On the occasion of the 200th COVID-19 briefing, Governor Phil Murphy touted New Jersey’s vaccination successes and its plans to reach those who are still most in need of immunizations.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 2, 2021
Another 237 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 888,074 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
New Jersey is also reporting 53 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 128,689 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, 20 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 23,569 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,678 probable COVID-19-related deaths—eight more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 885 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 268 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 14.334 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 10.098-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Wednesday’s briefing was the 200th of the pandemic, and New Jersey government officials were joined by White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, who offered some national perspective on the status of the pandemic.
At the beginning of 2021, the United States was averaging 184,000 new daily cases and 3,000 deaths, “and our daily lives in many ways had come to a halt,” Zients said.
“Today, just four-and-a-half months later, we’re down to fewer than 21,000 cases per day and deaths have dropped by 85 percent across the country,” he said, adding that New Jersey has observed a 93-percent decline in that same time period.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter each day,” Zients said.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.73, spot positivity higher in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 2.12 percent May 29; in South Jersey, it was higher, at 2.39 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.73 on May 31.
Any 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. On May 21, 2021, it reached a new low, of 0.59.
Hospitalizations down to October 2020 levels
Throughout New Jersey, 518 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
It’s the fewest number of hospitalized patients in the state since October 4, 2020.
Among those hospitalized patients, 120 are in intensive or critical care, and 70 of the ICU and critical-care patients (58 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 40 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 47 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,470 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 117 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 55,157 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.2 percent of total cases.
That includes 32,886 residents and 22,271 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,055 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (34 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 144 staff deaths.
Of 624 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; one staffer is 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). 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 4M fully vaccinated people, 9M doses administered
Across New Jersey, 9.083 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 4.091 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 167,908 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. As of June 2, 2021, the state had cleared 9 million administered doses and 4 million fully vaccinated New Jerseyans.
According to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, the percentage of New Jerseyans who have received at least one vaccine dose varies by age, with the oldest residents accounting for the bulk of inoculations:
- 88 percent of those 65 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and 80 percent of them are fully vaccinated.
- 74 percent of those aged 50-64 have received at least one dose
- 61 percent of those aged 30 to 49 have received at least one dose
- 49 percent of those aged 18 to 29 have received at least one dose
- 39 percent of those aged 16 to 17 have received at least one dose
- 21 percent of those aged 12 to 15 have received at least one dose
“Fully vaccinated people are much safer to engage in everyday life than unvaccinated people,” Murphy said, encouraging residents to “get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
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, 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.
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.
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.
NJ to discontinue megasites
As those numbers continue to improve, Governor Murphy announced that the state will begin moving to decamp its six vaccine megasites across the state as well as the federally run community vaccination center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, with the final initial and booster doses in the state being administered at the Burlington County megasite (the Moorestown Mall) in the month of July.
Altogether, 1.967 million doses were administered at the megasites, and 954,204 people were fully inoculated there.
With greater vaccine ubiquity, officials are focusing on taking doses into communities of need, and recommending that those who wish to be vaccinated seek out doses at their community pharmacies, primary care physicians, and elsewhere, including community sites at houses of worship.
“For the past five months, these sites have been the backbone of our overall vaccination efforts as we built out and into every community across the state,” Murphy said.
“We still have work to do, but we are now at the point where our attention will be focused on the local and community-based sites we’ve spent the better part of the past six months building and supporting.”
The governor also noted that every employer must honor earned sick leave that any worker wishes to use to travel to or from a vaccination location, or to take a day off if side effects require it.
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