Officials would like to see staff vaccination rates at long-term care sites in the state approach the levels of LTC residents.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 17, 2021
Another 224 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 890,696 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
New Jersey is also reporting 82 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 129,630 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, seven more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 23,667 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,690 probable COVID-19-related deaths—five more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 979 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 269 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 14.397 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 10.131-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.91, spot positivity lowest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 1.35 percent June 12; in South Jersey, it was lowest, at 1.03 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.91 on June 16.
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 continue sustained decline
Throughout New Jersey, 331 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (268) or confirmed (63) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 79 are in intensive or critical care, and 46 of the ICU and critical-care patients (58 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 32 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 62 others were discharged.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,475 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 52 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 55,014 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.2 percent of total cases.
That includes 32,777 residents and 22,237 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,058 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. One resident is currently COVID-19-positive.
The facilities at Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland are staffed by 1,335 workers, one of whom is presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to the virus.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 367 of 1,128 patients and 1,077 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, 127 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, 9.615 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 4.434 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, 502,755 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 171,533 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
- 76 percent of those aged 50 to 64 have received at least one dose
- 63 percent of those aged 30 to 49 have received at least one dose
- 53 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
- 33 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.”
On Monday, Persichilli reported that the impact of COVID-19 tumbled among vaccinated adults from December 2020 to April 2021, from infection to hospitalization to death rates.
Older New Jerseyans, who were first in line for their COVID-19 vaccines, reported a 40-percent less incidence of the virus as compared with those aged 18-49 during that time period. Similarly, COVID-19-related emergency room visits (down 59 percent), hospital admission (down 69 percent), and death rates (down 66 percent) all declined among those vaccinated versus those unvaccinated people for the five months in question.
“The greater decline in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in older adults, the age group with the highest vaccination rates, demonstrates the benefit of increasing population-level vaccination coverage,” Persichilli said.
“There is only a pandemic among those who have yet to get their shot,” Murphy said.
NJ tracking B.1.617.2 ‘Delta’ variant among variants of concern
Mutated offshoots of COVID-19, or “variants of concern,” continue to circulate throughout New Jersey; the state has traced thousands of such cases to date.
Persichilli noted Wednesday that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has now upgraded the status of the B.1.617.2 “Delta” variant from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern.”
Initially identified in India in December 2020, B.1.617.2 has been detected in 66 countries, including in the United States. It currently accounts for 5.1 percent of the variants sequenced in New Jersey in the past few weeks, and may be more transmissible than the B.1.1.7 “UK” or “Alpha” variant.
Its existence and high degree of transmissibility is reason for New Jersey residents to make sure they get vaccinated, Persichilli said.
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. It accounts for more than 54 percent of the variants identified in the past month, Persichilli said. 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.
Strain B.1.526, which originated in New York state, represents 16 percent of the variants identified in New Jersey in that time, and is a “variant of interest,” Persichilli said. The P.1 “Brazilian” variant accounts for 3.5 percent of the variants identified in the past month, and smaller percentages of the California variants B.1.427 and B.1.429 also were reported in the data, the health commissioner said.
Roughly 2 percent of positive samples are being tested for variants, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, head of the New Jersey communicable disease service, has said.
Breakthrough COVID-19 cases, vaccination impact
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.
Between December 15, 2020 and April 23, 2021, the New Jersey Communicable Disease Service identified 1,319 breakthrough cases, or 0.06 percent of the 2.189 million fully vaccinated people in the state.
Of the 1,319 breakthrough cases, 505 had symptoms, 377 did not, and information wasn’t available on 437 others. From the same group, 30 were hospitalized, and seven ultimately perished from causes related to COVID-19, Persichilli said. Hospitalizations and deaths were only seen in those aged 50 and older, and half of those deaths were of those 80 and older.
Lifshitz said those data represent “an undercount of these individuals” because people with mild symptoms, or none at all, are unlikely to be tested for COVID-19. Extrapolated, the information showed that, of 1 million vaccinated people, 602 would test positive for COVID-19, 42 would be hospitalized, and 6 would die from any cause.
Improving vaccination rates among LTC staffers remains a challenge
Although the majority of residents in New Jersey’s long-term care centers have been vaccinated (86.3 percent), staff vaccination rates (64.7 percent) continue to lag, officials said Wednesday.
Despite claiming that “70 percent is not a magic number,” Persichill said “anything above that is excellent” for continuing to further suppress the spread of the pandemic.
Asked why staffers are reluctant to help elevate that number, the health commissioner said that vaccine hesitancy “is longstanding, particularly among communities of color, based on clinical trials that are in our history and a fear that the vaccine is a repeat of that.”
Despite those apprehensions, Persichilli said that her office “[has]done so many stakeholder calls that with good education and awareness building, I’m seeing that number increase week over week.”
LTC facilities must go without a new COVID-19 case for 28 consecutive days to be taken out of “active outbreak” status, according to the NJDOH; Persichilli said that of the 52 centers in “active outbreak,” 17 report no active cases.
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