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New Jersey Increases COVID-19 Vaccine to Communities Hardest Hit by the Coronavirus

In an effort to help the areas most affected by the coronavirus, state officials recently announced the launch of community-based vaccination partnerships to provide equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Among our highest priorities is ensuring equitable access to appointments and vaccinations,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing Feb. 12. “We are grateful for this unique partnership between our state agencies, federal government, and faith and local leaders as we begin this new phase in our vaccination effort to provide New Jerseyans with access to the vaccine.”

The community-based vaccination sites are supported through a partnership by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), in coordination with local faith leaders, nonprofit organizations, local officials, and health departments. 

Somerset Shots

The initial phase of the community-based vaccination partnership will include sites in Somerset, Trenton, Elizabeth, Vineland, and Paterson, which officials said were chosen due to their communities being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and are home to some of the most diverse and socio-economically challenged communities in the state. 

The community-based vaccination partnership, projected to vaccinate 15,000 residents through the end of March, launched first at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset Feb. 15. 

“Overwhelmingly, African American and Hispanic members of our church and community are ready to take this vaccine,” said Reverend Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens said in a press statement. “I have a woman 105 years old registered for the vaccine.” 

Community Only

Rev. Soaries stressed that all available appointments at his church are already filled with 100 staff and volunteers scheduled to serve and assist seniors.

In order to ensure equitable access in these high-need cities, sites will operate as closed points of distribution for members of the immediate community only. Vaccination appointments will be required and will be handled directly through partnering houses of worship, community organizations, and local community leaders. 

“In New York City, you had instances where a predominantly Black church was vaccinating and you looked at who was in line, and it was a lot of folks who are not from that community,” said Murphy. “We want to avoid that reality here again, particularly given the equity challenges that we face.”

“Equity Lens”

Each site will coordinate with a healthcare partner and vaccines will be dispensed from the state’s allocation. A vaccination support team from DOD will provide the clinical staffing at the sites and FEMA will provide non-medical support. Each site will be able to vaccinate approximately 1,500 people per week and vaccinations at each location will take place over a two-week period, followed by a return to administer second doses.  

“Throughout this pandemic, the Health Department’s work on the COVID-19 response and our vaccination planning has been done through an equity lens,” said NJDOH Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by this virus, and with our interfaith community partners, we are working to increase access and availability of the vaccine to vulnerable communities.”

More Doses Needed

The governor noted while allotments of the vaccine from the federal government continuing to increase is good news, it is still not at the point where the state’s mega sites can operate to the capacities to which that have been built for. 

“I’m extraordinarily pleased by the Biden administration’s announcement about securing an additional 200 million doses by the end of July over, that’s all in addition to what had already been ordered,” he said. “But again, these doses will take some time to get to us.”

Daily Data

Murphy tweeted state officials were are aware of an electronic lab-reporting issue that may be affecting the daily COVID-19 numbers. Labs were alerted and the state was working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

On Feb. 15, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 666,399 with 1,222 total new PCR cases reported. There were 272 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 81,033. The total number of individual cases for the state is 747,432. Gov. Murphy previously 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 14 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,220. The state listed probable deaths at 2,246, bringing the overall total to 22,466. State officials noted 42 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on Feb. 15, Bergen had a total of 129 new confirmed cases and 18 probable cases, Essex 166 new cases and seven probable cases, Hudson 111 new cases and six probable cases, Morris 64 new cases and and 22 probable cases, Passaic 76 new cases and 14 probable cases, Sussex 18 new cases and four probable cases, and Warren 16 cases and one probable cases.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,344, followed by Bergen at 2,277, Hudson with 1,770, Passaic at 1,476, Morris at 874, Sussex at 206 and Warren County at 191.

In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 3, Bergen has 277, Essex has 261, Morris at 222, Hudson has 177, Passaic at 167, Sussex has 61 and Warren has 18.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 10, was 7.4%; by region, the rate was 7.3% in the North, 7.4% in the Central region and 6.6% 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 increased to 0.89 from 0.86 the previous day. 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 2,408 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,126 in the North, 744 in the Central and 538 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 513 are in intensive care units and 298 on ventilators. A total of 212 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 64,796, followed by Middlesex at 64,240, Essex at 64,073, Hudson at 60,268, Passaic at 50,121, Ocean at 48,897, Monmouth at 48,347, Union at 46,883, Camden at 38,011, Morris at 30,196, Burlington at 29,640, Mercer at 25,061, Gloucester at 20,212, Atlantic at 18,731, Somerset at 17,595, Cumberland at 11,525, Sussex at 7,496, Warren at 5,945, Hunterdon at 5,870, Salem at 4,067, and Cape May at 3,472.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,771, followed by Union at 7,226, Ocean at 6,040, Essex at 5,757, Morris at 5,155, Hudson at 5,121, Monmouth at 4,874, Atlantic at 4,765, Middlesex at 4,661, Camden at 4,458, Passaic at 4,431, Burlington at 4,122, Somerset at 3,900, Cape May at 3,292, Gloucester at 2,972, Cumberland at 2,130, Mercer at 1,515, Sussex at 1,065, Warren at 681, Hunterdon at 598, and Salem 454.

Another 953 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 142 outbreaks involving 671 cases, with five new outbreaks accounting for 16 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 10. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 32 confirmed outbreaks with 129 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 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.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 399 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,088 of the cases, broken down between 6,940 residents and 7,148 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,243 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,027 residents and 20,740 staff, for a total of 52,767 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,846 on Feb. 12. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,767 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 1,372,931 as of Feb. 15. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,003,232 residents have received their first dose with 369,113 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer. 

Demographically, 59% of those vaccinated are women and 41% men. As for ethnicity, 51% are White, 18% unknown, 16% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 37% are 65 years old or olders, 28% are between the ages of 50-64, 26% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 152,247 doses, Essex 115,452 doses, Morris 100,013 doses, Passaic 63,299 doses, Hudson 62,654 doses, Sussex 21,453 doses, and Warren 13,000 doses. 

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