Coronavirus Update: 902,870 Infections, 23,860 Related Deaths; No Remote School Option, Officials Urge ‘Personal Responsibility,’ ‘Common Sense’ for Masking, Testing, Vaccination


‘The inconvenient truth is that every one of these people up here that we show who has died got infected by somebody else,’ said Dr. Ed Lifshitz, Director of the New Jersey Communicable Disease Service.

By Matt Skoufalos | July 26, 2021

NJDOH COVID-19 dashboard, 7-26-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 594 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 902,870 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.

New Jersey is also reporting 162 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 131,363 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.

“This is the first time since mid-May that we are adding this many cases a day,” the governor said. “That average: about 936 cumulative positives per day over the past week.”

Sadly, three more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 23,860 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,719 probable COVID-19-related deaths—o ne more than previously reported.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, who heads up the New Jersey Communicable Disease Service, pointed out that probable deaths “at this point in the pandemic” are typically people who’ve died of COVID-related complications but who were only tested for the virus via an antigen and not a PCR test.

“If you’re a probable case, and you end up dying, you end up becoming a probable death,” Lifshitz said.

Since March 2020, 1,032 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 14.574 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 10.263-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.44, spot positivity lowest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 3.84 percent July 22; in South Jersey, it was lowest, at 3.05 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.44 on July 26.

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.

Simulated COVID-19 patient in a hospital bed. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Hospitalizations up 30 percent from early July levels

Throughout New Jersey, 419 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (62) or confirmed (357) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Among those hospitalized patients, 78 are in intensive or critical care, and 33 of the ICU and critical-care patients (50 percent) are on ventilators.

In 67 of New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 58 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 54 others were discharged.

“We have the most people in our hospitals with COVID since June 9,” Murphy said, citing a 30-percent increase in the number of COVID-positive patients over those hospitalized two weeks ago.

“We cannot return to where we were in early April, when our spring uptick peaked with nearly 2,400 in our hospitals and 4,000 cases a day,” he said. “Unless more of you who have not been vaccinated step up and receive your doses, these risks will remain.”

LTC update

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,506 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 27 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 55,098 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 6.1 percent of total cases.

That includes 32,845 residents and 22,253 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.

COVID-19 vaccine bottle mock-up. Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Vaccination update: NJ surpasses 5M fully vaccinated people, 10.24M doses administered

Across New Jersey, 10.369 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.

Throughout New Jersey, 5.077 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, 547,768 doses have been administered; seventh-most in the state.

An estimated 376,789 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 163,113 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.

Gov Phil Murphy – NJ COVID Briefing 7-26-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

Murphy: breakthrough case data illustrates 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 July 12, 2021.

At that time, New Jersey was home to 4.758 million fully vaccinated people, 5,678 of whom tested positive for the virus. Among them, 144 were hospitalized, and 49 died of causes related to COVID-19.

Those numbers mean that, in New Jersey, the vaccine is 99.88-percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, 99.97-percent effective at preventing hospitalization, and 99.999-percent effective at preventing death from the virus.

“Of the nearly 32,000 COVID-positive hospital admissions reported between January 19 and July 12, more than 99 percent have been of unvaccinated individuals,” Murphy said. “In this span, we have reported more than 5,400 deaths of confirmed complications from COVID; more than 99 percent of these were of unvaccinated individuals.

“And of the 49 fully vaccinated who did pass, God rest their souls, many had other complicating factors which kept them vulnerable to a COVID infection,” the governor said.

“When you add all this up, you have to conclude that the vaccines work,” he said. “The vaccines turn COVID into a preventable disease.”

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – 7-26-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

No remote option for school, Persichilli urges parents to ‘get children vaccinated now’

Asked whether New Jersey would offer a remote option for families who are concerned about sending their children to school in the fall—particularly those who are too young to be vaccinated—the governor said officials “fully expect that kids will be full-time in person.”

“We fully expect to be back to school Monday through Friday, full days, as close to a normal school year as possible,” Murphy said, citing the “very substantial guidance” issued to districts this summer, which also offers room for superintendents “to be stricter than we are.”

Persichilli said anyone of age to receive the vaccine should do so immediately, including minors 12 and older, before the new school year begins. She also recommended that people get a COVID-19 test before returning to school.

“To ensure young adults are fully protected against COVID-19 virus when they return to school, they need to get vaccinated now,” Persichilli said.

“I encourage any parent of an unvaccinated 12-to-17-year-old to make an appointment for their child today so they can be fully vaccinated when the school year begins,” she said.

Despite data showing that children “tend to do very well” with COVID-19 infections, Lifshitz said officials “still don’t have a great idea how many have been infected” because they “tend not to get very ill.

“We protect children for two reasons: we don’t want them to get ill, and we are concerned that they can pass that illness on to others,” he said. “It is clear that they certainly do pass that along.

“By protecting them, you’re protecting the other people out there,” Lifshitz continued. “I would feel awful if one of my kids who could get vaccinated now did not get vaccinated, and passed it on to someone else who had a bad outcome.

“The inconvenient truth is that every one of these people up here that we show who has died got infected by somebody else,” he said. “And that person had no intention of infecting them, and they themselves may not have been very ill to have passed it along… but that’s what happens.

“By protecting yourself, you’re also protecting the other, much more vulnerable members of your community.”

NJ Medical Director Edward Lifshitz – COVID-19 Briefing – 12-23-20. Credit: NJ Pen.

Masking? Testing? Officials cite ‘personal responsibility,’ ‘common sense’

New Jersey is unlikely to return to a wholesale masking mandate, officials noted at Monday’s briefing.

Currently, regulations mandate that masks be worn inside state buildings, on mass transit, in hospitals and long-term care centers, and in prisons and other congregate living environments.

But that doesn’t mean the state is interested in taking the issue further.

“We feel that at this point it’s individual responsibility,” Persichilli said.

“You know who you’re with,” she said. “And if you’re around a lot of unvaccinated people, just try to protect yourself.”

Murphy pointed out that New Jersey also recommends that unvaccinated people should be wearing a mask at indoor gatherings or businesses, and urged residents to “not hold it against folks who choose to wear a mask.”

Similarly, the governor suggested that those who enter crowds or large gatherings among people with whom they’re unfamiliar might choose to mask up and get a COVID-19 test afterwards.

“If there’s a doubt in your mind, get tested,” Lifshitz added.

Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.

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