Gov. Phil Murphy warned those not following the protocols of administering the COVID-19 vaccine will face consequences for their actions.
“Among other things, if people monkey around (in distributing the vaccine) it’s going to impact the amount of doses that they’re going to get going forward from us,” stated Murphy at a press briefing Jan. 27. “I want to make sure folks hear that loud and clear.”
The issue was raised after a report that Hunterdon Medical Center allowed otherwise ineligible people to receive the vaccine in December 2020. The hospital contacted relatives of staff, retired employees and volunteers in order to prevent waste of the vaccine.
While the practice of calling people on waiting lists when people miss appointments is encouraged by public health officials, the large number of donors and young relatives that received the vaccine during the first weeks of its availability has raised questions about how equitable the vaccine distribution has been.
Murphy said he was “disgusted” to read the allegations at Hunterdon Medical Center.
“If that turns out to be the case and they volitionally did that in the face of guidance that was crystal clear, that’s incredibly offensive,” he said.
The governor believes the actions taken were different from an earlier question if a Board of Trustees from a hospital could receive the vaccine, where the issues if they were a medical doctor or a private citizen.
“I think there was some legitimate question in the first days,” said Murphy. “If this is volitional, it’s completely unacceptable.”
With the supply and demand imbalance the state is currently facing, questions have been raised about traveling to receive the vaccine. State officials reiterated their stance that their eligibility parameters still stand.
Eligibility Requirements Questioned
“We work very closely with all the county sites and we have told them that they could give priority to individuals that live, work and study in their county,” stated Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli. “If other individuals show up there to take their name, their number, and have a callback system so that they’re not necessarily out of hand turning people away, but they can give priority. But we are telling them to do it with a soft hand.”
The governor said he still prefers a system of preregistering for a test and is “not wild” about a first-come, first-serve approach like one currently being used in Paterson.
“We’ve said from the get-go we want this to be an appointment-based system,” said Murphy. “We don’t want to see the scenes that we’ve seen in some other states and for the most part, that has been the case in New Jersey.”
Building from Scratch
Murphy characterized the COVID-19 vaccine distribution programs “the most complex logistical undertaking, other than going to war, in the history of the United States. The fact (is) we have 270 sites, we’ve got a call center with trained people answering it and all of that is from scratch literally in a number of weeks.”
Persichilli said the preregistration now has over 2 million signed to be vaccinated, but the building of an appointment system has “proved to be a little bit more difficult.”
“We are doing this with our own information technology experts…in collaboration with a Microsoft team,” said the commissioner.”It was a big undertaking, and we’re still working out some of the bugs; it’s something we’ve never done before at the Department of Health.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 680,601 as of Jan. 28. Of those who have received the vaccine, 577,175 residents have received their first dose with 100,686 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 61% of those vaccinated are women and 39% men. As for ethnicity, 48% are White, 19% unknown, 19% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 3% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 32% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 29% are between the ages of 40-49, and 10% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 74,099 doses, Essex 54,575 doses, Hudson 32,019 doses, Morris 49,893 doses, Passaic 31,962 doses, Sussex 10,862 doses, and Warren 6,942 doses.
On Jan. 28, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 610,324 with 3,962 total new PCR cases reported. There were 1,012 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 70,959. The total number of individual cases for the state is 681,283. 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 82 new deaths, bringing that total to 19,172. The state listed probable deaths at 2,129, bringing the overall total to 21,301. State officials noted 61 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 447 new confirmed cases and 122 probable cases, Essex 385 new cases and 60 probable cases, Hudson 394 new cases and 71 probable cases, Morris 219 new cases and and 63 probable cases, Passaic 233 new cases and 44 probable cases, Sussex 53 new cases and 14 probable cases, and Warren 43 cases and four probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,275, followed by Bergen at 2,193, Hudson with 1,684, Passaic at 1,427, Morris at 841, Sussex at 198 and Warren County at 183.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 268, Essex has 255, Morris at 207, Hudson has 171, Passaic at 163, Sussex has 53 and Warren has 15.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Jan. 23, was 12.6%; by region, the rate was 12.5% in the North, 12.7% in the Central region and 12.9% 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 remained unchanged from the day before at 0.91. 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 3,121 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,354 in the North, 1,016 in the Central and 751 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 563 are in intensive care units and 406 on ventilators. A total of 395 patients were discharged, while 506 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 59,029, followed by Essex at 58,554, Middlesex at 58,352, Hudson at 55,587, Passaic at 46,525, Union at 43,933, Monmouth at 43,608, Ocean at 43,705, Camden at 35,827, Burlington at 27,398, Morris at 26,942, Mercer at 23,270, Gloucester at 18,785, Atlantic at 16,861, Somerset at 15,994, Cumberland at 10,549, Sussex at 6,744, Warren at 5,347, Hunterdon at 5,217, Salem at 3,818, and Cape May at 3,153.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 6,821, followed by Union at 6,496, Ocean at 5,239, Essex at 4,970, Hudson at 4,551, Morris at 4,374, Monmouth at 4,227, Atlantic at 4,192, Middlesex at 4,093, Passaic at 3,930, Camden at 3,787, Somerset at 3,514, Burlington at 3,437, Cape May at 2,926, Gloucester at 2,649, Cumberland at 2,005, Mercer at 1,263, Sussex at 905, Warren at 582, Hunterdon at 529, and Salem 423.
Another 1,126 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 131 outbreaks involving 597 cases, with 10 new outbreaks accounting for 32 cases reported in the weekly update, have been reported in all 21 counties in the Garden State.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 29 confirmed outbreaks with 121 cases, Passaic County has five confirmed outbreaks with 25 cases, Sussex has five confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases, Warren has five confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 91 cases and Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 427 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 15,490 of the cases, broken down between 7,456 residents and 8,034 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,225 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,199 residents and 21,373 staff, for a total of 53,572 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,740 on Jan. 28. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,699 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.