When it comes to celebrating the holidays with family members, Gov. Phil Murphy is breaking with the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC in recently released guidance stated that families should not celebrate the holidays together, regardless of vaccination status.
“If it is your family and you know the vaccination status of everybody attending…use your common sense,” said Murphy at a press briefing Oct. 4. “I am a little mystified by that. I don’t see why if you know everyones status you can’t sit down and enjoy dinner together.”
The federal agency in its guidance believes that those “attending gatherings to celebrate events and holidays increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. The safest way to celebrate is virtually, with people who live with you, or outside and at least 6 feet apart from others. If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors… use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.”
The federal health officials added anyone who is not vaccinated, including children over age 2, should wear a mask for indoor gatherings.
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But while Murphy encouraged the same time of guidance last year, he believes with a fully vaccinated rate above 75% in New Jersey for those 16 and older, this year should be different.
“If you know you family’s vaccination status, I think it is out-of-bounds for us to say you have to wear a mask, don’t have the dinner…that’s out-of-bounds,” he stated
Murphy added that the guidelines as offered by the CDC can make it harder when officials have to make the case for possible further restrictions as Winter approaches, as events throughout the state increasingly are forced indoors due to the weather.
“We are going to be draconian if we think we have to be draconian,” said the Governor, citing masks mandates the state has ordered. “We lose credibility if we are seen as being draconian when it completely defies common sense. I hope we never cross that line, particularly knowing the playbook we know.”
Open for Halloween
Murphy acknowledges that starting with Halloween, the final two months of the year will feature numerous gatherings of families and friends and a resulting spike in cases. But he did not foresee any restriction as suggested by the CDC forthcoming from his administration.
“For Halloween, we are open for business,” said Murphy. “The key will be the behaviors inside, the party in somebody’s basement or kitchen table. Folks have to use their common sense.”
The first-term governor did lament that the state has not been able to persuade those who are unwilling to receive the shot, saying there is a portion of the 25% remaining whom “nothing will ever break through the misinformation they’re clinging to.”
Push to Vaccinate Adolescents
“We are now at a very distinct minority of residents who aren’t vaccinated,” said Murphy. “Remember that the vaccines are free. And a free vaccine is far, far better than an expensive hospital stay or the cost to your family for your funeral.”
But there’s one group state officials are looking to target to get vaccinated that they believe would help lower the increase in new cases in New Jersey greatly during the Winter months.
“We clearly need to chop some more wood with the teen vaccination rates, especially the 12-15 cohort, anything we can do there would be huge,” Murphy said.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 11,775,297 in-state, plus an additional 453,177 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 12,228,474 as of Oct. 4. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,695,404 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 195,983 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,891,387. State officials reported 136,047 have received a third booster shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,315,566 doses (635,260 fully vaccinated), Essex 1,021,019 doses (489,639), Hudson 922,295 doses (443,670), Morris 712,951 doses (343,096), Passaic 634,230 doses (305,727), Sussex 167,521 doses (82,450), and Warren 109,557 doses (53,582).
As of Oct. 4, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,009,054 with 1,111 total new PCR cases. There were 218 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 151,824. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,160,878.
As for those that have passed, the state reported nine confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 24,691. The state listed probable deaths at 2,797, bringing the overall total to 27,488. 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 Oct. 4, Bergen had a total of 65 new confirmed cases and 29 new probable cases, Essex 59 new cases and 14 new probable case, Hudson 37 new cases and seven new probable cases, Morris 56 new confirmed cases and nine new probable cases, Passaic 47 new cases and nine new probable cases, Sussex 34 new cases and no new probable cases, and Warren 24 new cases and two new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,817, followed by Bergen at 2,656, Hudson with 2,149, Passaic at 1,787, Morris at 1,024, Sussex at 251, and Warren County at 225.
In regards to probable deaths reported Oct. 4, Essex has 311, Bergen has 308, Morris has 265, Hudson has 222, Passaic has 206, Sussex has 69 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,541,443 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Sept. 20, 30,267 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 629 COVID-related hospitalizations and 158 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Sept. 13-Sept. 19, breakthroughs accounted for 24.8% of all new cases (3,414 of 10,760), 4.2% of new hospilizations (42 of 1,000), and two of the 121 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Oct. 4, it remained at 0.91 for the third day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested Sept. 30 was 4.0%; by region, the rate was 3.1% in the North, 4.7% in the Central region and 5.2% in the South.
The state reported 1,074 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 311 in the North, 360 in the Central and 403 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 243 are in intensive care units and 135 on ventilators. A total of 77 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 39 school outbreaks and 219 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 as of Oct. 1, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with 50 cases, Essex County has four confirmed outbreak with 16 cases, Bergen County has three confirmed outbreak with 15 cases, Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with eight cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, and Sussex has one confirmed outbreak with four cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 158 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,267 of the cases, broken down between 693 residents and 574 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,734 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,695 residents and 23,027 staff, for a total of 56,722.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,552 on Oct. 4. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,969 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.