During the month of March, New Jersey will twice expand the list for those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine—headlined by teachers—despite the state continuing to face significant supply/demand imbalances.
Over the next month, the state will make eligible frontline workers on two different days as well as improving outreach to seniors. The move comes as Johnson & Johnson started shipping its recently approved one-dose COVID-19 vaccine, doses North Jersey state lawmakers had pushed to be designated for educators and senior citizens.
“Our administration has built the infrastructure—including nearly 300 vaccination sites across the state—needed to support New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccination demand,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing March 1. “As the federal government continues to make more vaccine doses available, we are confident in our ability to expand our vaccination program to reach more of our essential workers and vulnerable populations.”
March 15 Expansion
Starting March 15, the state is expanding the ranks of those eligible to included Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and support staff as well as childcare workers in licensed and registered settings. Murphy said the state’s departments of health and education are working with the New Jersey Education Association, school leaders and local education stakeholders, and vaccine sites to ensure full access without interrupting school days.
Those becoming eligible on March 15 also are public and local transportation workers, including bus, taxi, rideshare, and airport employees; NJ Transit workers; New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission staffers; public safety workers who are not sworn law enforcement or fire professionals, such as probation officers and fire safety inspectors; migrant farm workers; tribal communities; and the homeless and those living in shelters, including domestic violence shelters.
March 29 Expansion
Two weeks later, on March 29, a different tranche of frontline essential workers becoming eligible, including:
- Food production, agriculture, and food distribution workers;
- Eldercare and support workers;
- Warehousing and logistics workers;
- Social services support staff;
- Elections personnel;
- Hospitality workers;
- Medical supply chain workers;
- Postal and shipping services workers;
- Clergy; and
- Judicial system workers.
Additionally, the state will begin a program to help seniors unable to schedule an appointment. For all residents ages 75 and over, officials will actively conduct outreach over the phone and schedule appointments to ensure greater direct access. In a corresponding move, the state will increase allocations to mega-sites specifically for these seniors.
The additions are to those already eligible including frontline healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff, first responders and individuals ages 16-64 with certain medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that increase the risk or might increase the risk of severe illness from the virus.
Push From Lawmakers
The list expansion comes after State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) called for state officials to hit the reset button on its distribution plan with the emergency authorization approval of a third COVID-19 vaccine.
“The 70,000 doses heading to New Jersey and all future (Johnson & Johnson) doses should be reserved for senior citizens and school staff until those groups are all fully vaccinated,” said Sarlo in a press statement Feb. 27. “Give me 200 J&J doses in Wood-Ridge and I’ll have our schools open five days a week the next day. Give me 1,000 and I’ll have all my seniors done in one week.”
Additionally, State Sen. Joseph Lagana, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-39) renewed their call for educators to be given priority access to vaccines, writing in a joint statement, “We all want our children to get a well-rounded education, learning from their teachers and in their classrooms. Reopening our schools is safer as more educators have the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
Still Supply Issues
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli commented that while she is of the firm belief the state will reach its goal of vaccinating 70% of the population by May, there are still not enough doses to be administered right away to everyone eligible.
“Despite the additional vaccine coming to the state, we are still in a time of scarce vaccine supply,” she said. “So not everyone will be able to book an appointment immediately upon becoming categorically eligible.”
The governor said the announcements were made to give residents a timeline to when they would be eligible.
“Given the expectations of weekly shipments and especially as we head into April, we are confident in announcing this broadening of eligibility now,” Murphy said, while acknowledging there will still be frustrations for those not included in these two expansions—including himself.
“Our goal is to provide every New Jerseyan with a vaccine when it is available and they are eligible,” stated the governor.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 2,039,427 as of March 1. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,346,932 residents have received their first dose with 691,459 their second; 54% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 46% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 58% of those vaccinated are women and 42% men. As for ethnicity, 56% are White, 15% unknown, 14% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 42% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 24% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 232,962 doses, Essex 161,702 doses, Morris 152,926 doses, Passaic 92,078 doses, Hudson 93,755 doses, Sussex 30,559 doses, and Warren 18,600 doses.
As of March 1, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 704,362 with 2,668 total new PCR cases reported. There were 643 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 88,134. The total number of individual cases for the state is 792,496. 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 21 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,942. The state listed probable deaths at 2,331, bringing the overall total to 23,273. State officials noted 26 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on March 1, Bergen had a total of 319 new confirmed cases and 83 probable cases, Essex 253 new cases and 54 probable cases, Hudson 254 new cases and 77 probable cases, Morris 143 new cases and 49 probable cases, Passaic 123 new cases and 32 probable cases, Sussex 44 new cases and six probable cases, and Warren 36 cases and three probable cases.
State officials have identified a total of 63 cases of the B117 UK coronavirus variant in 12 counties in New Jersey, including eight in Essex County, four in Morris County, three in Hudson, and two each in Passaic and Warren counties.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,409, followed by Bergen at 2,338, Hudson with 1,827, Passaic at 1,518, Morris at 895, Sussex at 209 and Warren County at 197.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 24, Bergen has 281, Essex has 269, Morris has 227, Hudson has 180, Passaic has 173, Sussex has 64 and Warren has 19.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 0.94 from 0.91 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 25, was 6.4%; by region, the rate was 6.5% in the North, 7.0% in the Central region and 5.2% in the South.
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 1,865 patients were hospitalized; 1,729 cases were confirmed and 136 are under investigation. By region, there were 928 in the North, 603 in the Central and 334 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 387 are in intensive care units and 226 on ventilators. A total of 178 patients were discharged, while 203 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 69,169, followed by Middlesex at 67,818, Essex at 67,690, Hudson at 63,868, Passaic at 52,170, Ocean at 52,129, Monmouth at 51,799, Union at 49,198, Camden at 39,555, Morris at 32,256, Burlington at 30,993, Mercer at 26,242, Gloucester at 21,131, Atlantic at 19,796, Somerset at 18,747, Cumberland at 12,204, Sussex at 7,991, Warren at 6,372, Hunterdon at 6,324, Salem at 4,251, and Cape May at 3,718.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 8,871, followed by Union at 7,778, Ocean at 6,746, Essex at 6,305, Hudson at 5,732, Morris at 5,471, Monmouth at 5,358, Atlantic at 5,113, Middlesex at 5,030, Passaic at 4,816, Camden at 4,746, Burlington at 4,490, Somerset at 4,179, Cape May at 3,533, Gloucester at 3,104, Cumberland at 2,145, Mercer at 1,639, Sussex at 1,182, Warren at 730, Hunterdon at 627, and Salem 454.
Another 941 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 152 outbreaks involving 737 cases, with 10 new outbreaks accounting for 66 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 24.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 37 confirmed outbreaks with 155 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, Morris County has four confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 337 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 12,800 of the cases, broken down between 6,329 residents and 6,471 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,267 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,251 residents and 21,027 staff, for a total of 53,278 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,911 on March 1. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,821 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.