New Jersey officials raised concerns about COVID-19 vaccinations rates in long-term care facilities as they clarified visitation protocol for visits in accordance with new federal guidelines.
On March 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance, facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation for unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated; residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.
Before the announcement, Gov. Phil Murphy stressed that compassionate care, essential caregiver, outdoor, and end-of-life visitation by appointment should be permitted even when indoor visitation is otherwise restricted because of the status of your facility. Essential caregivers should be permitted visitation if a facility goes 14 days without a positive case, and compassionate care visits are allowed even when there is a known case in a facility.
Compassionate Care Visits
“Compassionate care visits are not end-of-life visits. They are for any resident who may not be coping well, or whose status of health is declining,” said Murphy. “We have enormous concern regarding the emotional distress caused by isolation, and it’s much broader impact on the overall health and quality of life of residents in our long-term care facilities.”
The governor notes although compassionate care visits are not meant to be routine, they may need to take place more than once.
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said compassionate visits are permitted in a wide range of situations affecting long-term care residents, including when a resident’s physical or emotional health is significantly deteriorating.
Reasons for Visits
Instance for compassionate visits include allowing someone to visit a resident whose friend or family member recently passed away, whose health status is sharply declining, who needs encouragement with eating or drinking previously provided by family or caregiver, who is experiencing weight loss or dehydration and one who used to talk and interact with others, but is now experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking or crying more frequently.
“We know that a change in their environment and sudden lack of family can be traumatic,” said Persichill. “Allowing a visit from a family member in this situation would be consistent with the intent of the term compassionate care situations.”
The commissioner noted the department is working to provide a balance in accommodating long-term care visitation and doing it in a way that keeps residents, staff and visitors safe.
“While the number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities continues to decline, we still have active outbreaks in these facilities,” said Persichill. “As vaccination progresses, we expect that progress to continue. We expect to see more declines in outbreaks. But we do need high levels of both residents and staff vaccinated for that to occur.”
Long-term care facilities are reporting 72% of residents and assisted living facilities 90% of their residents are fully vaccinated, meaning they have received both doses of the vaccine.
But staff vaccinations are lagging behind, with only 50% of staffers fully vaccinated.
“We know there has been some vaccine hesitancy among long-term care staff,” said Persichill. “Through digital and social media advertising, we’re sharing messages from healthcare providers about how important it is for staff, particularly in long-term care, to be vaccinated, and we’re sharing safety and efficacy information on the vaccines.”
Murphy added, “I think the number that jumps out for me (is) 50% of staff at long-term care getting vaccinated is unacceptable. That number has got to change.”
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 261 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 10,285 of the cases, broken down between 4,987 residents and 5,298 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,284 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,382 residents and 21,205 staff, for a total of 53,587 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,950 on March 11. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,837 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 2,823,731 as of March 12. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,876,495 residents have received their first dose—including approximately 28,240 of the one-jab Johnson & Johnson shot—with 947,094 their second; 52% have been administered the Moderna vaccine, 47% the Pfizer vaccine and 1% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Demographically, 57% of those vaccinated are women and 43% men. As for ethnicity, 58% are White, 12% unknown, 12% 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 7% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 326,534149 doses, Essex 223,312 doses, Morris 205,618 doses, Hudson 137,963 doses, Passaic 127,330 doses, Sussex 45,258 doses, and Warren 29,159 doses.
As of March 11, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 736,065 with 3,544 total new PCR cases reported. There were 892 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 94,783. The total number of individual cases for the state is 830,848. 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 40 new deaths, bringing that total to 21,380. The state listed probable deaths at 2,474, bringing the overall total to 23,854. State officials noted 23 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on March 12, Bergen had a total of 388 new confirmed cases and 115 probable cases, Essex 374 new cases and 56 probable cases, Hudson 302 new cases and 65 probable cases, Morris 226 new cases and 57 probable cases, Passaic 293 new cases and 48 probable cases, Sussex 47 new cases and 24 probable cases, and Warren 49 cases and three new probable cases.
State officials have identified a total of 146 coronavirus variant cases in 20 counties in New Jersey, including eight in Essex County, seven in Morris County, seven in Hudson, four in Passaic, three in Warren, three in Bergen, and one in Sussex.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,442, followed by Bergen at 2,377, Hudson with 1,860, Passaic at 1,549, Morris at 914, Sussex at 212 and Warren County at 198.
In regards to probable deaths reported March 10, Bergen has 284, Essex has 287, Morris has 232, Hudson has 193, Passaic has 183, Sussex has 65 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission, it declined to 1.02 from 1.03 for the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of March 7, was 11.9%; by region, the rate was 11.2% in the North, 13.0% in the Central region and 9.3% in the South.
Officials reported 1,884 patients were hospitalized; 1,823 cases were confirmed and 138 are under investigation. By region, there were 984 in the North, 545 in the Central and 355 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 401 are in intensive care units and 236 on ventilators. A total of 257 patients were discharged, while 205 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 72,906, followed by Middlesex at 70,739, Essex at 70,679, Hudson at 66,755, Monmouth at 54,956, Ocean at 54,773, Passaic at 54,318, Union at 51,066, Camden at 40,638, Morris at 34,146, Burlington at 32,085, Mercer at 27,129, Gloucester at 21,840, Atlantic at 20,555, Somerset at 19,743, Cumberland at 12,529, Sussex at 8,472, Warren at 6,751, Hunterdon at 6,710, Salem at 4,367, and Cape May at 3,839.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 9,582, followed by Union at 8,331, Ocean at 7,435, Essex at 6,756, Hudson at 6,254, Monmouth at 6,012, Morris at 5,927, Middlesex at 5,464, Atlantic at 5,349, Passaic at 5,212, Camden at 4,975, Burlington at 4,794, Somerset at 4,432, Cape May at 3,738, Gloucester at 3,216, Cumberland at 2,167, Mercer at 1,744, Sussex at 1,357, Warren at 753, Hunterdon at 657 and Salem 461.
Another 1,069 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 have been reported, with 13 new outbreaks accounting for 39 cases in the weekly update on March 10.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 38 confirmed outbreaks with 157 cases, Passaic County has eight confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Sussex has eight confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Morris County has four confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Hudson County has four confirmed outbreaks with 16 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.