Gov. Phil Murphy was emphatic that face masks will stay for students despite push back from Trenton lawmakers.
“Unequivocally, the mask mandates in school and daycare centers will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Murphy at a press briefing Jan. 10. “They are the only responsible course of action at this time. I will not let that happen.”
At issue is the legislation that would reduce the health emergency powers that Murphy requested by 90 days but that the State Senate and Assembly are not willing to do.
Surge Derails Plans
“If you had asked me six week ago if I had some hope on Jan. 11 at midnight we might have been able to shift to a different reality…yeah, I did have that hope,” he stated. “(But) we can not change gears on this in the middle of this tsunami…we will not get their in the near term”
In the State Senate, a bill was passed granting the governor the authority to address the emergency medical and healthcare needs of the COVID crisis. This resolution authorize a 45-day extension of administrative orders, executive directives and guidance to address crisis conditions at New Jersey hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
“The extended waivers and authorizations will grant the administration and the healthcare community the ability to counter the more acute and persistent problems that plague the healthcare system,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeny (D-3). “The staffing shortages are systemic, threatening to put a chokehold on hospitals, long-term care centers, paramedic services and even doctors’ offices. The resolution will enable frontline medical services to manage the crisis by helping to resolve the severe staffing shortages and provide them with the regulatory flexibility to ensure patients are treated safely and effectively.”
GOP leaders, led by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., have been steadfast in their opposition to extending any of the governor’s health emergency powers.
“ Although the bill has reduced the 90-day extension to a 45-day extension, every extra day the Governor’s emergency powers are in place is one day too long for New Jersey,” stated Kean. “I voted against extending the Governor’s powers on June 3, 2021 and I will vote against S-4313.”
Notably left out of the bill was Murphy’s request to extend the authority to install federal health guidelines, such as masks in schools, and overseeing vaccinations and testing. When he asked for the extension, Murphy said the in-school mask mandate was needed due to the large numbers of students in younger age groups being unvaccinated.
Unsurprisingly, Murphy has the backing of New Jersey’s largest teachers union whose leaders said they were “appalled at the idea that any member of the New Jersey Legislature would fail to support.”
The New Jersey Education Association said in their letter to lawmakers that “at a time when cases are surging and schools across New Jersey are struggling to remain open for in-person instruction, it is beyond irresponsible to let that vital safety measure lapse when it is supported by health, science, and common sense.”
But Murphy, while not providing any details, said his office was “working with legislative leadership so that we have a good path forward, particularly given the overwhelming tsunami (of new COVID-19 cases) we are dealing with.”
As of Jan. 10, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,612,516 with 21,691 total new PCR cases. There were 2,344 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 254,219. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,866,735.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 29 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 26,625. The state listed probable deaths at 2,869, bringing the overall total to 29,494. State officials noted 59 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Jan. 10, Bergen had a total of 2,311 new confirmed cases and 244 new probable cases, Essex 1,881 new cases and 106 new probable case, Hudson 1,211 new cases and 180 new probable cases, Morris 1,221 new confirmed cases and 130 new probable cases, Passaic 1,429 new cases and 161 new probable cases, Sussex 379 new cases and 25 new probable cases, and Warren 216 new cases and 21 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,935, followed by Bergen at 2,809, Hudson with 2,248, Passaic at 1,900, Morris at 1,089, Sussex at 309, and Warren County at 263.
In regards to probable deaths reported Jan. 10, Bergen has 314, Essex has 310, Morris has 274, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 74 and Warren has 27.
Of the 6,145,961 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Dec. 27, 2021, 128,172 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated (2.1%). Of those 1,687 have been hospitalized and 448 COVID-related deaths—less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Dec. 20-26, 2021, breakthroughs accounted for 31.0% of all new cases (31,334 of 101,000), 0.2% of new hospilizations (4 of 2,640), and five of the 146 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Jan. 10, it was 1.55 for the second day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested Jan. 4 was 30.2%; by region, the rate was 28.8% in the North, 32.6% in the Central region and 30.4% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 6,075 patients hospitalized of the 70 of 71 hospitals in the Garden State that filed reports Jan. 10—passing the 6,000 mark for the first time since April 29, 2020. By region, there were 2,871 in the North, 1,868 in the Central and 1,336 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 843 are in intensive care units and 474 on ventilators. A total of 678 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 522 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 16,478 of the cases, broken down between 6,769 residents and 9,709 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,310 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 40,580 residents and 32,729 staff, for a total of 73,309.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,799 on Jan. 10. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,145 residents deaths and 171 staff deaths.
According to the state dashboard with just 50% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 20,091 and new staff cases 8,308 in the last week as of Jan. 2. Cumulatively, 92,043 cases have been reported— 71,029 students and 21,014 staffers.
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 84.7% overall. In North Jersey counties, Bergen was tops at 90.8%, followed by Warren at 88.9%, Morris at 87.9%, Sussex at 86.7%, Passaic at 85.9%, Essex at 82.0%, and Hudson at 77.6%, tied for 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 13,156,354 in-state, plus an additional 520,950 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 13,677,304 as of Jan. 10.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,266,078 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 211,799 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,477,877. A total of 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in New Jersey and 88% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,290,343 for Pfizer and 1,089,713 for Moderna. A total of 51,351 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,431,407 have received a booster or third shot. Overall, 46% of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 688,592 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 553,936, Hudson 495,380, Morris 371,404, Passaic 336,660, Sussex 89,242, and Warren 58,004.