Gov. Phil Murphy first mandated students and school employees wear face masks in an attempt to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. He went further in requiring teachers be fully vaccinated or face weekly testing.
But when it comes to implementing K-12 COVID-19 screening and testing programs for students, school districts will have the discretion to implement a program that must have parental consent.
The news comes as the state made available $267 million to support schools to implement COVID-19 screening and testing programs. Districts will have a choice between using state contracted vendors to provide end-to-end testing services on site at schools or districts can request funding to support an in-house testing program, which may already be in place so long as it is consistent with the state’s Department of Health guidelines.
Murphy noted at a press briefing Sept. 1 that the program can be used to support testing of unvaccinated staff pursuant to his executive order as well.
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“We strongly encourage districts to work with their local health department to develop a testing strategy and consider participating in this program,” he said. “We further hope all parents and guardians ensure their child participates in testing when the opportunity arises.”
That is where the testing program differs from the previous measures the Murphy Administration has implemented.
“Testing should be offered on a voluntary basis, and schools should have a procedure in place to obtain parental consent for minor students,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “School-based testing should never be conducted without consent from a parent or a legal guardian.”
Persichilli noted student screening may not be necessary in areas of low transmission. But in regions with higher rates, random samples of 10% of students should be completed at least once a week.
“When schools implement testing combined with prevention strategies, they can detect new cases to prevent outbreaks, reduce the risk of further transmission, and protect students, teachers, and staff,” said the commissioner. “School-based testing should not be used alone but as part of a layered prevention approach that includes masking, frequent handwashing, physical distancing, and staying home when you’re sick.”
Student Vaccination Rates
Students who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in routine screening testing. Currently, 55% of children ages 12 to 17 in New Jersey have received at least one dose of vaccine and 44% are fully vaccinated. Teachers and students not fully vaccinated are to be tested at least once a week, according to state guidelines.
Persichilli said those who test positive for COVID are to be immediately sent home. Contact tracing for school-based close contact would then commence, with those identified prohibited from attending school for 10 days in regions with low or moderate risk or 14 days in regions with high or very high risk.
Anyone who tests positive by rapid antigen test and is asymptomatic is to be referred for confirmatory testing by a PCR test within two days of the initial test. Asymptomatic exposed close contacts who are fully vaccinated do not have to be quarantined, but should just be tested in three to five days following the exposure.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 11,160,568 in-state, plus an additional 404,540 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 11,565,108 as of Sept. 2. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,435,434 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 174,999 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,610,433, passing an 80% threshold.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,252,953 doses (612,664 fully vaccinated), Essex 962,273 doses (461,540), Hudson 872,804 doses (418,542), Morris 682,244 doses (332,596), Passaic 597,350 doses (287,800), Sussex 160,058 doses (79,193), and Warren 104,096 doses (50,970).
As of Sept. 2, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 955,692 with 2,115 total new PCR cases reported. There were 594 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 141,099. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,096,791.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 18 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 24,188. The state listed probable deaths at 2,731, bringing the overall total to 26,919. State officials noted 13 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Sept. 2, Bergen had a total of 162 new confirmed cases and 55 new probable cases, Essex 171 new cases and 26 new probable case, Hudson 93 new cases and 20 new probable cases, Morris 92 new confirmed cases and 37 new probable cases, Passaic 97 new cases and 20 new probable case, Sussex 30 new cases and five new probable cases, and Warren 39 new cases and seven new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,771, followed by Bergen at 2,618, Hudson with 2,126, Passaic at 1,758, Morris at 994, Sussex at 245, and Warren County at 217.
In regards to probable deaths reported Aug. 30, Essex has 306, Bergen has 304, Morris has 260, Hudson has 222, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,175,016 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Aug. 15, 12,242 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 307 COVID-related hospitalizations and 68 COVID-related deaths.
In the last week, breakthroughs accounted for 12.5% of all new cases (1,637 of 13,118), 3.8% of new hospilizations (31 of 807), and none of the 36 deaths—the fourth week in a row of no deaths from those fully vaccinated.
As for the rate of transmission reported Sept. 2, it declined to 1.07 from 1.08 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Aug. 28 was 7.0%; by region, the rate was 5.6% in the North, 8.1% in the Central region and 8.4% in the South.
The state reported 1,065 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 397 in the North, 311 in the Central and 357 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 211 are in intensive care units and 108 on ventilators. A total of 151 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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 140 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 924 of the cases, broken down between 500 residents and 424 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,647 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,327 residents and 22,678 staff, for a total of 56,005.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,471 on Sept. 2. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,913 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.