State officials outlined the metal health challenges that students are facing in returning to school and what helps is available to parents.
At a press briefing Sept. 29. Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Department of Children & Families Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer delved into issues students are facing with their return to school during a time of a continued global pandemic but who may not also have the tools to combat what they are feeling.
“The Department of Children and Families has seen a recent increase in the numbers of calls received by its Children’s System of Care hotline….covering a whole host of mental health issues and triggers,” stated Murphy at a press briefing Sept. 29. “Unsurprisingly, many of these calls are coming early in the morning from parents concerned with the signs of stress their kids are exhibiting as they prepare for their school day.”
The state put together a new page on its COVID information hub with mental health support resources for youth, for parents, and for educators—covid19.nj.gov/youthhelp. Beyer added that the state’s Children’s System of Care provides a wide range of services to meet behavioral health challenges that are local and convenient to families with many offering telehealth options.
Beyer noted that parents like herself have recognized the transition for children back to pre-COVID routines isn’t necessarily quick or easy. The commissioner acknowledged that while knowing this was expected, however, doesn’t make it easier when you watch your own child struggling.
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Hotline Calls Up 30%
“Getting adjusted to something as simple as waking up on time and taking the bus after not having to have done it for a year can be a struggle, and that transition can be further hindered and complicated by feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear,” said Beyer.
Call volume to the Children’s System of Care hotline for the first few weeks of September 2021 has increased over the same period from 2020, officials reported. The greatest percentage of calls are being made by parents as compared with a slight decline in contacts from other caller types, such as healthcare professionals and law enforcement.
“We’re receiving more calls in the morning with parents indicating an increase in school refusal or avoidant behavior,” said Beyer, a 30% increase over usual demand in September. “Typically we see this data trend in October focused more on challenges occurring during or after school hours or related to behavior in school.”
The state is promoting a resource for students themselves in partnering with The 2NDFLOOR program that provides options for youth to reach out themselves through phone, text message, or online messaging board. Tweens, teens, and young adults ages 10 to 24 can call 888-222-2228, visit 2ndfloor.org or “NJ” to 741741 to access the crisis text line. Services are available 24/7 and counselors are ready to assist in whatever is needed.
Beyer pointed out that moving away from remote learning and working is playing an issue as families attempt to get back into their morning routine that can lead to conflict and stress.
“They have not been in that routine for a long time…now we are seeing increases in anxiety and depression in young people,” said the commissioner. “Some of that I think we can attribute to them having been home in isolation. Having them to try and get back into school and restart those patterns—I think we’re just seeing some challenges.”
The Role of Face Masks
When the issue of if wearing a mask was playing a role in youth mental health issues, Beyer explained that there are as many young people who want to wear a mask for their protection as those who want nothing to do with them.
“When we talk about stress and anxiety, it’s not just about social isolation or being isolated from peers or having their routines disrupted. It’s also fear of contracting a virus,” she stated. “Many of our young people in the state have lost family members, lost friends to the virus.”
Beyer used her experience with her 15 year old son who wears a mask at times when no one else in the family does when they go out to different places in public.
“He is vaccinated, but that’s what he chooses,” said the commissioner. “I think that we have to treat our young people—that they do have a mind and they need to know what’s right for them, what makes them comfortable. I think it’s on both sides, wearing it or not, impacts their mental health.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 11,668,004 in-state, plus an additional 431,321 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 12,099,325 as of Sept. 30. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,666,129 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 185,252 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,8451,381. Additionally 129,320 have received a third booster shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,303,287 doses (632,610 fully vaccinated), Essex 1,013,373 doses (486,527), Hudson 917,051 doses (441,295), Morris 705,626 doses (341,764), Passaic 629,132 doses (303,731), Sussex 166,243 doses (82,109), and Warren 108,685 doses (53,304).
As of Sept. 30, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,003,612 with 2,015 total new PCR cases. There were 451 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 150,958. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,154,570.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 28 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 24,640. The state listed probable deaths at 2,787, bringing the overall total to 27,427. State officials noted 21 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Sept. 30, Bergen had a total of 175 new confirmed cases and 51 new probable cases, Essex 109 new cases and 18 new probable case, Hudson 90 new cases and 18 new probable cases, Morris 78 new confirmed cases and 27 new probable cases, Passaic 78 new cases and 27 new probable cases, Sussex 42 new cases and six new probable cases, and Warren 30 new cases and three new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,812, followed by Bergen at 2,649, Hudson with 2,146, Passaic at 1,784, Morris at 1,021, Sussex at 251, and Warren County at 225.
In regards to probable deaths reported Sept. 27, Essex has 311, Bergen has 306, Morris has 265, Hudson has 222, Passaic has 206, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,421.060 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Sept. 13, 25,991 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 537 COVID-related hospitalizations and 126 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Sept. 7-Sept. 12, breakthroughs accounted for 22.8% of all new cases (2,449 of 10,760), 3.7% of new hospilizations (32 of 863), and two of the 55 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Sept. 30, it declined to 0.94 from 0.97 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Sept. 25 was 6.1%; by region, the rate was 4.9% in the North, 7.0% in the Central region and 8.0% in the South.
The state reported 980 patients were hospitalized, the first time the total was under 1,000 since the Aug. 23 total of 982. By region, there were 335 in the North, 347 in the Central and 298 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 198 are in intensive care units and 113 on ventilators. A total of 130 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
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.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, the state has tracked 44 school outbreaks and 214 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 21 outbreaks and 112 cases from the week previous. According to state officials, the cases account for 182 students and 37 teachers in 38 communities across 16 counties.
Outbreaks are defined as three or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.
For North Jersey in the weekly update as of Sept. 28, Essex County has three confirmed outbreak with 15 cases, Bergen County has one confirmed outbreak with four cases, Sussex has one confirmed outbreak with one case, Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with eight cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with nine cases and Essex County has one confirmed outbreak with 50 cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 152 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,180 of the cases, broken down between 640 residents and 540 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,724 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,631 residents and 22,978 staff, for a total of 56,609.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,546 on Sept. 30. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,961 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.