Gov. Phil Murphy and other state officials are not slated to receive the COVID-19 vaccine anytime soon under current New Jersey protocols.
“Listen, we’re not getting vaccinated. I mean, this is pretty clear,” said Murphy at his press briefing Dec. 28. “We want the folks who are truly frontline healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff, (those living in) disabilities and other homes” to receive the vaccine first.
Murphy said while he believes the state has “a very good plan in place,” the supply-demand imbalance right now places him and other public officials at the back of the line to receive the vaccine.
“I recognize as role models, as public officials…there’s some benefit to being seen to be taking it,” said Murphy. “But when there’s a supply-demand imbalance as great as it is and you still have not gone through healthcare workers, long-term care residents, essential workers, folks meaningfully older than we are…I just can’t justify it.”
The statement by the governor was made on the same day New Jersey began its vaccine program to residents and staff in long-term care facilities and questioned on a report that Englewood Health was telling its trustees that they are hands-on volunteers and eligible for the vaccine
“There’s a reason for that priority and I would say with all due respect, folks like us are not on that list,” said Murphy. “That’s going to include folks, as good hearted as they might be, trustees and people like that.”
Defining 1A Personnel
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted there has been confusion on the definition of 1A, with the inclusion of paid and unpaid healthcare personnel.
“It’s paid and unpaid health care personnel who are serving in healthcare settings, who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to infectious material,” said Persichilli. “I’ve been asked, well, who’s an unpaid worker? Well, a volunteer is an unpaid worker, an attending physician who is in private practice that comes in to see their patients is not paid by the hospital, is an unpaid healthcare worker. “
“The confusion is real,” continued the commissioner. “People have good intentions, but it’s the exposure, the risk of exposure, which separates out a lot of people.
Once the state moves through the 1A category of frontline healthcare workers and those associated with long-term care facilities, vaccinations will begin for those classified in the 1B category, which includes frontline essential workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and are at a substantially higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, persons 75 years and older are included because of their increased risk for severe illness and depth.
Under the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, residents and staff who so choose will be vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Paramus, Vineland, and Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Homes. Vaccinations began on Dec. 28 in Paramus, and will begin on Jan.1 and 5 in Vineland and Menlo Park, respectively. Residents and staff will receive the 2nd dose of the vaccines three weeks after the first dose.
According to officials, New Jersey has received 220,425 of the expected 405,000 vaccines allocated to the state in the month of December. Of that, approximately 120,000 doses have been reserved for long-term care facilities and 280,000 doses have been allocated to hospitals and community sites.
With the start of vaccinations at long-term care facilities in the state, 299 facilities are already scheduled to receive vaccinations, including 277 CVS Pharmacies and 23 Walgreens Pharmacies.
A total of 134 community-based sites have received or will receive vaccines, including 36 FQHC locations, 21 county sites, 38 Shoprite pharmacies, 26 primary care urgent care sites, and Rowan University School of Medicine that just set up Operation Saving Lives.
Murphy stated with the new year, the state is looking forward to the further expansion of vaccine efforts, including the opening of the six vaccination mega sites and the continued movement through each priority group.
“With each passing day, our vaccination program is growing a little larger and a lot stronger,” said Murphy. “We are ready for this moment and we know countless residents, more importantly, are as well.”
As of Dec. 29, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 467,622 with 3,675 total new cases reported and 127 new confirmed deaths—the highest single day total since May 1—bringing that total to 16,832. The state listed probable deaths at 1,945, bringing the overall total to 18,777.
For North Jersey counties, Bergen had a total of 338 new cases, Hudson 327 new cases, Essex 237 new cases, Passaic 170 new cases, Morris 127 new cases, Sussex 69 new cases and Warren 31 cases.
State officials noted 76 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 2,130, followed by Bergen at 2,040, Hudson with 1,524, Passaic at 1,286, Morris at 775, Sussex at 171 and Warren County at 170.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 260, Essex has 242, Hudson has 163, Morris at 175, Passaic at 149, Sussex has 43 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Dec. 24 was 11.0%; by region, the rate was 9.8% in the North, 11.8% in the Central region and 12.6% in the South. 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 decreased to 0.95 from 0.96 the day 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 3,765 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,650 in the North, 1,263 in the Central and 852 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 723 are in intensive care units and 473 on ventilators. While 288 patients were discharged, 396 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 50,441, followed by Essex at 49,903, Hudson at 46,158, Middlesex at 45,548, Passaic at 42,280, Union at 40,554, Ocean at 34,665, Monmouth at 33,457, Camden at 30,373, Morris at 22,822, Burlington at 22,311, Mercer at 19,250, Gloucester at 15,451, Somerset at 14,838, Atlantic at 14,480, Cumberland at 8,814, Sussex at 4,797, Cape May at 4,379, Warren at 4,180, Hunterdon at 4,004, and Salem at 2,926.
Another 1,082 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 105 outbreaks involving 459 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with seven new outbreaks involving 31 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has 21 confirmed outbreaks with 99 cases, Passaic County has four confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases and Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 430 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 11,375 of the cases, broken down between 5,362 residents and 6,013 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,149 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 29,492 residents and 18,795 staff, for a total of 48,287 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,493 on Dec. 29. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,288 residents deaths and 125 staff deaths.