With the first recorded confirmed case of the Omicron variant, Gov. Phil Murphy opined that it was still too early to tell what the effect this new strain of the coronavirus will be in New Jersey.
The first confirmed test in the Garden State was that of a fully vaccinated adult female, a Georgia resident who had recently traveled to South Africa. Since testing positive on Nov. 28, the woman has remained in isolation with moderate symptoms and is now recovering after receiving care in a North Jersey emergency department. The New Jersey Department of Health laboratory performed sequencing on the specimen to confirm it was the Omicron variant.
“The Omicron variant is among us and we need to take steps to stop its spread. It is vital that residents remain as vigilant as possible as we await more information about the variant,” said Murphy in a press statement Dec. 3. “Vaccinations and mask wearing have proven to be an effective tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and I urge everyone ages 18 and over to receive a booster.”
‘First of Many’
After an event on the next day, Murphy stressed that “early evidence” suggests the variant is more transmissible with more moderate symptoms.
“As we were saying for the past week, we just assumed it was in our state,” the governor said in comments after a ceremony in Carteret. “My gut tells me this is the first of many to come. Folks need to be vigilant, wearing (their) masks, getting vaccinated, getting boosted. Because so far at least, there’s no evidence that lineup is not working.”
Tolls to Stop Spread
The need for a booster shot was backed up by officials at the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), who offered studies showing protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection may decrease over time. While more than 70% of New Jerseyans have received their primary vaccine series, only 31% of residents eligible have received a booster.
“With cases increasing and the identification of the Omicron in the state, the fight against COVID-19 is not over,” said NJDOH Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We are still learning about the Omicron variant, but we have tools to stop the spread of the virus, most important among them is to get vaccinated and get a booster dose. The public should continue to mask up, get tested if they have symptoms, physically distance, avoid crowded events, stay home when sick and wash hands frequently.”
Additionally, NJDOH suggested that New Jersey residents who attended the Anime NYC 2021 Convention at the Javits Center in New York City from Nov. 19-21 should get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible, monitor for symptoms and seek medical help if they are sick.
The recommendation came following news that a Minnesota resident who attended the conference tested positive for the Omicron variant.
“Our expectation is that we have individuals in New Jersey who attended the convention and may potentially be at risk,” said Persichilli. “I urge anyone who attended to get tested as soon as possible to stop potential spread of this variant and protect themselves, their families and communities.”
On Nov. 26, 2021, the World Health Organization classified this new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron; four days later, the United States concurred with the classification. NJDOH has been working with other states, local health departments, clinical laboratories, hospitals, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to rapidly identify individuals who may have been infected with the Omicron variant.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 14,001,990 in-state, plus an additional 532,252 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,534,242 as of Dec. 6. The total includes 113,982 between the ages of 5-11 who have received the vaccine.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,045,265 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 227,774 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,273,039. State officials reported boosters and third shots of 788,915 for Pfizer and 663,917 for Moderna. A total of 31,467 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 1,484,299 have received a booster or third shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 665,164 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 532,659, Hudson 474,119, Morris 359,143, Passaic 326,006, Sussex 86,649, and Warren 56,332.
As of Dec. 6, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,105,703 with 1,525 total new PCR cases. There were 6,13 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 170,014. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,275,717.
As for those that have passed, the state reported seven confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,635. The state listed probable deaths at 2,830, bringing the overall total to 28,456. 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 Dec. 6, Bergen had a total of 199 new confirmed cases and 73 new probable cases, Essex 158 new cases and 16 new probable case, Hudson 137 new cases and 11 new probable cases, Morris 187 new confirmed cases and 52 new probable cases, Passaic 111 new cases and 52 new probable cases, Sussex 82 new cases and 31 new probable cases, and Warren 63 new cases and eight new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,870, followed by Bergen at 2,715, Hudson with 2,185, Passaic at 1,839, Morris at 1,056, Sussex at 284, and Warren County at 238.
In regards to probable deaths reported Dec. 6, Bergen has 312, Essex has 310, Morris has 267, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 72 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,876,552 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Nov. 15, 54,260 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 1,160 COVID-related hospitalizations and 314 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Nov. 8-14, breakthroughs accounted for 25.7% of all new cases (3,116 of 12,138), 0.4% of new hospilizations (16 of 602), and 1 of the 85 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Dec. 6, it jumped to 1.26 from 1.20 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Dec. 1 was 6.8%; by region, the rate was 5.9% in the North, 7.6% in the Central region and 8.0% in the South.
The state reported 1,227 patients were hospitalized with all of the state’s 71 hospitals reporting. By region, there were 442 in the North, 429 in the Central and 356 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 240 are in intensive care units and 94 on ventilators. A total of 118 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. 30, the state has tracked 217 school outbreaks and 1,172 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 23 outbreaks and 87 cases from the week previous. According to state officials, the cases account for 735 students and 125 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 102 cases, Bergen County has 22 confirmed outbreak with 93 cases, Morris County has 13 confirmed outbreaks with 74 cases, Sussex has 17 confirmed outbreak with 66 cases, Essex County has nine confirmed outbreak with 38 cases and Hudson County has 10 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 84.1% overall. In North Jersey counties, Warren tops at 86.8%, followed by Morris at 86.4%, Sussex at 85.7%, Passaic at 85.5%, Essex at 82.0%, Bergen at 80.4%, and Hudson at 78.7%, the lowest county in the state.
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 1,245 of the cases, broken down between 653 residents and 592 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,882 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 34,290 residents and 23,489 staff, for a total of 57,779.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,707 on Dec. 6. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,029 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.