Gov. Phil Murphy signaled his support for hospitals mandating the COVID-19 vaccine but would not say if he would have one for state employees.
“I think in communities like (hospitals and nursing homes), we have to be open-minded to the safety and security of residents, patients,” said Murphy at a press briefing on July 19. “You started seeing this, I think it was in Houston first, then Barnabas came in, and now you’re starting to see just as when Rutgers went with the requirement for higher ed. You’re starting to see a big shift.”
The question arose as two major hospitals in the state recently announced their mandates as terms of employment and a recent ruling by a federal judge allowing a university to require students be vaccinated to return to campus.
RWJBH Fires Six
RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) announced in an email to employees that a half dozen high-ranking workers lost their jobs after they refused to comply with a new policy to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
The medical provider in May announced its policy requiring those employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than June 30. In a notification to employees July 15, the company reported that 2,979 staff members, or 99.7% of the affected employees, were fully vaccinated as of July 14.
“Regrettably, six staff at the supervisor level and above have not complied with the mandate and are no longer employees of RWJBH, per our policy,” the email says. “At RWJBarnabas Health, we have an ethical and professional responsibility to protect our patients and ensure a safe, COVID-19 free environment.”
The company said it will announce its plan mandating vaccination for all staff and physicians “in the coming days.”
Hackensack Meridian Plan
The mandate for all staff members to get vaccinated was preceded by Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) notifying its employees to get vaccinated in order to keep their positions.
A memo to employees at the 13 hospitals and dozens of other health centers run by HMH set a deadline of Oct. 1 to receive at least one dose of vaccine. All staff would have to be completely vaccinated by Nov. 15 or face suspension and/or termination. The directive includes all staff, from cleaning crews to receptionists and all medical staff.
Dr. Daniel Varga, chief physician executive, noted that while 70% of all team members are already vaccinated, he was concerned about the rise of deadly coronavirus variants.
“We are requiring vaccinations for all team members to help stop the spread of this deadly virus and keep our patients, team members and visitors safe,” said Varga. “Mandatory vaccinations are the best way to achieve herd immunity, and protect our communities from the deadly variants that are threatening to wreak havoc in the months ahead. They’re our best shot at defeating this pandemic once and for all, saving lives and returning to normal.”
And the efforts of universities and colleges in New Jersey to mandate students returning to campus this Fall were boosted when a federal judge ruled Indiana University can require its students to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
U.S. District Judge Damon R. Leichty said the university system acted reasonably to protect public health when it required all of its students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 1, with limited medical and religious exceptions.
All of this led Murphy to note vaccine skepticism has been going in a good direction. The biggest difference he believed was those receiving the vaccine months ago are still in good health.
Still No Passport
“The bully pulpit is working, including especially—forget about politicians—but from doctors, nurses, faith leaders,” said Murphy. “People are realizing they will be boxed out of certain activities in society where they won’t be able to participate.”
The governor restated his opposition currently to a passport requirement because of the inequities in black and brown communities.
“I think it’s very different when you’re talking about a hospital system versus a broad societal reality,” stated Murphy.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 10,262,094 in-state, plus an additional 360,003 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 10,622,097 as of July 20. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,026,608 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 155,343 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,181,951.
Demographically, 53% of those vaccinated are women and 47% men. As for ethnicity, 49% are White, 15% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 9% unknown. In regards to the age of those having received the vaccine, 24% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 29% are between the ages of 30-49, and 19% are between the ages of 12-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,166,531 doses (574,277 fully vaccinated), Essex 866,051 doses (420,096), Hudson 792,756 doses (381,018), Morris 642,769 doses (314,591), Passaic 537,040 doses (260,892), Sussex 149,754 doses (74,323), and Warren 96,610 doses (47,630).
As of July 20, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 898,827 with 593 total new PCR cases reported. There were 234 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 131,074. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,029,901.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 12 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 23,839. The state listed probable deaths at 2,718, bringing the overall total to 26,557. State officials noted four deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that has not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on July 20, Bergen had a total of 50 new confirmed cases and 21 new probable cases, Essex 81 new cases and 23 new probable case, Hudson 44 new cases and eight new probable cases, Morris 35 new confirmed cases and nine new probable cases, Passaic 26 new cases and 17 new probable case, Sussex four new cases and five new probable cases, and Warren had six new cases and no new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,730, followed by Bergen at 2,596, Hudson with 2,091, Passaic at 1,743, Morris at 981, Sussex at 239, and Warren County at 212.
In regards to probable deaths reported July 19, Essex has 304, Bergen has 302, Morris has 262, Hudson has 218, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
As for the rate of transmission reported July 20, it remained unchanged from the day before at 1.37 The daily rate of infections from those tested July 15 was 2.5%; by region, the rate was 2.3% in the North, 2.7% in the Central region and 2.7% in the South.
Officials reported 350 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 175 in the North, 96 in the Central and 79 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 58 are in intensive care units and 29 on ventilators. A total of 24 patients were discharged.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, 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 90,804, followed by Middlesex at 85,627, Essex at 85,481, Hudson at 79,393, Monmouth at 68,704, Ocean at 66,611, Passaic at 66,272, Union at 60,982, Camden at 49,487, Morris at 42,326, Burlington at 38,618, Mercer at 31,884, Gloucester at 26,799, Atlantic at 25,212, Somerset at 24,621, Cumberland at 15,019, Sussex at 11,822, Warren at 9,073, Hunterdon at 9,065, Salem at 5,611, and Cape May at 4,687.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,791, followed by Union at 11,180, Ocean at 10,508, Essex at 9,608, Hudson at 9,404, Morris at 8,380, Monmouth at 8,264, Middlesex at 7,501, Passaic at 7,496, Camden at 6,845, Atlantic at 6,690, Burlington at 6,086, Somerset at 5,839, Cape May at 4,642, Gloucester at 4,104, Mercer at 2,463, Sussex at 2,371, Cumberland at 2,310, Warren at 1,031, Hunterdon at 910, and Salem 554.
Another 729 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 20 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 74 of the cases, broken down between 41 residents and 33 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,496 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,805 residents and 22,231 staff, for a total of 55,036.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,063 on July 20. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,878 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.