Gov. Phil Murphy, after months of questioning, finally laid out a road map of easing restrictions for students wearing masks at schools because of the coronavirus pandemic.
And he opened the door to discussing when does the declining rate of those eligible for the vaccine getting their shot move the conversation to easing of all restrictions.
Towards the end of a press briefing on Nov. 8, Murphy noted just after the new year the mask mandate currently being enforced in the state will have to be renewed. He then proceeded to offered an outline to implement the removal of the mask mandate as well as when it is time to reconsider all COVID-related policies.
Full Vaccination Key
Murphy stressed the key is still residents of New Jersey getting fully vaccinated, with the state looking to raise the rates for teenagers and those eligible for booster shots as well as getting newly eligible children 5-11 years old getting their doses.
“We are generally going in the right direction,” said Murphy.
The issue of students wearing masks was a flashpoint in the recent election, as Republicans were able to use voter anger over the decision to get supporters to the polls and almost cost Murphy a second term.
Jan. 11 Key Date
At his first COVID press briefing since the election, Murphy gave a broad timeline and plan for students to no longer wear masks that he has been reluctant to do over the past 21 months. The executive order expires on Jan. 11, 2022 and the governor opened the door to a decision being made around that date.
“We would do it in a phased-in approach with….12-17 years olds getting into an acceptable zone before the younger kids,” offered Murphy due to the fact the older cohort—now at 60% fully vaccinated—were eligible to receive a vaccine first. “That seems to be a sensible way to think about this”
Surprisingly, Murphy went further in offering conditions he sees for Garden State residents to get back to pre-COVID life.
“At a certain point we have to ask ourselves as a nation or a state, if we continue to have a supply demand imbalance with supply being significant and demand being under what we need it to be for boosters, if ultimately we just open this whole thing up,” said Murphy. ”Right now, other than the time frame—six months after Moderna and Pfizer, two months for Johnson & Johnson—at a certain point we are sitting on more supply than demand.”
“That has to lead us to making decisions with the White House or here in New Jersey. That seems to be a moment in time in our future.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 12,764,085 in-state, plus an additional 488,888 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,252,973 as of Nov. 8. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,879,497 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 210,161 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,088,658. This includes 9,116 doses for those aged 5-11 in the first five days.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 464,124 for Pfizer and 276,369 for Moderna. A total of 9,893 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 750,386 have received a booster or third shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,418,056 doses (649,666 fully vaccinated), Essex 1,106,023 doses (510,865), Hudson 981,026 doses (460,215), Morris 770,642 doses (350,430), Passaic 679,802 doses (317,658), Sussex 181,895 doses (84,782), and Warren 119,386 doses (55,187).
As of Nov. 8, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,050,219 with 774 total new PCR cases. There were 138 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 158,102. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,208,321.
As for those that have passed, the state reported seven confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,274. The state listed probable deaths at 2,818, bringing the overall total to 28,092. State officials noted 10 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Nov. 4, Bergen had a total of 60 new confirmed cases and nine new probable cases, Essex 51 new cases and eight new probable case, Hudson 46 new cases and no new probable cases, Morris 41 new confirmed cases and 10 new probable cases, Passaic 45 new cases and one new probable case, Sussex 20 new cases and one new probable case, and Warren 17 new cases and one new probable case.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,853, followed by Bergen at 2,695, Hudson with 2,167, Passaic at 1,814, Morris at 1,043, Sussex at 268, and Warren County at 229.
In regards to probable deaths reported Nov. 1, Essex has 310, Bergen has 311, Morris has 266, Hudson has 222, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 71 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,768,483 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Oct. 25, 44,955 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 1,002 COVID-related hospitalizations and 258 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Oct. 17-24, breakthroughs accounted for 16.6% of all new cases (1,924 of 11,615), 3.8% of new hospilizations (29 of 762), and none of the 132 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Nov. 8, it declined to 1.00 from 1.01 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Nov. 4 was 3.8%; by region, the rate was 3.2% in the North, 4.7% in the Central region and 3.9% in the South.
The state reported 627 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 228 in the North, 185 in the Central and 214 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 144 are in intensive care units and 70 on ventilators. A total of 67 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 as of Nov. 4, the state has tracked 137 school outbreaks and 794 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 11 outbreaks and 79 cases from the week previous. According to state officials, the cases account for 681 students and 113 teachers across 19 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 new report, Passaic County has eight confirmed outbreak with 93 cases, Bergen County has 14 confirmed outbreak with 64 cases, Sussex has 12 confirmed outbreak with 49 cases, Morris County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 33 cases, Essex County has six confirmed outbreak with 26 cases and Hudson County has six confirmed outbreaks with 22 cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 129 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,209 of the cases, broken down between 656 residents and 553 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,805 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,967 residents and 23,200 staff, for a total of 57,167.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,657 on Nov. 8. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,999 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.