With the COVID-19 delta variant on the rise across the country, health officials urge residents to get vaccinated, gather outdoors, and mask up when with people outside their immediate households.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 1, 2021
Another 223 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 892,983 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.
New Jersey is also reporting 95 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 130,412 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, eight more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 23,754 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,703 probable COVID-19-related deaths—five more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 1,019 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 270 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 14.448 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 10.157-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 0.95, spot positivity lowest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 1.49 percent June 26; in South Jersey, it was lowest, at 1.24 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.95 on June 30.
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 falling again
Throughout New Jersey, 296 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (49) or confirmed (247) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 53 are in intensive or critical care, and 29 of the ICU and critical-care patients (55 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 26 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 35 others were discharged.
Murphy again noted this week that the bulk of those people hospitalized with the virus are not vaccinated against it.
“This is a pandemic of unvaccinated people,” the governor said.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,486 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 25 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 55,018 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.2 percent of total cases.
That includes 32,795 residents and 22,223 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,062 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (34 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 144 staff deaths.
Of 630 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. No resident is currently COVID-19-positive.
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.
At state-run psychiatric facilities, 367 of 1,133 patients and 1,080 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, 128 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 4.9M fully vaccinated people, 9.8M doses administered
Across New Jersey, 9.89 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 4.828 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, 528,519 doses have been administered; seventh-most in the state.
An estimated 346,547 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 148,935 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, and on June 18, hit 4.7 million vaccinated individuals, its target goal for 70 percent of the adult population of the state.
Health officials still on the lookout for B.1.617.2 ‘Delta’ variant
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, despite performing gene sequencing on roughly 2 percent of positive samples, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, head of the New Jersey communicable disease service, has said.
Last week, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes the B.1.617.2 “delta” variant, initially identified in India in December 2020, may become the leading variant in the United States within the next month, and is believed to be spread by “children and young people.”
The commissioner added that the delta variant “could result in local [COVID-19] surges among the unvaccinated.”
Delta currently accounts for 7.3 percent of the variants sequenced in New Jersey in the past four weeks (up from 5.1 percent two weeks ago), and is believed to be 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than other strains of the virus.
Presently, the most common COVID-19 variant in the United States is the B.1.1.7, or “alpha” variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, and has been detected in all 21 New Jersey counties.
B.1.1.7 has been associated with a 50-percent increase in COVID-19 transmission over earlier strains of the virus detected in New Jersey, and likely increased severity of infection 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 the past month, 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.
Holiday weekend precautions: ‘Be as vigilant and careful as possible’
Despite “relatively flat” case numbers, Persichilli noted that “COVID-19 is still circulating,” and the increasing prevalence of variants of the virus “are cause for concern,” as “most of the state is seeing moderate COVID-19 activity.”
When gathering with people outside of their immediate families, residents are urged to gather outdoors with guests who may be unvaccinated.
“If it’s your immediate household and you’re indoors, you’re fine whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated,” she said. “But if it’s people that you don’t know whether they’re vaccinated or not, and you’re indoors, be smart, be vigilant, be careful.”
Persichilli also encouraged all residents to wear a mask among anyone whose vaccine status is unknown, and to maintain a six-foot physical distance “from people who don’t live with you.
“Fully vaccinated individuals are encouraged to resume normal activities, but should still wear masks in crowded indoor situations,” the health commissioner said. “Maintain hand-washing, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and stay home if you’re not feeling well.”
Persichilli also noted that the CDC recommends Americans delay traveling until they’re fully vaccinated.
“Be as vigilant and careful as possible,” she said. “That’s the biggest risk, the unvaccinated.”
State epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan seconded Persichilli’s recommendations, adding an appeal for residents to get the vaccine to help “stem the spread of variants,” including the delta variant, which is now the second-most prevalent across the United States.
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
Please support NJ Pen with a subscription. Get e-mails, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or try our Direct Dispatch text alerts.