Coronavirus Update: 965,265 Infections, 24,258 Related Deaths; NJDOH Tracking ‘Mu’ Variant, Hospitalizations Increase


More than 75 percent of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, officials say. Plus: booster schedule timelines remain to be confirmed.

By Matt Skoufalos | September 8, 2021

COVID-19 Dashboard – 9-8-21. Credit: NJDOH.

Another 3,079 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 965,265 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Wednesday.

New Jersey is also reporting 647 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 143,026 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, 31 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 24,258 lives lost during the pandemic.

In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,749 probable COVID-19-related deaths—two more than previously reported.

Since March 2020, 1,019 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 276 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.

More than 15.136 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 10.945-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.

Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.04, spot positivity highest in South Jersey

The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 7.93 percent September 4; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 9.59 percent.

Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.04 on September 8.

Any Rt figure greater than 1.0 means that each new COVID-19 patient is infecting more than one other person, on average, and the spread of the virus is increasing.

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 climbing

Throughout New Jersey, 1,186 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (85) or confirmed (1,101) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.

Among those hospitalized patients, 270 are in intensive or critical care, and 128 of the ICU and critical-care patients (47 percent) are on ventilators.

In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 160 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 91 others were discharged.

“These numbers are up,” the governor said. “There’s no other way to put it.”

New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judy Persichilli said she expects hospitalizations to continue to climb.

“If the cases stay steady, the Rt will stay steady,” Persichilli said. “We are seeing hospitalizations creep up; we’re about 50 percent lower than where we were in April [2021].”

Persichilli also noted that 75 percent or more of those individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

LTC update

Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,667 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 153 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 56,155 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 5.8 percent of total cases.

That includes 33,313 residents and 22,671 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,482 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (34 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 145 staff deaths.

Of 652 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; three staffers presently are.

The facilities at Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland are staffed by 1,366 workers, four of whom is presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to the virus.

At state-run psychiatric facilities, 372 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, 132 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC)—two more than previously reported—and one child remains hospitalized with the illness. Four of those MISC 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 approaches 6M fully vaccinated people, exceeds 11M doses administered

Across New Jersey, 11.251 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.

Throughout New Jersey, 5.478 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, 596,426 doses have been administered; seventh-most in the state.

An estimated 412,366 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 177,766 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. By the end of August 2021, the state had exceeded 11 million doses administered and was approaching 6 million fully vaccinated residents.

NJ Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – 9-8-21. Credit: NJ Pen.

B.1.617.2 ‘Delta’ variant still most common variant in NJ, but “Mu” is on the radar

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.

The B.1.617.2 “Delta” variant, initially identified in India in December 2020, remains the the leading variant in the United States as well as in New Jersey, accounting for 98 percent of all variants genetically sequenced in the past four weeks, Persichilli said.

The World Health Organization has named the B.1.621 “Mu” variant, first detected in Colombia in January 2021, as a variant of concern, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not done so yet.

The New Jersey Communicable Disease Service is also tracking the Mu variant, as the state has identified 16 reported cases in the past month, Persichilli said.

“The Mu variant accounts for a very small number of cases, but we continue to monitor it,” she said.

Booster update?

Although the CDC has recommended that people receive booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to guard against potentially waning immunity to the virus, the specific timetable for such doses has not yet been defined.

Persichilli said NJDOH is building plans to offer booster doses at six- and eight-month intervals, depending upon where the agency lands on its recommendations. The commissioner also cautioned, “There’ll probably be a lag between when Pfizer and Moderna guidances come out.

“People will get their boosters as soon as we get the recommendations,” she said.

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