N.J reports 50 COVID deaths and 20,483 cases, breaking another daily record as positive cases spike

Published: Dec. 29, 2021

New Jersey on Wednesday reported another 20,483 COVID-19 cases, shattering the record for the most positive tests the state has announced in any single day during the 22-month-old pandemic.

The state also reported another 50 confirmed deaths just two days before New Year’s Eve will be celebrated.

New Jersey’s previous one-day high for positive tests was 16,626 cases on Saturday.

The new mark comes as the Garden State region and the nation face a new winter surge, the rise of the omicron variant, and a massive demand for testing ahead of holiday gatherings.

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase, as well, reaching an 11-month high. They have not yet grown at the level they did last winter, when figures exceeded 3,800, or at the beginning of the pandemic, when hospitalizations exceeded 8,000. But increases in patients typically follow a week to 10 days after surges in case numbers, like the one experienced Wednesday.

There are caveats to the case records. The spike comes as significantly more people are being tested, safeguarding planned holiday gatherings amid fears over omicron.

Officials continue to note that testing was less widely available in the first months of the pandemic, making it difficult to compare periods. The highest day in that span for confirmed positive tests was 4,427 on April 23, 2020.

Trending in the wrong direction

It’s also not known if all the cases announced Wednesday were over a 24-hour period. Some may have been from prior tests just now reported by the state.

Still, numbers are trending far in the wrong direction. New Jersey has reported more confirmed positive tests in the last seven days (90,707) than in all of October (40,050) and November (42,791) combined. Wednesday’s number caused the state’s seven-day average for new confirmed positive tests to leap to 14,497, more than double the average a week ago and more than 650% percent higher than this time last month.

This marks two straight weeks in which the state has reported more than 6,000 new positive tests a day. By comparison, New Jersey had only six days total of more than 6,000 cases last winter.

Before last week, the previous daily record for reported cases was 6,922 on Jan. 13. Then, last Wednesday, the state reported 9,711 confirmed cases. Since then, the state’s daily tallies have either topped or hovered around five digits.

It’s not just that more testing is leading to an increase in positive tests. The statewide positivity rate for tests administered Friday, the most recent day available, was 28%.

That number is nowhere near the positivity rates between 50 and 60% the state saw at the beginning of the pandemic. But the rate has been trending upward since the first week in November when positivity was between 2.93% and 5.84%.

Plus, it’s possible there are significantly more cases in the state than being counted because high demand has made it difficult to get a test.

The state did not break down how many of the new cases are from the delta or omicron variants. New Jersey has reported only a handful of omicron cases so far, though state officials said there are likely much more in the state because data is lagging.

For a seven-day period ending Dec. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated about 58.6% of all new coronavirus cases nationwide were from the omicron variant. In New Jersey, omicron accounted for 8% of cases sampled Dec. 5 to Dec. 11, according to state data.

There are early signs that while the omicron variant is more transmissible, it may cause less severe symptoms and require fewer hospitalizations than previous strains. Officials and experts also say South Africa, once the center of the omicron surge, is now seeing its cases of the variant plunging.

Officials are calling for New Jerseyans to be careful as they celebrate the holidays this season. They are especially asking people to get tested before gatherings and to get booster shots.

Gov. Phil Murphy — who returns Thursday from an eight-day family vacation to Costa Rica — has suggested in recent weeks that all options are “on the table” when it comes to reimposing restrictions to combat the new surge.

But he has said a statewide lockdown is unlikely. The governor has said the biggest focus is on preventing hospital capacity from being overwhelmed.

Latest hospital data

New Jersey’s hospital COVID-19 count has been on the rise since early to mid-November, when the total number of virus patients statewide was between 600 and 700. Hospitalizations and severe illness are critical metrics to watch, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a meeting Monday with the nation’s governors.

According to data from 69 of the state’s 71 hospitals, there were 3,273 total hospital patients with COVID-19 as of Tuesday night — two hospitals didn’t report data. That’s 294 more than the day before, despite at least 441 patients being discharged in the same 24-hour period span. It’s also the largest number of patients since Jan. 21, when there were 3,328 patients.

Of the 3,273 Tuesday, 514 were in intensive care (22 more than the previous night) and 261 were on ventilators (17 more than the previous night).

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 1,032 from a week ago, or 46%, and more than triple (244%) from a month ago. The number of patients reported as of Tuesday night is only 13% less than what it was Dec. 28, 2020, when 3,765 people were hospitalized in the early days of vaccine availability. Hospitalizations peaked last winter at 3,873 patients on Dec. 22, 2020.

N.J. transmission rate

New Jersey’s statewide transmission rate, which indicates whether the pandemic is growing or shrinking, was 1.76 on Wednesday. That’s up from 1.73 on Tuesday and 1.66 on Monday. Any transmission rate above 1 indicates each infected person is passing the virus to at least one other person and the outbreak is expanding.

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said two weeks ago that modeling at the time showed a worst-case scenario of New Jersey peaking at 10,000 cases a day and 5,000 people hospitalized by mid-January. Those models are frequently updated, but no new predictions have been offered by the state based on the latest spike.

Officials and health experts have cited a number of reasons for why cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again. Among them is the weather and the time of year.

Winter is pushing more people inside, the holiday season is bringing gatherings, more people are getting tested because of the holidays, both the delta and omicron variants are spreading, unvaccinated residents continue getting sick, positive tests among children — including younger ones who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated — are increasing, and protection from the first round of vaccines is starting to wane.

Officials said last week while the majority of new cases in New Jersey are among unvaccinated residents, cases among fully vaccinated people are increasing, which shows protection from the first round of shots may be waning. They say booster shots will help.

New Jersey also does not issue daily breakdowns of the vaccine status of those who test positive, are hospitalized, or died because of the virus. Instead, the state provides monthly and weekly overviews.

As of the first week of December, New Jersey has reported a total of 68,913 breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people this year, leading to 1,513 hospitalizations and 350 deaths, though those represent a small percentage of total cases. Officials say vaccinated people are less likely to contract the virus and much less likely to develop life-threatening cases of COVID-19.

From Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, the state reported 27,036 positive tests. Of those, 6,082 were from fully vaccinated people and those cases led to 24 hospitalizations (out of 1,198 total) and no deaths (out of 116 total).

More than 6.4 million (about 74%) of the 8.6 million eligible people who live, work or study in New Jersey have been fully vaccinated and more than 7.25 million (or 84%) have received a first dose since vaccines began here on Dec. 15, 2020.

More than 2.17 million, or about 47% of the 4.6 million people in New Jersey eligible for third doses or boosters, have received one.

Anyone 16 and older in the U.S. who has received their second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at least six months ago is eligible to get a booster shot. Anyone 16 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also eligible for a booster two months after their single shot. In most situations, the CDC said, it recommends the Pfizer and Moderna boosters.

Coronavirus hotspot

All of New Jersey’s 21 counties are 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 28,967 deaths — 26,118 confirmed deaths and 2,849 probable deaths — in the nearly 22 months since the pandemic began here.

The state has the third-most coronavirus deaths per capita in the U.S., behind Mississippi and Alabama.

New Jersey has reported 1,288,136 total confirmed cases out of more than 16.5 million PCR tests conducted since the state’s first case was announced on March 4, 2020. The state has also reported 207,218 positive antigen or rapid tests, which are considered probable cases.

Cases continue to rise among school staff and students in New Jersey, according to new numbers released last Thursday that track infections regardless of where the transmission occurred.

For the week ending Dec. 19, with just 61% of the state’s school providing data, another 9,808 confirmed cases were reported among staff (2,029) and students (7,716). That’s up from 6,947 cases — 41% higher — than the new cases the previous week.

About 1 in 4 cases statewide for that week were among school students or staff.

Since the start of the academic year, there have been 44,532 students and 10,274 school staff members who have contracted COVID-19.

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.

Murphy said last week state officials will do “everything we can” to keep having in-person classes in schools across New Jersey after the upcoming winter break, “obviously safely and responsibly.”

At least 8,765 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 354 facilities, resulting in 1,713 current cases among residents and 2,884 among staffers as of the latest data on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, there have been more than 283.1 million COVID-19 cases reported across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 5.4 million people having died due to the virus. The U.S. has reported the most cases (more than 53.2 million) and deaths (more than 821,300) of any nation.

There have been more than 9.05 billion vaccine doses administered globally.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-12-30 03:26:39 -0800