Two North Jersey congressmen are looking for guidance from the federal government to accelerate getting teachers back into the classroom in the Garden State.
Reps. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pushing for new protocols to support the safe return to in-person instruction in New Jersey by having states prioritize the vaccination of educators and staff in the same category as first responders.
The designation would ensure schools optimize their COVID-19 testing procedures, and a standard set of quarantine guidelines for all states and counties to mitigate confusion.
“We know that every parent, including ourselves, wants their child to be able to return to a safe and stable school environment where they can see their friends and receive the best education possible,” Gottheimer and Malinowski wrote in a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “We, therefore, believe that prioritizing vaccinations for teachers and school staff is critical.”
The two Democrats commented that a lack of guidance and standards from the federal government on what protocols and steps are needed to safely reopen schools has hindered this goal. Consistent guidance from the CDC would help mitigate current inconsistencies between state, county, and local health guidelines on school reopenings.
“We should do so for the same reason we decided to vaccinate first responders like firefighters and police officers — because they perform an indispensable public function that puts them at risk,” they wrote.
Vaccinating educators and staff has been a stated goal of President Joe Biden’s bid to reopen most schools in the first hundred days of the his administration. As of Feb. 1, 18 States—including neighboring states such as New York, Connecticut, and Delaware—have already started vaccinating all teachers.
Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly stated the next wave of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will include teachers.
“The group that we have spoken most frequently Limited about are educators,” said Murphy at a press briefing Feb. 3. “ We want to get as broad as fast as we can. The more supply we get, the more quickly we can do that.”
Limited In-school Transmission
The call to action comes New Jersey has reported what it considers a surprisingly small number of in-school transmission. In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 137 outbreaks involving 655 cases, with six new outbreaks accounting for 58 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 3, have been reported in all 21 counties in the Garden State.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 31 confirmed outbreaks with 126 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 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 92 cases and Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Effects on Students
Additionally, Gottheimer and Malinowski want schools to administer regular coronavirus tests, including pooled testing, that is funded by the federal government. They argue these steps will help manage COVID-19 cases within the school population and limit the potential for outbreaks of the virus.
The congressmen noted recent reports of chronic absenteeism among students, declines in reading and math proficiency could be significant and that learning loss has already cost students an estimated 3% of future career earnings.
As a result, Gottheimer and Malinowski are pushing for in-person instruction as the lack of in-person socialization with their peers has led to a rise in youth mental health crises, including increased youth emergency room visits related to mental health, a rise in student suicides in school districts across the country and further exacerbated learning gaps among low-income students.
Keeping Public Informed
To keep the public informed, the congressman are pushing the CDC to take the following steps:
As for those that have passed, the state reported 93 new deaths, bringing that total to 19,802. The state listed probable deaths at 2,187, bringing the overall total to 21,989. State officials noted 58 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
- Provide updated information on available testing technology and procedures to ensure that schools are optimizing their testing supply; and
- Encourage all states and counties to adopt a standard set of guidelines about when and how to quarantine to mitigate confusion, as well as the definitions of “meaningful contact” and “exposure.”
“It’s essential that clear and consistent guidelines must be established at all levels of government to mitigate confusion regarding what constitutes exposure to the virus and how long individuals must quarantine,” the two House members stated.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 925,579 as of Feb. 5. Of those who have received the vaccine, 745,552 residents have received their first dose with 179,956 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 60% of those vaccinated are women and 40% men. As for ethnicity, 49% are White, 19% unknown, 19% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 3% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 36% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 27% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 102,248 doses, Essex 72,856 doses, Hudson 42,439 doses, Morris 67,385 doses, Passaic 43,984 doses, Sussex 15,048 doses, and Warren 9,025 doses.
On Feb. 5, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 645,011 with 7,654 total new PCR cases reported. There were 1,189 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 77,156. The total number of individual cases for the state is 722,167. Gov. Murphy noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 7, Bergen had a total of 486 new confirmed cases and 74 probable cases, Essex 310 new cases and 59 probable cases, Hudson 322 new cases and six probable cases, Morris 203 new cases and and 56 probable cases, Passaic 378 new cases and 33 probable cases, Sussex 31 new cases and eight probable cases, and Warren 31 cases and three probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,313, followed by Bergen at 2,233, Hudson with 1,715, Passaic at 1,456, Morris at 863, Sussex at 204 and Warren County at 189.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 3, Bergen has 273, Essex has 257, Morris at 216, Hudson has 173, Passaic at 163, Sussex has 57 and Warren has 16.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 1, was 6.8%; by region, the rate was 4.9% in the North, 7.7% in the Central region and 7.8% 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 0.87 from 0.92 over the last two days. 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 2,837 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,318 in the North, 889 in the Central and 630 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 571 are in intensive care units and 373 on ventilators. A total of 405 patients were discharged on Feb. 7.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 62,580, followed by Middlesex at 62,085, Essex at 61,838, Hudson at 58,422, Passaic at 48,681, Ocean at 46,933, Monmouth at 46,450, Union at 45,667, Camden at 37,251, Morris at 28,947, Burlington at 28,914, Mercer at 24,372, Gloucester at 19,699, Atlantic at 18,073, Somerset at 16,993, Cumberland at 11,185, Sussex at 7,194, Warren at 5,734, Hunterdon at 5,614, Salem at 4,004, and Cape May at 3,367.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,371, followed by Union at 6,935, Ocean at 5,652, Essex at 5,478, Morris at 4,902, Hudson at 4,871, Monmouth at 4,654, Atlantic at 4,603, Middlesex at 4,409, Passaic at 4,185, Camden at 4,168, Burlington at 3,897, Somerset at 3,735, Cape May at 3,142, Gloucester at 2,880, Cumberland at 2,110, Mercer at 1,440, Sussex at 1,006, Warren at 660, Hunterdon at 569, and Salem 441.
Another 1,008 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 419 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,221 of the cases, broken down between 7,055 residents and 7,166 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,230 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 31,854 residents and 20,437 staff, for a total of 52,291 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,797 on Feb. 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,713 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.