COVID Dashboard Blinking Red as Murphy Advises Indoor Masking

By Bob Hennelly | July 28, 2021

Insider NJ

Gov. Phil Murphy and NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli are now “strongly” recommending that all New Jersey residents, regardless of their vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public places based on new guidance from the CDC which shows the Delta variant is being transmitted at a much higher rate than previously believed.

“Our metrics are trending in the wrong direction, and new data suggests the Delta variant is more transmissible even among vaccinated individuals, which is why we are making this strong recommendation,” Murphy and state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a joint statement. “Fortunately, our numbers are a fraction of those in many other states, most of which have significantly lower vaccination rates. Should our numbers reach those levels, we reserve the right to take more drastic action, including a statewide mask mandate.”

They continued. “We have crushed this virus repeatedly like no other state in the nation, and we are proud to boast among the country’s highest vaccination rates. But at this point, given where our metrics are now, we feel the best course of action is to strongly encourage every New Jerseyan, and every visitor to our state, to take personal responsibility and mask up indoors when prudent.”

On Tuesday, the CDC reversed its guidance issued back in May that vaccinated individuals, based on the honor system, could forgo their masks in indoor public locations with the exception of healthcare facilities setting and while on mass transit.

In several states where the vaccination rate has badly trailed the national average, hospitals are reporting a significant rise in hospitalizations and deaths.

While deaths are up nationally, they remain a fraction of the 3,000 deaths the nation reported daily at one point in January.

The new CDC advisory tells the public that to “maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others” they should “wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”

On the CDC’s website the agency has an interactive county by county tracker where the public can check on the level of community transmission of COVID where they live.

According to the CDC’s rankings seven New Jersey counties are either in the “high” or “substantial” in terms of the rate of community transmission of the virus. Only Monmouth County is listed as having a “high” transmission rate. Counties in the substantial group include Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Ocean, and Passaic counties.

In New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, are all in the “substantial” cohort, while Staten Island is experiencing a “high” rate of community transmission.

Back in May, unions representing healthcare workers as well as those in the food service and retail distribution sectors urged public health officials to keep the mandate in place.

Of specific concern now to public health officials are crowded indoor settings where there’s close contact between the vaccinated and unvaccinated or where there’s the presence of an immunocompromised persons.

The latest on the New Jersey’s mask policy comes as President Biden is expected to announce tomorrow that federal workers and contractors will have to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing for COVID, a move Mayor de Blasio made this week.

The New York Times reports today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will require state workers to document their vaccination status or submit to weekly testing.

“The governor also announced a much stricter mandate for state-run hospitals, saying that all ‘patient-facing’ health care workers at those facilities would be required to be vaccinated, without the option of regular testing instead,” the Times reported.

At Gov. Murphy’s July 26 COVID briefing, he was asked to comment on the move by New York City to mandate its civil servants be vaccinated or submit to regular testing.

“The virus dictates the terms here,” Murphy told reporters. “We do our very best. We make our calls based on the science, the data, the facts. We do our best to stay out ahead of this, but we have to keep that in the back of our minds. I saw what New York is doing, and I would just reiterate what I just said a second ago. If you make your decisions based on science, data, medical facts, you have to have all options available.”

The regional and national setback in the fight against containing the spread of COVID came as President Biden fell short back on July 4 to have 70 percent of the nation’s adult population vaccinated and the percentage of new vaccinations dropped off precipitously. Over the last 72 hours, the surge in the Delta variant appears to have sparked renewed interest in getting vaccinated.

Meanwhile, pressure to address widespread vaccine hesitancy among the nation’s health care workforce started to build since March, when the CDC documented a COVID outbreak in a nursing home in Kentucky where an outbreak was sparked by the infection of an unvaccinated staff member who had a more highly contagious variant of the virus.

That outbreak resulted in the death of three residents, one of whom was vaccinated. According to Kentucky health officials, 26 residents were infected as were 20 staff members. While 90 percent of the residents were vaccinated, just 53 percent of the staff were.

This week, the Veterans Health Administration announcement a vaccine mandate for its healthcare workforce coincided with a joint statement from the nation’s 50 most influential medical associations, including the America Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the American Public Health Association.

“Our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the group said in their statement. “This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as resident of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being.”

The statement continued. “Because of highly contagious variants, including the Delta variant, and significant numbers of unvaccinated people, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are once again
rising throughout the United States. Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures.”

On the day that the VA announced its mandate, Mayor de Blasio announced that all of New York City’s civil servants would have to either be vaccinated or consent to weekly COVID testing. That move followed the roll out of the same policy for the city’s municipal hospital system which is slated to take effect August 2.

On July 27, Dr. Susan Bailey, the former president of the AMA told MSNBC that a once-a-week testing option being offered by the City of New York City to its employees was insufficient to counter the Delta surge.

During Mr. de Blasio’s July 26 briefing, Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi told reporters that the more people that remained unvaccinated the more likely COVID 19 would continue to spread, increasing the likelihood that new variants would emerge.

“And it’s one of the reasons that this is not just a pandemic for people who remain unvaccinated, but also may prolong the pandemic because additional variants will emerge,” Dr. Chokshi said. “That is all true and epidemiologically sound. But when it comes to what we can actually do about it the answer remains simple and consistent. And that is getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. This will help us to interrupt the spread in the here and now, but it will also over the long term, help us to mitigate the development of new and potentially even more dangerous variants.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-07-29 02:40:56 -0700