1, 2020, 281 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 1,263 individual cases have been traced to schools in all 21 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, 18 outbreaks have been linked to 78 cases, sixth-most in the state.
Vaccination update: NJ surpasses 3.9M fully vaccinated people
Across New Jersey, 8.485 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 3.967 million people have been fully vaccinated in-state, 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, 467,066 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 167,420 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, and two weeks later, it had surpassed 8 million doses.
New Jersey 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.
NJ records 4,395 cases of variants of concern
Mutated offshoots of COVID-19, or “variants of concern,” continue to circulate throughout New Jersey; the state has traced 4,395 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, 4,059 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 has said.
New Jersey also has recorded 164 cases of the P.1 “Brazilian” variant, 11 reports of the B.1.351 “South African” variant, and 161 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.
Breakthrough 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.
Persichilli said early reports indicate that breakthrough cases seem to be statistically small: just 0.02 percent of those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 have contracted the virus afterwards.
On Wednesday, Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, medical adviser to the New Jersey Department of Health, noted that between January 1 and April 1, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) documented 10,000 cases of reinfection after full vaccination.
Of them, 10 percent were hospitalized, some were asymptomatic, and two percent died from complications related to the virus; the average age of those who perished was 80 years.
During that time period, Bresnitz noted that more than 100 million Americans were vaccinated, which suggests that reinfection rates among the vaccinated remains minimal.
Workplace regulation, childcare updates
Starting next Friday, New Jersey employers may allow employees who can verify that they are vaccinated to forgo masking and social distancing in the workplace.
Moreover, businesses no longer must explicitly accommodate offsite working arrangements and keep only minimal staff onsite.
Those changes are related to the governor’s rescission of an executive order held over from the height of the pandemic.
“We are doing this to allow employers greater flexibility to bring employees back into in-person working environments,” Murphy said. (Read the full executive order here.)
“While we are rescinding some requirements, that doesn’t mean that we don’t expect you to be flexible and work with employees, particularly those that are juggling family obligations such as childcare,” he said.
Furthermore, in support of getting New Jerseyans back to work, Murphy also eliminated 15-person group limits in childcare classes, effective immediately. Those groups “will be returned to their normal, regulated limits,” he said.
Please support NJ Pen with a subscription. Get e-mails, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or try our Direct Dispatch text alerts.