As Gov. Phil Murphy looks to extend public health emergency powers for another three months that will extend face mask mandates, one North Jersey lawmaker is putting up a fight against recently revised guidance in schools.
Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-40) decried the governor’s administration over their updated rules for K-12 schools that excludes unvaccinated students from sports or extracurricular activities in areas where COVID-19 activity is very high.
“Taking away school sports and extracurricular activities from children who are COVID negative and have already sacrificed so much these past two years is harmful, irresponsible and completely misguided,” DePhillips said, who added on a Facebook post that “we cannot allow one group of young kids to participate in extracurricular activities and sideline another based on vaccination status….Our children’s mental health is paramount.”
New NJDOH Guidance
Issued on Dec. 30, 2021, the N.J. Department of Health’s isolation/quarantine guidance update stated schools are to “limit participation in extracurricular activities to those students and staff with up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination” as well as “conduct COVID-19 screening testing of students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, twice weekly for participation in all extracurricular activities.”
DePhillips argues that this new mandate will hurt kids more than help.
“Instead of benching and punishing kids who are not fully vaccinated, we should be encouraging participation in extracurricular activities, because we know how beneficial it is to a student’s physical and mental health and their development and success,“ he said.
The Assemblyman blasted what he sees as just the latest attempt to get New Jerseyans who have decided to not get the COVID-19 vaccine to change their minds.
“It is very clear that Governor Murphy and the state Health Department believe strong-arming parents into vaccinating healthy children so they can fully experience school by participating in sports and extracurricular activities is going to somehow make a meaningful dent in the number of COVID-19 cases,” said DePhillips. “However, state data demonstrates that fully vaccinated individuals are still catching and transmitting the virus.”
Let Parents Decide
The Bergen County lawmaker noted at the governor’s COVID-19 update early this week, nearly a third of COVID positive tests for the week ending Dec. 19 were among the fully vaccinated and the state has reported more than 91,000 breakthrough cases.
DePhillips wants parents to retain their medical choice freedoms and not be forced to receive the shot to be part of after-school activities with their classmates and friends.
“Parents, not Governor Murphy or Commissioner Persichilli, are the ones who get to make medical decisions for their children,” he said “Our children’s best interests must be safeguarded, not exploited.”
As of Jan. 6, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,502,150 with 27,404 total new PCR cases. There were 5,814 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 241,852. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,744,002.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 106 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 26,460. The state listed probable deaths at 2,855, bringing the overall total to 29,315. State officials noted 53 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Jan. 6, Bergen had a total of 2,698 new confirmed cases and 453 new probable cases, Essex 2,623 new cases and 356 new probable case, Hudson 1,949 new cases and 268 new probable cases, Morris 1,572 new confirmed cases and 235 new probable cases, Passaic 2,197 new cases and 355 new probable cases, Sussex 440 new cases and 71 new probable cases, and Warren 281 new cases and 45 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,919, followed by Bergen at 2,787, Hudson with 2,241, Passaic at 1,888, Morris at 1,084, Sussex at 306, and Warren County at 258.
In regards to probable deaths reported Jan. 3, Bergen has 312, Essex has 310, Morris has 271, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 73 and Warren has 26.
Of the 6,081,483 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Dec. 19, 2021 that DePhillips referenced, 91,896 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated (1.5%). Of those 1,682 have been hospitalized and 401 COVID-related deaths—less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Dec. 13-19, 2021, breakthroughs accounted for 28.0% of all new cases (12,453 of 44,481), 0.9% of new hospilizations (17 of 1,804), and one of the 136 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Jan. 6, it declined to 1.69 from 1.71 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Jan. 1, was 39.0%; by region, the rate was 36.5% in the North, 44.0% in the Central region and 40.1% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 5,598 patients hospitalized as all of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Jan. 6—the fourth highest mark on the state’s dashboard since April 29, 2020. By region, there were 2,534 in the North, 1,745 in the Central and 1,319 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 746 are in intensive care units and 378 on ventilators. A total of 858 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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 503 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 13,107 of the cases, broken down between 5,034 residents and 8,073 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,291 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 38,845 residents and 31,093 staff, for a total of 69,641.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,775 on Jan. 6. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,108 residents deaths and 1502 staff deaths.
According to the state dashboard with just 29% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 5,152 and new staff cases 1,973 in the last week as of Dec. 26, 2021. Cumulatively, 360,698 cases have been reported— 48,690 students and 12,008 staffers.
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 84.1% overall. In North Jersey counties, Bergen was tops at 90.8%, followed by Morris at 90.6%, Sussex at 87.9%, Warren at 87.8%, Passaic at 82.9%, Essex at 81.6%, and Hudson at 73.7%, the lowest county in the state.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Jan. 4, the state has tracked 384 school outbreaks and 2,227 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 11 outbreaks and 338 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 47 confirmed outbreak with 258 cases, Morris County has 31 confirmed outbreaks with 190 cases, Passaic County has 19 confirmed outbreak with 170 cases, Sussex has 190 confirmed outbreak with 156 cases, Essex County has 19 confirmed outbreak with 110 cases, Hudson County has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 89 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,074,784 in-state, plus an additional 516,347 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,591,131 as of Jan. 6.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,235,797 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 210,892 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,446,689. A total of 74% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in New Jersey and 87% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,230,795 for Pfizer and 1,041,590 for Moderna. A total of 49,286 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,327,671 have received a booster or third shot. Overall, 46% of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 685,495 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 550,574, Hudson 492,717, Morris 369,845, Passaic 335,163, Sussex 88,901, and Warren 57,763.