The summary assessment from the National Governors Associations about COVID is that the U.S. is trending in the right direction, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.
“The consensus is that we are on a road from a pandemic to an endemic,” said Murphy at a press briefing Feb. 2 that ended abruptly after 45 minutes due to a blaring fire alarm. “No one knows how straight the road is or how long it will take us…Please God that’s the way it continues.”
Murphy, who is vice chair of the governor association, noted that both Democratic and Republican governors were in step of where they wanted to end up. Meetings in Washington included President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, members of the Biden administration and an updated on COVID from from head of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
Getting Back to Normal
“The overwhelming sentiment from both sides of the aisle was we want to get to a place where we live with this thing in as normal a fashion as possible,” he said. “Good comparing of best practices among governors…Everyone is struggling with the road forward in that pandemic to endemic (as) none of us want to overmanage it or by undermanaging it getting clocked out of left field which we are all trying to avoid.”
The governor returned to a state where health officials noted the rate of transmission has been under 1.00 for the longest period of time, numbers continued to decline in other key leading health metrics and the state’s booster rate is almost double the national average.
Omicron in Fast Retreat
“Trends that we are literally seeing across all metrics continue to suggest that the Omicron tsunami, as fast as it washed in, is washing out at nearly the same speed,” said Murphy
But Murphy warned that despite the drop in numbers, he is not completely comfortable in making any health protocols changes due to the recent history of how the numbers can quickly turn around.
“Everytime you think you have this thing figure out, it humbles you,” he said. “We do not want to test that theory with omicron so we have to remain on a vigilant footing.”
School Masks Going Soon?
One area of increase were the most recent school numbers, as rates of in-school transmission have increased as schools that delayed all in-person instruction after Winter break returned. But Murphy offered there has been significant decrease in the overall rates of infection among all students and staff since their highs a few weeks ago.
“That speaks to the importance of the multi-layers approach we have in our schools and speaks to why we are not yet prepared to pull away any of these layers,” said Murphy. “But as I have said over the past week—and my conviction has only gone up—I look to a time in this school year where we are no longer masking in our schools.”
When asked when the health emergency would be lifted when it expires Feb. 11, the governor said it was an issue he would be discussing with State Senate and Assembly leaders in the coming days but would not comment one way or the other.
The cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey as of Feb. 1 was 1,832,198 with 3,582 total new PCR cases. There were 772 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 287,100. The total number of individual cases for the state is 2,119,298.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 107 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 28,744. The state listed probable deaths at 2,919, bringing the overall total to 31,663. State officials noted 39 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 1, Bergen had a total of 339 new confirmed cases and 85 new probable cases, Essex 225 new cases and 29 new probable case, Hudson 312 new cases and 35 new probable cases, Morris 192 new confirmed cases and 38 new probable cases, Passaic 231 new cases and 34 new probable cases, Sussex 57 new cases and nine new probable cases, and Warren 40 new cases and 10 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 3,159, followed by Bergen at 2,994, Hudson with 2,408, Passaic at 2,039, Morris at 1,180, Sussex at 354, and Warren County at 289.
In regards to probable deaths reported Jan. 31, Bergen has 331, Essex has 309, Morris has 280, Hudson has 224, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 80 and Warren has 27.
As for the rate of transmission reported Feb. 1, it remained at 0.55 for a third day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested Jan. 29 was 12.1%; by region, the rate was 10.1% in the North, 12.0% in the Central region and 17.5% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 2,170 patients hospitalized as only 60 of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Feb. 1. By region, there were 721 in the North, 652 in the Central and 731 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 462 are in intensive care units and 187 on ventilators. A total of 318 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 563 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 26,193 of the cases, broken down between 11,987 residents and 14,206 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,355 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 45,822 residents and 37,236 staff, for a total of 83,058.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 9,046 on Feb. 2. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,429 residents deaths and 148 staff deaths.
According to the state dashboard with 64.3% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 10,938 and new staff cases 2,586 in the last week as of Jan. 23. Cumulatively, 117,884 cases have been reported— 92,102 students and 25,782 staffers.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Jan. 26, the state has tracked 465 school outbreaks and 3,138 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 33 outbreaks and 455 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 54 confirmed outbreaks with 296 cases, Morris County has 36 confirmed outbreaks with 220 cases, Essex County has 28 confirmed outbreaks with 208 cases, Sussex has 33 confirmed outbreaks with 179 cases, Passaic County has 21 confirmed outbreaks with 178 cases, Hudson County has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 89 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,458,808 in-state, plus an additional 548,395 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,007,203 as of Feb. 2.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,392,583 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 219,867 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,612,450. A total of 76% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in New Jersey and 90% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,491,590 for Pfizer and 1,236,232 for Moderna. A total of 59,158 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,786,980 have received a booster or third shot. Overall, 51% of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 703,301 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 568,616, Hudson 509,562, Morris 377,738, Passaic 345,234, Sussex 90,451, and Warren 58,781.