State officials dealing with the latest surge of new COVID-19 cases and other health metrics rising are hopeful hospitalizations will not reach the levels of last year.
Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing on Nov. 22 said that compared to November 2020, the state has more weapons at its disposal—specifically vaccines and monoclonal antibodies treatments—which is taking “some level of concern off” as the cold weather forces more events indoors and families gather for the holidays.
“We have the vaccines, which we did not have a year ago today. We now have boosters. We now have more people eligible for the vaccines,” said Murphy. “All of that should mean that even as it ebbs and flows and it goes up that it’s not going…to the levels that we’ve seen before.”
Two key indicators have begun to rise again significantly recently. The number of new COVID-19 cases are increasing after dipping in late October and early November. And the rate of transmission has exceeded 1.20 after being below 1.00 just two weeks ago.
But New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli pointed to vaccination levels in the state as well as residents understanding the protocols needed to limit the spread of the virus as hopeful signs the state will have a healthier Winter.
“I think the bigger difference this year is that we have many more people vaccinated,” said Persichilli. “Remember we just started vaccinating on Dec. 15 (2020), so we saw a peak mid-January of almost 3,000 hospitalizations. Now, if we did nothing, that might happen again, but because of our high vaccination rate, we’re hoping that severe disease, hospitalizations will be moderate….That’s our hope.”
But the commissioner warned hospitalizations “could still reach 2,000 or more” at its projected peak in mid-January 2022.
Murphy was more optimistic in observing at this time last year before vaccines were being offered, New Jersey had three times as many people in the hospital and that the cases the state is currently reporting are all almost exclusively unvaccinated individuals.
“Vaccines still are very effective in terms of preventing hospitalizations and deaths,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan. “There’s a…benefit in terms of the mild and the moderate disease, particularly among our adult populations.”
Health Protocols Work
Using her office as an example, Persichilli offered that health protocols—such as washing your hands frequently, socially distance, wearing a mask, staying home if you’re sick—are still as equally important as a vaccine.
“We have said that repeatedly and repeatedly and it works,” said the commissioner. “The team that I work with every day since March 4, 2020—we have been in the office every single day, and we have had no cases of in-office transmission. It’s remarkable because we have been working closely with one another, but we spread ourselves out.”
Murphy looked to drive home the point that state officials are right to keep working to inform the public of the seriousness of COVID-19 .
“I think I can say this with a high degree of conviction (that cases) are never going to go to zero,” said the Governor. “I do think we owe it to folks to give them a sense of the trends and the trends are, frankly, as we’ve been predicting for two months, it’s turning out exactly as we had said it would.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,453,088 in-state, plus an additional 510,569 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,963,657 as of Nov. 24. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,941,742 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 219,933 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,161,675.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 631,623 for Pfizer and 503,241 for Moderna. A total of 22,035 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 1,156,899 have received a booster or third shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,491,048 doses (654,598 fully vaccinated), Essex 1,172,288 doses (518,054), Hudson 1,031,172 doses (465,437), Morris 812,385 doses (353,076), Passaic 711,075 doses (321,627), Sussex 191,927 doses (85,607), and Warren 126,033 doses (55,680).
As of Nov. 24, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,075,059 with 1,826 total new PCR cases. There were 562 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 163,300. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,238,359.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 12 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,484. The state listed probable deaths at 2,823, bringing the overall total to 28,307. 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. 24, Bergen had a total of 153 new confirmed cases and 38 new probable cases, Essex 136 new cases and 40 new probable case, Hudson 104 new cases and 18 new probable cases, Morris 104 new confirmed cases and 40 new probable cases, Passaic 109 new cases and 19 new probable cases, Sussex 33 new cases and 18 new probable cases, and Warren 25 new cases and eight new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,864, followed by Bergen at 2,706, Hudson with 2,180, Passaic at 1,826, Morris at 1,051, Sussex at 279, and Warren County at 234.
In regards to probable deaths reported Nov. 22, Bergen has 311, Essex has 310, Morris has 267, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 71 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,828,060 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Nov. 8, 50,762 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 1,061 COVID-related hospitalizations and 300 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Nov. 1-7, breakthroughs accounted for 18.1% of all new cases (1,707 of 9,429), 0.4% of new hospilizations (two of 525), and none of the 115 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Nov. 24, it remained unchanged for a third day in a row at 1.23. The daily rate of infections from those tested Nov. 20 was 7.1%; by region, the rate was 6.5% in the North, 7.7% in the Central region and 7.6% in the South.
The state reported 860 patients were hospitalized with 70 of the state’s 71 hospitals making their reports. By region, there were 303 in the North, 291 in the Central and 266 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 174 are in intensive care units and 77 on ventilators. A total of 119 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. 24, the state has tracked 194 school outbreaks and 1,085 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 15 outbreaks and 59 cases from the week previous.
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 102 cases, Bergen County has 18 confirmed outbreak with 76 cases, Morris County has 11 confirmed outbreaks with 68 cases, Sussex has 15 confirmed outbreak with 59 cases, Essex County has eight confirmed outbreak with 34 cases and Hudson County has eight confirmed outbreaks with 28 cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 120 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,199 of the cases, broken down between 653 residents and 546 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,843 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 34,150 residents and 23,350 staff, for a total of 57,500.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,687 on Nov. 24. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,016 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.