No Further Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions As Cases Plateau in New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy

Any plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in the Garden State are being delayed as new cases are no longer declining.

“We are back to leading this nation in the spread of this virus,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a press briefing March 22. “There is no magic wand we can wave to stop the spread of COVID.” 

New Jersey has the nation’s highest rate of new COVID cases currently—nearly 45 a day per 100,000 residents, with Rhode Island second at around 34. Murphy and health officials reiterated those vaccinated still pose a risk in their ability to spread the virus.

“Being vaccinated does not mean that you become incapable of spreading the virus,” said Murphy. “While me may have COVID on the run, the mere presence of vaccines doesn’t mean we are out of the woods.”

Worry Over Variants

Murphy reiterated the vaccine only protects recipients from developing a severe case of the coronavirus and that all New Jersey residents must continue wearing face masks, follow the familiar health protocols of social distancing and hand washing, and hold more activities outside as the weather improves until the state’s vaccination goals are met. 

“(Receiving the vaccine) doesn’t make you bulletproof and you are still capable of spreading the virus around you to those that are not yet vaccinated,” said Murphy.

Topping the list of concerns for state state officials are the more than 400 cases of variants identified in the Garden State that are suspected of being more transmissible. 

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that the state has documented 389 cases of the UK variant, seven cases of two California variants, three of the Brazil variant and one South African variant. Additionally, there are 65 cases of the New York variant, considered “of interest” by the Centers for Disease Control.

Prepared for Surge

“We can’t trust this virus to behave in any way that’s predictable,” said Persichilli.  “We are acting as if a surge is happening tomorrow.”

The reminders about protocols for those vaccinated come in the wake of two recent cable appearances by Murphy that dampened any hope of restrictions being lessened after the state increased capacity indoors to 50% for indoor dining, gyms, personal care businesses and casinos on March 19. Additionally, private indoor gatherings were raised to 25 and outdoor to 50 people at a time on the same date.  

During an appearance on CNBC March 19, the governor stated “We’ve definitely plateaued. We’ve come down dramatically from hospitalizations and positivity rates we saw a couple of months ago…But it’s still uncomfortably too high.”

Murphy followed that up with comments on CNN March 22 stating “My guess is we won’t be opening up further capacities for some time now…because of the caseload.”

Daily Data

As of March 22, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 767,583 with 2,608 total new PCR cases reported. There were 697 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 101,454. The total number of individual cases for the state is 869,037. 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 28 new deaths, bringing that total to 21,666. The state listed probable deaths at 2,515, bringing the overall total to 24,181. State officials noted 24 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on March 22, Bergen had a total of 297 new confirmed cases and 73 probable cases, Essex 254 new cases and 52 probable cases, Hudson 234 new cases and 58 probable cases, Morris 156 new cases and 48 probable cases, Passaic 125 new cases and 27 probable cases, Sussex 43 new cases and 23 probable cases, and Warren 39 cases and three new probable cases.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,468, followed by Bergen at 2,405, Hudson with 1,886, Passaic at 1,578, Morris at 925, Sussex at 214 and Warren County at 199.

In regards to probable deaths reported March 17, Bergen has 288, Essex has 282, Morris has 238, Hudson has 197, Passaic has 189, Sussex has 65 and Warren has 25.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.09 from 1.08 from the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of March 18, was 8.5%; by region, the rate was 8.3% in the North, 8.5% in the Central region and 9.0% in the South. 

Officials reported 1,921 patients were hospitalized; 1,873 cases were confirmed and 48 are under investigation. By region, there were 961 in the North, 552 in the Central and 408 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 409 are in intensive care units and 205 on ventilators. A total of 189 patients were discharged in the last 24 hours, while 207 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 76,509, followed by Middlesex at 73,987, Essex at 73,672, Hudson at 69,435, Monmouth at 58,019, Ocean at 57,219, Passaic at 56,146, Union at 52,926, Camden at 41,935, Morris at 36,302, Burlington at 33,170, Mercer at 27,970, Gloucester at 22,568, Atlantic at 21,425, Somerset at 20,660, Cumberland at 12,834, Sussex at 9,038, Warren at 7,211, Hunterdon at 7,101, Salem at 4,519, and Cape May at 3,982.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 10,321, followed by Union at 8,864, Ocean at 8,089, Essex at 7,327, Hudson at 6,861, Morris at 6,482, Monmouth at 6,470, Middlesex at 5,813, Passaic at 5,649, Atlantic at 5,633, Camden at 5,226, Burlington at 5,088, Somerset at 4,713, Cape May at 3,918, Gloucester at 3,343, Cumberland at 2,158, Mercer at 1,844, Sussex at 1,527, Warren at 783, Hunterdon at 682 and Salem 475.

Another 1,045 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 188 outbreaks involving 890 cases have been reported, with 28 new outbreaks accounting for 125 cases in the weekly update on March 17. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 42 confirmed outbreaks with 172 cases, Passaic County has 11 confirmed outbreaks with 40 cases, Sussex has eight confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has four confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 240 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 9,130 of the cases, broken down between 4,275 residents and 4,855 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,300 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,456 residents and 21,375 staff, for a total of 53,831 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,972 on March 22. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,843 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 3,495,418 as of March 22. Of those who have received the vaccine, 2,325,252 residents have received their first dose with 1,233,798 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 49% have been administered the Moderna vaccine, 49% the Pfizer vaccine and 2% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Demographically, 57% of those vaccinated are women and 43% men. As for ethnicity, 59% are White, 11% unknown, 11% other, 7% Asian, 7% Hispanic and 5% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 40% are 65 years old or olders, 28% 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 402,793 doses, Essex 268,416 doses, Morris 260,341 doses, Hudson 175,749 doses, Passaic 156,049 doses, Sussex 54,929 doses, and Warren 35,423 doses. 

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