Police, Firefighters Now Eligible to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine in New Jersey

New Jersey made its first expansion of the coronavirus vaccination program past hospital workers and long-term care residents.

State officials announced the move into phase 1B for those receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, offering the two-jab shot to police and firefighters who Gov. Phil Murphy noted they are at high risk due to their interactions at superspreader events.

“These are folks who have been just as much in harm’s way on the frontlines as many of our healthcare workers, and they often have been called upon for emergency medical support,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing Jan. 6. “Our EMS teams are already in the 1A category and we will continue to ensure access for our 1A populations, but it also follows that the people they often work so closely with, our police and fire, also be allowed to get in line for the vaccines.”

Phase 1B 

New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ASIP), fire professionals and police officers are among those frontline essential workers recommended to receive vaccination in phase 1B. The frontline responders are being prioritized as their jobs have a greater risk of coming into contact with infectious individuals as well as infectious materials. 

“Many police and fire personnel are also first responders in their municipalities, so they are a priority group within 1B and we’ll be the first group in 1B to have access,” stated Persichilli. “We are able to open up vaccination to them based on the available supply.”

Limited Supplies

ASIP recommends with vaccine supplies limited, vaccination should be offered in a phased approach. ASIP defines frontline essential workers as essential workers likely at greatest risk because their work-related duties must be performed on site and involve close proximity to the public or their coworkers.

“Opening vaccination up to sworn law enforcement individuals and fire professionals is also in line with the recommendations of the (NJDOH)’s Professional Advisory Committee,” stated the health commissioner. In total, there are over 2.5 million in the 1A, 1B, and 1C essential worker categories in the Garden State. 

The Murphy Administration has been criticized for its slow roll out of the vaccine, but Persichilli said timeline considerations should be viewed in the context of the limited vaccine supply during the first month of this national COVID-19 vaccine program, and will ramp up  based on changes in the supply. 

Overlapping Phases

The commissioner said moving forward, the state’s protocols will allow overlap in order to begin vaccinations in one phase even if all individuals in the previous phase have not been completed.

“The movement between phases will be very fluid,” said  Persichilli. “We will not wait for all individuals in one phase to be vaccinated before opening up to additional groups. Individuals in Phase 1A will continue to be eligible and those in high risk and congregate care settings will remain a priority.”

Daily Data

On Jan. 7,  the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 510,839 with 6,314 total new PCR cases reported. There were 1,560 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 53,959. The total number of individual cases for the state is 564,798. Gov. Murphy noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.

As for those that have passed, the state reported 123 new deaths, bringing that total to 17,587 The state listed probable deaths at 2,059, bringing the overall total to 19,646. State officials noted 59 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties, Bergen had a total of 571 new confirmed cases and 195 probable cases, Essex 542 new cases and 106 probable cases, Hudson 601 new cases and 105 probable cases, Morris 284 new cases and and 95 probable cases, Passaic 400 new cases and and 98 probable cases, Sussex 96 new cases and 22 probable cases, and Warren 66 cases and 18 probable cases.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,167, followed by Bergen at 2,095, Hudson with 1,571, Passaic at 1,337, Morris at 800, Sussex at 178 and Warren County at 171.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 266, Essex has 255, Hudson has 169, Morris at 187, Passaic at 159, Sussex has 46 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Jan. 2, was 15.0%; by region, the rate was 14.6% in the North, 14.9% in the Central region and 15.7% 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 increased to 0.99 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 3,711 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,532 in the North, 1,244 in the Central and 935 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 654 are in intensive care units and 430 on ventilators. While 447 patients were discharged, 414 were admitted.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 49,974, followed by Essex at 49,865, Middlesex at 48,222, Hudson at 46,886, Passaic at 41,659, Union at 38,180, Ocean at 35,174, Monmouth at 34,771, Camden at 30,639, Burlington at 23,063, Morris at 21,711, Mercer at 19,897, Gloucester at 15,395, Somerset at 13,440, Atlantic at 13,238, Cumberland at 8,494, Sussex at 4,978, Warren at 4,263, Hunterdon at 4,084, Salem at 3,082, and Cape May at 2,579.  

In regards to probable cases, Union had the most at 5,204, followed by Bergen at 5,122, Essex at 3,978, Ocean at 3,724, Hudson at 3,600, Morris at 3,465, Atlantic at 3,205, Passaic at 3,172, Middlesex at 3,142, Monmouth at 3,044, Somerset at 2,782, Camden at 2,721, Cape May at 2,343, Burlington at 2,208, Gloucester at 1,932, Cumberland at 1,511, Mercer at 982, Sussex at 622, Warren at 421, Hunterdon at 396, and Salem 337.

Another 1,245 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 111 outbreaks involving 557 cases have been reported in 20 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with six new outbreaks involving 11 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has 22 confirmed outbreaks with 102 cases, Passaic County has five confirmed outbreaks with 25 cases, Sussex has five confirmed outbreaks with 13 cases, Warren has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases and  Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 83 cases. Morris is the only county in the state without an outbreak.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 432 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 12,836 of the cases, broken down between 6,159 residents and 6,677 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,177 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 30,465 residents and 19,616 staff, for a total of 50,081 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,580 on Jan. 7. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,427 residents deaths and 125 staff deaths.

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