The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) has updated quarantine recommendations for school settings and for the general public even as cases continue to surge in the state and in its schools.
The new guidance comes as the state reported a second straight day of over 6,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases just over a week before Christmas.
The revision on Dec. 16 allows for shortened time frames to end quarantine after day seven with a negative COVID-19 test result collected between five and seven days of quarantine—or after day 10 if testing has not been performed.
Additionally, the updated recommendations discontinue the use of regional transmission risk levels to determine quarantine timeframes. The revised recommendations align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cases Rise in Schools
“While a 14-day quarantine period is optimal, the CDC and NJ Department of Health recognizes the value of shortening quarantine in certain circumstances,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli in a press statement announcing the revisions.
The new guidance comes as New Jersey’s schools are seeing the highest number of COVID cases since they reopened for in-person instruction in September as the rate of infection has more than doubled for students in less than a month. For every 1,000 students, 2.05 tested positive in the middle of November—that number increased to 4.56 students for every 1,000 on Dec. 5. Staff COVID cases increased even faster, reported at 5.79 cases per 1,000, up from a 2.40 rate in November.
In announcing the changes, officials conceded that the 14-day exclusion posed significant challenges for families and students. The revised NJDOH guidance for schools permits a shortened time frame for student and staff exclusion after exposure.
During all levels of community transmission and outbreaks, asymptomatic individuals who are identified as a close contact to someone with COVID-19 may use a reduced exclusion period of 10 days (or 7 days with negative test results collected at 5-7 days) but must continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days after exposure.
The revisions come as Gov. Phil Murphy and members of his administration continue to push for increased vaccinations, both for the unvaccinated and those needing a booster shot. Testing is still recommended for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms.
“Vaccination continues to provide the best protection against COVID-19, preventing transmission in school, and eliminating the need to quarantine following an exposure,” said Persichilli. “I recommend that all parents talk to their child’s healthcare provider about the COVID-19 vaccine and urge school personnel to seek vaccination and boosters as soon as possible.”
As of Dec. 17, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,150,769 with 6,260 total new PCR cases. There were 1,829 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 179,959 The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,330,728.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 16 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,835. The state listed probable deaths at 2,835, bringing the overall total to 28,670. 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 Dec. 17, Bergen had a total of 658 new confirmed cases and 140 new probable cases, Essex 783 new cases and 76 new probable case, Hudson 432 new cases and 48 new probable cases, Morris 395 new confirmed cases and 138 new probable cases, Passaic 401 new cases and 90 new probable cases, Sussex 114 new cases and 43 new probable cases, and Warren 91 new cases and nine new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,882, followed by Bergen at 2,734, Hudson with 2,194, Passaic at 1,848, Morris at 1,061, Sussex at 288, and Warren County at 243.
In regards to probable deaths reported Dec. 13, Bergen has 312, Essex has 310, Morris has 267, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 73 and Warren has 26.
As for the rate of transmission reported Dec. 17, it declined to 1.23 from 1.26 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Dec. 12 was 12.8%; by region, the rate was 11.6% in the North, 14.1% in the Central region and 13.8% in the South.
The state reported 1,748 patients were hospitalized in 70 of the state’s 71 hospitals. By region, there were 681 in the North, 582 in the Central and 485 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 341 are in intensive care units and 165 on ventilators. A total of 248 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.
According to the state dashboard, new student cases totaled 4,998 and new staff cases 1,168 in the last week as of Dec. 5. Cumulatively, 38,044 cases have been reported— 31,068 students and 6,976 staffers.
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 80.5% overall. In North Jersey counties, Bergen was tops at 90.8%, followed by Sussex at 86.1%, Warren at 86.0%, Passaic at 86.0%, Morris at 84.3%, Essex at 82.5%, and Hudson at 79.0%, the third lowest county in the state.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions as of Dec. 15, the state has tracked 294 school outbreaks and 1,618 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 47 outbreaks and 273 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, Bergen County has 32 confirmed outbreak with 139 cases, Passaic County has 14 confirmed outbreak with 136 cases, Morris County has 19 confirmed outbreaks with 108 cases, Sussex has 24 confirmed outbreak with 105 cases, Essex County has 16 confirmed outbreak with 82 cases, Hudson County has 13 confirmed outbreaks with 53 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 194 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,511 of the cases, broken down between 734 residents and 787 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,968 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 34,488 residents and 23,765 staff, for a total of 58,253.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,735 on Dec. 17. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,043 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 12,744,192 in-state, plus an additional 525,231 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,269,423 as of Dec. 17.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,127,119 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 205,651 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,332,770. A total of 7,127,428 have received at least their first dose, or 84% of those eligible, as of Dec. 13.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 954,602 for Pfizer and 819,063 for Moderna. A total of 40,327 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 1,813,992 have received a booster or third shot, or a total of 38% of those eligible.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 673,788 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 540,138, Hudson 482,112, Morris 363,823, Passaic 329,779, Sussex 87,508, and Warren 56,956.
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