With an eye toward Fall and the flu season, state health officials are reinforcing the importance of protecting oneself against COVID-19.
During Gov. Phil Murphy’s Sept. 2 media briefing, state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli shared an overview of various treatments being used on patients with coronavirus, which, depending on the severity of their condition, range from steroids to convalescent plasma therapy.
Since the onset of the pandemic, scientists have been testing different types of antivirals to see if they are effective against the COVID-19 virus.
But, in the absence of a widespread distribution of a vaccine or treatment, Persichilli urged New Jerseyans to do what they can to “protect yourself and others.”
“Practice social distancing, stay at least six feet apart. Wear a face covering, wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol,” Persichilli said. “What we call NPIs, or non-pharmaceutical interventions, work.”
Treatments for the virus are still evolving and establishing a standard of care is a task that “typically can take years,” Persichilli noted.
Effective Treatments, Therapies
“However, since this is a novel virus we are still learning about, the severity of illness in some patients let healthcare providers to turn to novel treatments, or new ways to save lives,” she went on.
Although “hydroxychloroquine has been found to be ineffective against COVID-19,” she pointed out a few other medical treatments have had promising results.
Those treatments include:
- Remdesivir, an antiviral drug that reduced patients’ length of hospital stay from 15 days, on average, to 11 days.
- Dexamethasone, a widely available steroid, has been shown to reduce deaths of patients by one-third among patients on mechanical ventilators and by one-fifth among patients receiving supplemental oxygen by other means.
Additionally, Persichilli mentioned steps taken by healthcare workers that have helped “reduce mortality over time.” These actions include high flow oxygen and proning, which involves turning a patient from their back onto their stomachs, “so the individual is lying face down and removing pressure from the heart and lungs,” she said.
The latest treatment option involves the emergency use of convalescent plasma therapy, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week.
“In this treatment, antibodies are removed from individuals who have recovered from the virus and those antibodies are infused into hospitalized patients. An emergency use authorization, an EUA, allows the use of medical products to be used in an emergency to prevent or treat a life-threatening disease when there are no approved available alternatives. The FDA takes this action when they feel a treatment or the benefits of a treatment outweigh its known risks,” Persichilli said.
While this therapy is new in the fight against coronavirus, Persichilli pointed out it has been used before “as a potentially lifesaving treatment” against quickly developing diseases and infections when proven treatments or vaccines weren’t yet available.
“It has been used against diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, and more recently used to treat SARS and Ebola patients,” said Persichilli, who encouraged healthy and recovered COVID-19 patients to donate blood or plasma.
Persichilli shared an end-of-season update on how camps in the state fared during the outbreak this summer.
‘Best Course Of Action’
Based on preliminary data reported from 746 camps, there were four outbreaks involving five people, said Persichilli, adding, “That’s an amazing testament to the non-pharmaceutical interventions that were practiced.”
“The best course of action is to prevent getting sick in the first place. So please adhere to the health precautions that we keep encouraging to protect your health,” Persichilli said.
As of Sept. 6, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 194,390 with 344 new cases and two new deaths, bringing that total to 14,208. The state probable death count remained at 1,783, bringing the overall total to 15,991.
State officials noted 12 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 1,891, followed by Bergen at 1,796, Hudson with 1,352, Passaic at 1,105, Morris at 685, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 229, Hudson has 160, Morris at 144, Passaic at 143, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Aug. 31 was 1.8%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.09 from 1.06 two days before. 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 389 patients with the northern tier having 164 patients hospitalized, the central 91 and the south 134.
Of those hospitalized, 79 are in intensive care units and 29 on ventilators, while 33 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 21,816, followed by Essex at 20,528, Hudson at 20,286, Middlesex at 18,603, Passaic at 18,520, Union at 17,218, Ocean at 11,495, Monmouth at 10,951, Camden at 9,336, Mercer at 8,422, Morris at 7,581, Burlington at 6,581, Somerset at 5,478, Atlantic at 3,820, Gloucester at 3,830, Cumberland at 3,630, Warren at 1,408, Sussex at 1,416, Hunterdon at 1,234, Salem at 994 and Cape May at 939.
Another 304 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 154 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 8,674 of the cases, broken down between 5,398 residents and 3,276 staff.
Cumulatively, 670 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,921 residents and 13,391 staff, for a total of 38,312 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,115 on Sept. 7. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,745 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths.