COVID-19 Health Guidelines Released to New Jersey Schools

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) recently released protocols for schools to follow for the 2020/2021 scholastic year regarding the coronavirus in the Garden State.

Among the details contained in the COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Local Health Departments document include the six regions the state is being divided into, a color-coded system detailing a schools’ risk level and what constitutes an outbreak that would force schools to close.

 “The Department of Health, in collaboration with the Department of Education, has developed guidance to help local health departments assist schools in providing a safe environment for students and staff,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.  “Understanding that COVID-19 may impact certain areas of the state differently, the department will provide data by 6 regions of the state to inform local decisions.”

Six Regions

The 21 state counties have been divided into six regions, with North Jersey split into two: Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren in the Northwest and Bergen, Essex and Hudson in the Northeast.

NJDOH each week will provide information on COVID-19 transmission at the regional level, characterizing risk as low (green), moderate (yellow), high (orange), and very high (red). Where a region falls in the color-coding categories is based on three criteria: number of cases in the past week, percent positivity in the past week and syndromic surveillance in the past week.

A red region category is recommended to implement fully-remote learning.

School Protocols

Schools in other risk levels are to work with their local health departments to implement protocols requiring staff and students to stay home when sick or if they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days; develop a policy for daily symptom screening for students and staff, including those reporting symptoms developing during the school day; and identify rapid testing resources when staff and students develop COVID-19 symptoms.

Under the new guidelines, if one teacher or student in a school has a confirmed COVID-19 case, the school can remain open. Students and staff in close contact with positive cases are to quarantine for 14 days.

If two people in the same classroom get sick, the school can remain open. However, everyone in the classroom could be asked to quarantine based on a public health investigation.

School Closures

The closure of a school would happen if a clear connection between cases or to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 cannot be easily identified. 

The NJDOH is requiring schools to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily, ensure adequate hand hygiene supplies are available; implement physical distancing measures such as reducing occupancy, installation of partitions and physical barriers, and cancelling large gatherings; and enforce face coverings.

Daily Data

As of Aug. 16, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 187,455 with 329 new cases and four new deaths, bringing that total to 14,073. The state probable death count remained at 1,839, bringing the overall total to 15,912.

State officials noted 14 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,874, followed by Bergen at 1,787, Hudson with 1,338, Passaic at 1,094, Morris at 681, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 248, Essex has 234, Hudson has 167, Passaic and Morris at 147, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 14.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission was reported at 0.99, up from 0.92 on Aug. 14. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 450 patients are hospitalized as the northern tier had 217 patients hospitalized, the central 116 and the south 117.

Of those hospitalized, 83 are in intensive care units and 42 on ventilators, while 57 patients were discharged. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 21,195, followed by Essex at 19,927, Hudson at 19,892, Middlesex at 18,099, Passaic at 17,950, Union at 16,869, Ocean at 10,752, Monmouth at 10,474, Camden at 8,7933, Mercer at 8,190, Morris at 7,341, Burlington at 6,145, Somerset at 5,307, Atlantic at 3,585, Cumberland at 3,427, Gloucester at 3,413, Warren at 1,365, Sussex at 1,351, Hunterdon at 1,161, Salem at 930 and Cape May at 847.

Another 442 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted currently 216 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,681 of the cases, broken down between 9,309 residents and 5,372 staff. 

Cumulatively, 627 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,656 residents and 13,049 staff, for a total of 37,705 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,011 on Aug. 16. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,692 residents deaths and 120 staff deaths. 

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