N.J. reports 74 COVID deaths, 4,571 cases. Hospitalizations down for 11th consecutive day.
New Jersey on Saturday reported another 74 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 4,571 cases as hospitalizations continued a steady decline in patients for the 11th straight day.
The heavy snow and high winds blasting the state Saturday will likely mean a one-day dip in vaccination efforts, but it also kept much of the state’s residents indoors and at home. Gov. Phil Murphy, who on Friday declared a state of emergency, urged residents to to stay off the roads and remain indoors.
“My big plea is for folks to stay home, stay inside,” Murphy said Saturday morning during an interview on CBS New York.
The state’s seven-day average for new confirmed positive tests fell to 6,257, down 38% from a week ago and 57% from a month ago as the recent wave driven by the omicron variant continues to decline.
The seven-day average for cases peaked at 27,914 on Jan. 10. The highest single-day total of positive tests was 33,459 on Jan. 7.
There were 3,332 patients hospitalized among the state’s 70 of 71 hospitals with confirmed or suspected coronavirus as of Friday night. One hospital did not report data. Hospitalizations are down about 46% from a peak of 6,089 on Jan. 11.
New Jersey’s statewide transmission rate fell to 0.54, down from 0.55 on Friday and well below the key benchmark of 1. The state saw a recent high of 1.92 on Jan. 1. Any rate below 1 indicates the outbreak is on the decline with each new case leading to fewer than one additional case. When the rate is 1, that means the outbreak has leveled off at its current numbers.
The statewide positivity rate has also been dropping from earlier this month, having finally fallen below 20% last week. The rate for tests conducted on Monday, the most recent day available, was 11.87% — meaning just under 1 in 8 people who were tested had a positive result. The rate had been above 30% since Christmas Day before the recent drop.
But deaths, which tend to follow weeks or a month after a spike in cases, continue to mount. So far in January, the state has reported 2,337 confirmed fatalities — the highest monthly total since January 2021, when the state reported 2,377.
Officials stress that daily death reports do not reflect fatalities that occurred in the last 24 hours and reporting is sometimes delayed for days or weeks as fatalities are investigated and certified.
For the week ending Jan. 1, the omicron variant accounted for 95% of positive tests sampled (delta variant was second at 3.82%), up from 76.2% from the week before, according to state data.
Officials continue to stress that while vaccinated and boosted residents can still catch the virus, they are less likely to pass it and far less likely to become hospitalized or die — especially those who have gotten booster shots.
The state does not issue daily breakdowns of the vaccine status of those who test positive, are hospitalized, or died because of the virus. Instead, officials release figures over a period of time.
For the four-week span from Dec. 13 to Jan. 9, New Jersey reported 522,499 total COVID-19 cases, with 4,060 hospitalizations and 446 deaths.
With 3.75 million residents having received only an initial vaccine course (one dose for the Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Pfizer or Moderna), there were 178,192 breakthrough cases that led to 1,328 hospitalizations and 104 deaths.
For the 2.47 million people who received booster shots on top of their initial vaccine course, there were 40,179 breakthrough cases that led to 310 hospitalizations and 23 deaths.
“This gives us a very good picture of the importance of boosters,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
New Jersey’s recent surge in cases came as more people are getting tested than ever before. The state on Saturday also reported 858 probable cases from rapid antigen testing at medical sites.
Officials stress case numbers are likely dramatically undercounted because many residents are testing at home, the results of which aren’t reported to the state.
All of New Jersey’s 21 counties are still listed as having “high” rates of coronavirus transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency is recommending that all people in high transmission counties wear masks for indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status.
New Jersey, an early coronavirus hotspot, has now reported 31,391 deaths — 28,484 confirmed deaths and 2,907 probable deaths — in the more than 22 months since the pandemic began here.
The state has the third-most coronavirus deaths per capita in the U.S. — behind Mississippi and Arizona — as of the latest data reported Thursday.
New Jersey has reported 1,822,283 total confirmed cases out of more than 17.1 million PCR tests conducted since the state’s first case was announced on March 4, 2020. The state has also reported 285,323 positive antigen or rapid tests, which are considered probable cases.
A total of 3,332 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in 70 of 71 hospitals across the state as of Friday night. There were 483 people discharged over that same 24-hour period.
Of the those hospitalized, 561 were in intensive care and 363 were on ventilators.
Murphy stressed Monday that hospitalization numbers are still higher than they’ve been since the initial wave in the spring of 2020, when there were more than 8,000 coronavirus patients. He also said ICU and ventilator numbers are “coming down much more slowly.”
Of those hospitalized earlier in the week, 39% had sought treatment with COVID-19 as their principal diagnosis, while the other 61% have other conditions that could be life-threatening in addition to COVID-19, officials said. That’s compared to about a 50-50 split from the previous week, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Monday.
This comes as some critics have wondered how many of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are of people who enter the hospital for an unrelated condition and then test positive for the virus, thus inflating the numbers. Some refer to those as “incidental” COVID-19 cases.
But Persichilli said Monday that term is not appropriate.
“I would not consider COVID-19 as just an incidental diagnosis,” she said. “I would consider it more a co-morbid condition that could be a contributing factor to complicating your hospital stay and your outcome.”
More than 6.58 million of the 8.6 million eligible people who live, work or study in New Jersey have been fully vaccinated and more than 7.54 million have received a first dose since vaccines began here on Dec. 15, 2020.
More than 2.74 million of the 4.95 million people in New Jersey eligible for boosters have received one.
Persichilli said Monday that number is “unacceptably low” and needs to increase.
Anyone 12 and older in the U.S. who has received their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago is eligible to get a booster shot. Anyone 18 and older who has received two doses of the Moderna vaccine is eligible, as is anyone 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago. In most situations, the CDC recommends the Pfizer and Moderna boosters, though children 12 to 17 are only eligible for the Pfizer shot as a booster.
SCHOOL AND NURSING HOME NUMBERS
Cases continue to be reported among school staff and students in New Jersey, though not at the levels seen during the peak of the omicron wave activity right after the holiday break, according to state Department of Health numbers that track infections regardless of where the transmission occurred.
For the week ending Jan. 16, with around 63% of schools reporting data, another 22,191 confirmed cases were reported among staff (4,371) and students (17,820).
Since the start of the academic year, there have been 90,382 students and 27,165 school staff members who have contracted COVID-19, though the state has never had more than two-thirds of the school districts reporting data in any week.
The state provides total student and staff cases separately from those deemed to be in-school transmission, which is narrowly defined as three or more cases linked through contact tracing. New Jersey has reported 432 total in-school outbreaks including 2,683 students and staff.
At least 9,013 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to state data. There were active outbreaks at 563 facilities, resulting in 11,622 current cases among residents and 13,584 cases among staff as of the latest data.
As of Saturday, there have been more than 370 million COVID-19 cases reported across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 5.6 million people having died due to the virus. The U.S. has reported the most cases (more than 74 million) and deaths (more than 882,900) of any nation.
There have been more than 9.93 billion vaccine doses administered globally.
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