A year after the first documented case of the coronavirus in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy pointed to the “rays of light” state officials see in the coming months.
“We knew that we would have to prepare our state and each of you for the worst, and hope for the best,” said Murphy at a press briefing on March 3. “None of us could even imagine what it was we ultimately would be up against. One year in, we can finally see the light of a new day beginning to break on the horizon. We cannot yet bask in that light, but make no mistake, we will.”
The governor said New Jersey was especially vulnerable for a pandemic, given its location, proximity to New York City and importance as an international travel and trading hub. Officials began preparations in mid-January 2020 when international concerns about the coronavirus were growing and the first case was reported on the West Coast.
Over 23,000 Lives Lost
In that time, 802,669 have tested positive and 23,491 have died as of March 4. The public health emergency has forced students out of classrooms, loved ones unable to visit or say goodbye to their loved one at long-term care facilities, forced businesses to shutter—some for good—and made face masks and social distancing part of a daily routine for New Jerseyans.
“We’ve always leveled with you, even when the news was not promising. We’ve remained optimistic even when we knew we were going through some very, very dark times,” said Murphy. “Moreover, we’ve tried to hold our New Jersey family together with facts and faith and decisions guided solely by the science, by the data.”
Murphy noted he was “grateful” that the overwhelming number of those who tested positive have survived as well as the many more who had contracted this virus but have never known it, especially last Spring.
The governor focused on the challenges in the early days of the pandemic, when masks, hospital gowns, gloves, and ventilators were scarce, and the work with private sector leaders, philanthropists and others to get vital tools to combat the coronavirus to frontline healthcare workers and patients.
“Today, we have built a state stockpile of (personal protection equipment) and ventilators necessary to hold off the shortages we saw a year ago,” said Murphy. “We were also lifted by the response of nurses from across the nation, and in some cases from outside our nation, who flew to us to offer their help and to take some of the burden off our own when exhaustion took hold.”
The governor said the protocols the state put in place—wearing of masks, washing hands, social distancing, cooperation with contact tracers, capacity limitations—and continues to urge residents to follow has enable the state’s hospitals not to be overrun.
“Because of our actions last March and the sacrifices of all of our residents, the crippling worst-case scenarios we feared for our hospitals, numbers that would have essentially broken our healthcare system, did not come to pass,” he said.
Murphy reflected that state officials wished they had known earlier the depth of the existence of the virus, particularly the metro New York counties that got hit hardest. He said what really “galled me was in these Bob Woodward book tapes, when it was quite clear the federal administration knew stuff that we did not know, that they were not disclosing to either us as governors or to the public, and that cost lives.”
“We found a lot of common ground with the Trump administration. We bemoan the fact they had no national strategy, but we still were able to find common ground,” continued Murphy. “I think as a nation, perhaps as a world, we were in the dark, I mean, there’s kind of no other way to put it. And that’s not just us. It’s not just America. This thing clobbered, came in and clobbered the world and it still is not done with us.”
The governor said New Jersey has begun the work to correct the inequities in healthcare, unemployment and education the pandemic has exposed. He cited the success in closing the education digital divide that stood at 231,000 students in Summer 2020 that is now down to 39.
“More and more of our schools are reopening their doors,” said Murphy. “Today, more than 900,000 of our students are back in their familiar classrooms either for all-day in-person instruction, or on a hybrid schedule, with more returning nearly every day.”
With restrictions, small businesses have been especially hit hard. Murphy noted New Jersey has put hundreds of millions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds to work to support the countless small businesses whose existence was put in doubt because of this pandemic.
Vaccine Gives Hope
With COVID-19 vaccine distribution increasing, the governor asked for patience as more residents become eligible this month. Murphy believes the supplies the state will receive and the infrastructure built in the Garden State will enable the state to reach of its goal to vaccinate 70% of New Jerseyans by Memorial Day.
“Each shot is another ray of light in that new dawn. Each one comes with a little extra hope for the post-COVID days that await,” said the governor.
Murphy concluded by offering a “thank you” to every New Jerseyan who had joined the fight over the past year to defeat the virus.
“Thank you for being models for your families and communities. Thank you for showing that when we fight COVID together, we can beat it together. Thank you for being real patriots, simply doing what’s needed to be done in these most unprecedented circumstances,” he said.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 2,257,726 as of March 4. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,497,039 residents have received their first dose with 759,638 their second; 53% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 47% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 58% of those vaccinated are women and 42% men. As for ethnicity, 57% are White, 14% unknown, 13% other, 7% Asian, 6% 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, 23% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 256,650 doses, Essex 183,897 doses, Morris 169,370 doses, Hudson 105,849 doses, Passaic 100,508 doses, Sussex 35,425 doses, and Warren 22,902 doses.
As of March 4, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 712,585 with 2,605 total new PCR cases reported. There were 796 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 90,084. The total number of individual cases for the state is 802,669. 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 42 new deaths, bringing that total to 21,094. The state listed probable deaths at 2,397, bringing the overall total to 23,491. State officials noted 19 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on March 4, Bergen had a total of 297 new confirmed cases and 91 probable cases, Essex 238 new cases and 58 probable cases, Hudson 223 new cases and 60 probable cases, Morris 143 new cases and 57 probable cases, Passaic 133 new cases and 44 probable cases, Sussex 28 new cases and 23 probable cases, and Warren 31 cases and two probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,420, followed by Bergen at 2,345, Hudson with 1,836, Passaic at 1,528, Morris at 903, Sussex at 211 and Warren County at 198.
In regards to probable deaths reported March 3, Bergen has 284, Essex has 275, Morris has 224, Hudson has 185, Passaic has 179, Sussex has 64 and Warren has 22.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.01 from 0.99 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 27, was 10.7%; by region, the rate was 11.4% in the North, 10.6% in the Central region and 8.9% in the South.
Officials reported 1,900 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 945 in the North, 561 in the Central and 394 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 376 are in intensive care units and 214 on ventilators. A total of 256 patients were discharged, while 235 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospilizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 70,177, followed by Middlesex at 68,573, Essex at 68,424, Hudson at 64,587, Ocean at 52,861, Passaic at 52,757, Monmouth at 52,578, Union at 49,684, Camden at 39,828, Morris at 32,713, Burlington at 31,265, Mercer at 26,475, Gloucester at 21,309, Atlantic at 19,992, Somerset at 18,982, Cumberland at 12,282, Sussex at 8,079, Warren at 6,474, Hunterdon at 6,440, Salem at 4,280, and Cape May at 3,747, .
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 9,155, followed by Union at 7,948, Ocean at 6,942, Essex at 6,437, Hudson at 5,878, Monmouth at 5,535, Morris at 5,496, Atlantic at 5,184, Middlesex at 5,170, Passaic at 4,951, Camden at 4,805, Burlington at 4,577, Somerset at 4,257, Cape May at 3,606, Gloucester at 3,133, Cumberland at 2,152, Mercer at 1,680, Sussex at 1,224, Warren at 737, Hunterdon at 639, and Salem 462.
Another 1,078 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 160 outbreaks involving 765 cases, with eight new outbreaks accounting for 28 cases reported in the weekly update on March 3.
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 three confirmed outbreaks with 13 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 309 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 12,313 of the cases, broken down between 6,099 residents and 6,214 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,270 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,282 residents and 21,093 staff, for a total of 53,375 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,923 on March 4. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,826 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.