Two years to the day of the first COVID-19 case in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said he will hold his last in-person briefing next week.
“As we move into our new normal and transition from a pandemic stance to endemic one, there is no longer the need for us to gather at a set time every week,” said Murphy at his weekly press briefing Feb. 23. “It’s not saying we defeated this thing but that we can start responsibly living in its midst.”
The announcement that March 4 will be the 250th and final weekly briefing comes on the same day that hospitalization related to COVID was under 1,000 for the first time in three months.
Murphy began holding the briefings early in the pandemic, as cases and deaths skyrocketed in Spring 2020. Most of the more than 250 briefings were held at the Trenton War Memorial, flanked by New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and New Jersey Superintendent of Police Col. Pat Callahan with a rotation of members of Congress, state health officials and various Murphy administration heads.
The updates were broadcast live on TV as well as the governor’s YouTube channel so New Jerseyans could hear the latest numbers, what steps the state was taking to lessen the spread of the disease and memorializing those lost to COVID.
Murphy’s decision comes as the latest surge of COVID continues to decline and a school mask mandate is to be lifted March 7.
“With the omicron tsunami continuing to swiftly recede, the case numbers continuing to fall and our hospital metrics continuing to improve, with vaccination numbers among the highest in the nation and still climbing, and with the last major statewide masking requirement—the one in our schools—set to be lifted in 11 days, we believe now is the time to end these briefings,” stated Murphy.
The governor said that if another surge hits the state, he would not hesitate resuming the briefings.
“This is not to say that we won’t continue to provide updates on numbers or that we won’t continue to bring you news, he said. “We’ll do both, but probably much more so online. However, should the need arise, we won’t hesitate to reconvene here.”
The cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey as of Feb. 23 was 1,867,368 with 1,058 total new PCR cases. There were 252 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 293,822. The total number of individual cases for the state is 2,161,190.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 69 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 29,840. The state listed probable deaths at 2,960, bringing the overall total to 32,800. State officials noted 10 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 23, Bergen had a total of 74 new confirmed cases and 16 new probable cases, Essex 123 new cases and 10 new probable case, Hudson 132 new cases and 10 new probable cases, Morris 57 new confirmed cases and 14 new probable cases, Passaic 49 new cases and 13 new probable cases, Sussex 17 new cases and seven new probable cases, and Warren 20 new cases and four new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 3,245, followed by Bergen at 3,078, Hudson with 2,468, Passaic at 2,107, Morris at 1,214, Sussex at 372, and Warren County at 308.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 22, Bergen has 321, Essex has 311, Morris has 294, Hudson has 221, Passaic has 199, Sussex has 88 and Warren has 27.
As for the rate of transmission reported Feb. 23, it increased to 0.69 from 0.68 two days ago. The daily rate of infections from those tested Feb. 19 was 4.7%; by region, the rate was 4.1% in the North, 5.1% in the Central region and 5.4% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 961 patients hospitalized as all but one of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Feb. 23. By region, there were 338 in the North, 336 in the Central and 287 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 164 are in intensive care units and 105 on ventilators. A total of 139 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 472 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 25,123 of the cases, broken down between 11,663 residents and 13,460 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,362 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 46,762 residents and 37,866 staff, for a total of 84,628.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 9,249 on Feb. 23. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,490 residents deaths and 149 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,616,725 in-state, plus an additional 560,724 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,177,449 as of Feb. 23.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,485,226 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 224,033 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,709,259. With just under 8.5 million eligible in New Jersey to be vaccinated, 77% are fully vaccinated and 91% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,558,201 for Pfizer and 1,311,687 for Moderna. A total of 63,658 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,933,546 have received a booster or third shot. Overall, 51% of the 5.7 million of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 711,023 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 577,997, Hudson 517,275, Morris 381,403, Passaic 351,767, Sussex 91,383, and Warren 59,481.
According to the state dashboard with 65.7% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 2,335 and new staff cases 553 in the last week as of Feb. 13. Cumulatively, 128,711 cases have been reported— 100,909 students and 27,802 staffers.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Feb. 22, the state has tracked 507 school outbreaks and 3,450 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up four outbreaks and 17 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 58 confirmed outbreaks with 331 cases, Morris County has 40 confirmed outbreaks with 246 cases, Essex County has 33 confirmed outbreaks with 232 cases, Passaic County has 22 confirmed outbreaks with 188 cases, Sussex has 34 confirmed outbreaks with 177 cases, Hudson County has 19 confirmed outbreaks with 92 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases.