Plus: COVID-19 booster eligibility, and updated ‘breakthrough’ infection data show vaccine effectiveness.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 27, 2021
Another 1,315 New Jersey residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the statewide total to 998,454 cases confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, Governor Phil Murphy reported Monday.
New Jersey is also reporting 224 new COVID-probable cases based on antigen tests, bringing the statewide total to 149,904 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, 11 more residents have perished from complications related to the virus, bringing the statewide, confirmed death toll to 24,559 lives lost during the pandemic.
In addition to those lab-confirmed fatalities, the state has acknowledged another 2,787 probable COVID-19-related deaths—14 more than previously reported.
Since March 2020, 1,043 of every 100,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 279 of every 100,000 have died from COVID-19-related complications.
More than 15.469 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 have been performed statewide, with a 11.344-percent positivity rate per 100,000 residents.
Rate of transmission (Rt) at 1.01, spot positivity higher in South Jersey
The statewide average of COVID-19 spot positivity testing based on PCR test results stood at 4.60 percent September 23; in South Jersey, it was higher, at 4.93 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 27.
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, 1,047 people currently are hospitalized with a suspected (80) or confirmed (967) case of COVID-19, Murphy said.
Among those hospitalized patients, 232 are in intensive or critical care, and 135 of the ICU and critical-care patients (58 percent) are on ventilators.
In New Jersey’s 71 critical care hospitals, 112 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday, while 104 others were discharged.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli noted Monday that 11 children are currently hospitalized with COVID in New Jersey, three in ICUs. The state has also sustained seven pediatric COVID-related deaths throughout the pandemic.
Across the state, long-term care (LTC) centers have reported 1,714 cumulative outbreaks of COVID-19, and 151 are dealing with an active outbreak. LTCs account for 56,559 infected patients and staff in New Jersey, or 5.7 percent of total cases.
That includes 33,612 residents and 22,947 staffers sickened by the virus, as well as 8,532 lab-confirmed resident and staff deaths (35 percent of the statewide confirmed total), with facilities self-reporting 145 staff deaths.
Of 649 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. Six residents currently are COVID-19-positive.
The facilities at Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland are staffed by 1,366 workers, eight of whom are presently COVID-19-positive. The facilities have sustained two staff deaths related to the virus.
At state-run psychiatric hospitals, 374 of 1,135 patients and 1,136 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, 133 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, 293 COVID-19 outbreaks encompassing 1,385 individual cases have been traced to schools in all 21 New Jersey counties. In Camden County, 18 outbreaks have been linked to 78 in-school cases, sixth-most in the state.
That includes six more schools that have reported outbreaks—three or more students or staff who contracted the virus within the school—since the start of the year, affecting 102 people, a mix of students and staff.
Vaccination update: NJ approaches 6M fully vaccinated people, exceeds 11M doses administered
Across New Jersey, 11.606 million COVID-19 inoculations have been administered.
Throughout New Jersey, 5.649 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, 610,391 doses have been administered, seventh-most in the state; 303,585 people have been fully vaccinated.
An estimated 431,321 vaccine doses have been administered to New Jersey residents outside of the state, of which 185,252 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 had begun approaching 6 million fully vaccinated residents.
Who’s eligible for a Pfizer booster?
In today’s briefing, officials clarified which groups of people are eligible for a third, booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week.
The list includes:
- anyone 65 and older
- residents of long-term care (LTC) sites
- anyone 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions
- anyone 18 to 64 with increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of work or living conditions
Those who’ve receive doses of the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not yet eligible for boosters, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has promised to review data on those formulations in order to make related recommendations.
Breakthrough case data, January 19 through September 13
The data on breakthrough infections—circumstances in which fully vaccinated people test positive for COVID-19—continues to show the effectiveness in the vaccine preventing serious infection and death.
In the last nine months, 5.421 million New Jersey residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (January 19 through September 12).
Of that population, 25,991 tested positive for COVID-19 after having been vaccinated (0.48 percent).
Among 38,000 COVID-positive hospital admissions since January 19, 537 fully vaccinated people required hospitalization (1.413 percent) for the virus, and of the 5,900 COVID-19-related deaths suffered by New Jersey residents in that time, 126 (2.13 percent) were of vaccinated individuals.
Preliminary data from September 7 to September 12 show similar observations. Of the 10,760 positive tests reported in that five-day span, 2,449 (22.7 percent) were of fully vaccinated people, as were 32 of 863 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in that time (3.7 percent). Two of the 55 deaths reported during that time (3.6 percent) were of fully vaccinated people.
“Unvaccinated individuals have made up 96 percent of our deaths in the past nine months,” Murphy said.
“Getting vaccinated makes you far less likely to contract the coronavirus—and if you do, you are far less likely to develop a case of COVID that would land you in the hospital, or, please God no, in the morgue,” he said.
$10M ‘Return and Earn’ program designed to jump-start small business hiring
On Monday, Murphy announced that the state will dedicate $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to kick off “Return and Earn,” an incentive program designed to put people back to work in New Jersey’s small businesses.
Terms of the plan haven’t been fully defined yet, but in broad strokes, it provides a $500 “return-to-work benefit” for employees in addition to any other hiring bonus or benefit.
Those dollars are intended to help cover some of the costs of returning to work, including transportation and childcare, Murphy said. The state labor department will also coordinate wraparound service programs to provide additional supports for workers who need them.
Participating businesses training new workers can receive $10,000 per employee up to a total of $40,000 to help cover half their wages for a six-month period during which they may be training on the job.
If it works, “we’ll find ways to ramp that up,” the governor said.
Eligible businesses must pay at least $15 per hour and offer full-time employment; employee participants must be New Jersey residents.
“This is hopefully some way to accelerate that process, and get the matches made between the openings and the folks who are either unemployed or want to up-skill themselves into a better job,” Murphy said.
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