Plus: an update on breakthrough cases, booster readiness, and an uptick in the severity of cases among those hospitalized by the virus.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 13, 2021
Another 1,498 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 974,083 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
New Jersey is also reporting 311 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 144,968 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, six more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 24,313 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,766 probable COVID-19-related deaths—17 more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 1,023 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 15.199 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 11.064-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.01, spot positivity highest in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 5.32 percent September 9; in South Jersey, it was highest, at 7.04 percent.
Rt, the variable that describes the seven-day, rolling-average, statewide rate of transmission of new COVID-19 cases, hit 1.01 on September 13.
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.
Hospitalizations holding steady, ventilator use on the rise
Throughout New Jersey, 1,114 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (72) or confirmed (1,042) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 248 are in intensive or critical care, and 131 of the ICU and critical-care patients (53 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 116 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 104 others were discharged.
“The overwhelming number of individuals contracting the virus going to the hospital from a COVID-related illness are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated,” Murphy said.
“There is simply no other way to interpret this data.”
New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that although hospitalizations “have remained relatively stable in our state,” ventilator usage is up 20 percent in the past two weeks.
Persichilli also tempered her remarks by noting that despite the increase, “it’s certainly nowhere near the use of ventilators in the other surges” in prior pandemic spikes.
Ventilator use in New Jersey remains 53 percent lower presently than it had been during the April 2021 usage peak, 76 percent lower than the December 2020 peak, and 93 percent lower than in April 2020, Persichilli said.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,674 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 151 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 56,230 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 5.8 percent of total cases.
That includes 33,437 residents and 22,793 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,488 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.
As of September 12, 2021, more than 77 percent of LTC staff have been fully vaccinated, Persichilli.
MISC cases and schools
To date, 133 New Jersey children aged 1 to 18 have been diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MISC)—one 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 approaches 6M fully vaccinated people, exceeds 11M doses administered
Across New Jersey, 11.346 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 5.524 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, 601,226 doses have been administered; seventh-most in the state.
An estimated 417,873 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 179,907 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.
Breakthrough cases and vaccinations
If they get COVID-19, the unvaccinated are about six to 10 times likelier to be hospitalized than those who have been vaccinated, according to Dr. Ed Lifshitz, who heads up the New Jersey Communicable Disease Service.
The unvaccinated face a greater risk of death 11 times that of those who have been vaccinated against the virus, Murphy added.
A recent sampling of breakthrough cases—people who have tested positive for COVID-19 despite having been fully vaccinated—from August 23 to August 29 showed the decreased severity of infection among them.
Of the 12,051 positive tests reported in that time period, 2,602 (22 percent) were of fully vaccinated individuals. They also accounted for 35 of 945 total hospitalizations (3.7 percent) and 0 of 80 COVID-19-related deaths reported in New Jersey during that time.
New Jersey officials continue to anticipate forthcoming guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on the administration of booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to guard against potentially waning immunity to the virus.
“There remains uncertainty from the federal government who needs to get in line to get a booster and when,” Murphy said.
The state could reopen its vaccine megasites or find ways to get additional vaccine doses to other distribution points once that guidance has been established, the governor said.
“We would like all 21 counties to have a vaccination site that people can be directed to in addition to all of the existing outlets that we currently have,” Persichilli said.
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