The weather is the latest obstacle New Jersey officials are facing when it comes to administering the COVID-19 vaccine to state residents.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced at a press briefing on Feb. 18 that winter weather issues that have disrupted operations throughout the U.S. are expected to delay the delivery of vaccines to the Garden State.
“Because of the nationwide weather situation, we know there are going to be supply chain issues. We’re working with a conservative expectation that our anticipated vaccine deliveries will not arrive as scheduled,” stated Murphy.
The governor warned the delivery delays will result in “many” appointments needing to be rescheduled. As the storm hit the state on Thursday, megasites in Burlington, Middlesex and Morris counties were closed and operations in the Meadowlands ceased at 10 a.m. Officials at those sites were contacting and rescheduling those who were impacted.
“We’re making preparations to use existing inventory to satisfy current appointments. However, not all sites may be able to do this,” he said. “To be clear, everyone who wishes to be vaccinated will be. With the current national situation, we must be prepared.”
The news about a possible delay in delivery comes a day after Murphy said he has heard the frustrations residents are registering about the inability to schedule an appointment or being eligible to receive the vaccine.
“I know there remain…many, many residents who want to be included in these numbers but aren’t yet because of the scarcity of appointments due to the scarcity of vaccines,” said Murphy. “We hear you and we understand your anxiety.”
The state has administered a total of 1,524,941 doses as of Feb. 18, with 1,086,763 New Jerseyans receiving at least their first dose and 436,988 fully vaccinated after receiving the second shot of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
Progress Not Quick Enough
Murphy said each day there is “consistent progress” as the vaccine numbers are moving upward by several tens of thousands. Besides the lack of available slots to receive the vaccine, the state had to recently pause its ability to schedule appointments over the phone at its call center.
Even with the numbers growing, for many New Jerseyans the governor conceded “getting in the door…remains a problem. There’s no question about it,”
“We remain committed to doing everything we can to improve the platforms available for scheduling vaccination appointments,” he said. “We will get there. There’s just no question in my mind…every single New Jersey who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated.”
The governor said advocates have made strong arguments for populations they represent to be eligible—including essential retail and union workers. Those currently eligible are frontline healthcare workers, long-term care residents, first responders and those under 65 with chronic health conditions.
“But at the moment, with only two approved vaccines currently on an emergency use basis at our disposal, we all need to continue to be patient as doses continue to roll out,” stated Murphy.
“Whether you’re an educator, a transit worker, a longshoreman, a retail worker, regardless of who you are, if you’ve got a chronic condition, you are eligible right now,” he added
Despite the imbalance of supply to demand, state officials reaffirmed their goal of vaccinating 70% of the population, or 4.1 million residents, in six months is still on track.
“I don’t think the public expectation in New Jersey is too high, because I still feel…we’ll get there,” said Murphy. “Is there a window that really is realistically Memorial Day into the Fourth of July until we get to the many millions more? Perhaps, but we’re going to do everything we can and find every dose that we can, as soon as we can.”
Of the over 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey, 54% have been the Moderna vaccine and 46% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 59% of those vaccinated are women and 41% men. As for ethnicity, 53% are White, 17% unknown, 15% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 40% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 25% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 171,616 doses, Essex 125,328 doses, Morris 111,417 doses, Passaic 69,558 doses, Hudson 69,028 doses, Sussex 23,590 doses, and Warren 14,380 doses.
On Feb. 18, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 675,713 with 2,746 total new PCR cases reported. There were 817 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 82,738. The total number of individual cases for the state is 758,451. 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 89 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,432. The state listed probable deaths at 2,289, bringing the overall total to 22,721. State officials noted 45 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 18, Bergen had a total of 336 new confirmed cases and 96 probable cases, Essex 288 new cases and 63 probable cases, Hudson 300 new cases and 67 probable cases, Morris 129 new cases and and 48 probable cases, Passaic 135 new cases and 41 probable cases, Sussex 26 new cases and 12 probable cases, and Warren 20 cases and five probable cases.
State officials have identified a total of 50 cases of the UK coronavirus variant in 11 counties in New Jersey, including seven in Essex County, four in Morris County, and two each in Hudson, Passaic and Warren counties.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,364, followed by Bergen at 2,292, Hudson with 1,784, Passaic at 1,486, Morris at 878, Sussex at 206 and Warren County at 192.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 17, Bergen has 280, Essex has 266, Morris has 225, Hudson has 177, Passaic has 169, Sussex has 62 and Warren has 19.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 13, was 10.8%; by region, the rate was 11.6% in the North, 10.1% in the Central region and 10.0% 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 2,370 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,071 in the North, 737 in the Central and 519 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 474 are in intensive care units and 306 on ventilators. A total of 308 patients were discharged, while 265 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 65,828, followed by Middlesex at 65,244, Essex at 64,993, Hudson at 61,124, Passaic at 50,654, Ocean at 49,803, Monmouth at 49,201, Union at 47,400, Camden at 38,385, Morris at 30,643, Burlington at 29,928, Mercer at 25,383, Gloucester at 20,444, Atlantic at 18,986, Somerset at 17,880, Cumberland at 11,694, Sussex at 7,613, Warren at 6,030, Hunterdon at 5,983, Salem at 4,118, and Cape May at 3,355.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,991, followed by Union at 7,387, Ocean at 6,194, Essex at 5,906, Hudson at 5,293, Morris at 5,255, Monmouth at 4,977, Atlantic at 4,847, Middlesex at 4,735, Camden at 4,549, Passaic at 4,526, Burlington at 4,204, Somerset at 3,968, Cape May at 3,526, Gloucester at 2,997, Cumberland at 2,129, Mercer at 1,536, Sussex at 1,088, Warren at 683, Hunterdon at 607, and Salem 455.
Another 853 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 two new outbreaks accounting for 15 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 17.
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 and Morris Counties have two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases each, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 381 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 13,898 of the cases, broken down between 6,887 residents and 7,011 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,249 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,121 residents and 20,812 staff, for a total of 52,933 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,867 on Feb. 18. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,799 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.