Health officials worry that low vaccination rates among young people places them at risk of contracting COVID-19, as unvaccinated hospital patients climb, and breakthrough cases are minimal among the vaccinated.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 19, 2021
Another 324 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 898,254 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
New Jersey is also reporting 110 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 130,989 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, four more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 23,827 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,718 probable COVID-19-related deaths—nine more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 1,023 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 271 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 14.469 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 10.213-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.37, spot positivity higher in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 2.5 percent July 15; in South Jersey, it was higher, at 2.65 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 0.95 on July 12.
Any Rt figure greater 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 trending up among unvaccinated, but still ‘flat and low’
Throughout New Jersey, 338 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (64) or confirmed (274) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 58 are in intensive or critical care, and 29 of the ICU and critical-care patients (50 percent) are on ventilators.
In 67 of New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 45 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 43 others were discharged.
Officials again blamed unvaccinated people for the increased rate of transmission as well as hospitalization rates. New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that, despite remaining “flat and low” overall, hospitalizations of unvaccinated patients are up 20 percent across the state.
“These hospitalizations are preventable,” the commissioner said. “We have safe and effective vaccines to prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and death.”
“Unvaccinated individuals are who are feeding the rapid increase in the rate of transmission,” Murphy said. “Each newly infected person is by themselves infecting more than one other person.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,497 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 21 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 55,042 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.1 percent of total cases.
That includes 32,805 residents and 22,237 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,063 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (34 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 144 staff deaths.
Of 633 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 1,340 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, 130 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC)—two 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 5M fully vaccinated people, 10.24M doses administered
Across New Jersey, 10.248 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 5.019 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, 542,145 doses have been administered; seventh-most in the state.
An estimated 360,003 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 155,343 residents 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. By mid-July, that number had increased to 5.019 people fully vaccinated at New Jersey vaccination sites.
Murphy says breakthrough cases illustrate vaccine effectiveness
Underscoring his contention that the current pandemic conditions put the unvaccinated most at risk, Murphy presented a data analysis of breakthrough cases—those in which fully vaccinated individuals have still contracted COVID-19—as of June 28, 2021.
At that time, New Jersey was home to 4.432 million fully vaccinated people, 3,474 of whom tested positive for the virus. Among them, 84 were hospitalized, and 31 died of causes related to COVID-19.
“That means the vaccines in our toolbox… are proving a combined 99.92-percent effective against contracting the virus,” the governor said, rates that are even higher in consideration of breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths.
“These numbers speak for themselves, and they speak volumes as to why everyone ages 12 and up who is eligible should go and get vaccinated,” he said.
Health officials fret about delta variant, low vax rates among young people
In her appeal to residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Persichilli noted that immunization protects those who cannot yet be vaccinated, including young children, who remain at greatest risk of contracting the virus amid the spread of the B.1.617.2 “delta” variant.
Initially identified in India in December 2020, the delta variant is both the leading COVID-19 variant in the United States overall and in New Jersey specifically, surpassing the B.1.1.7 “alpha variant” first discovered in the United Kingdom.
“Nationally, the delta variant, which is highly transmissible and virulent, is driving cases in unvaccinated residents, including children,” Persichilli said. “It is expected that this variant will cause increasing cases among children who cannot be vaccinated, including severe cases. We are concerned.”
Americans between 12 and 29 are contracting COVID at the highest rates while being the least protected, Persichilli said, citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Ten percent of new cases have originated among 5-17-year-olds, and currently, those aged 19-24 have the highest rates of positivity; those aged 25-29 have the second-highest rates.
Locally, the commissioner fretted over the low vaccination rates of young people in the Garden State. In New Jersey, 70 percent of those older than 30, and 61 percent of those 18-29 have received at least one vaccine dose. When considering those aged 12 to 17, however, that number falls to 42 percent, and Persichilli said more must be done to improve the latter two demographic groups.
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