N.J reports 7 COVID deaths, 12,538 cases as hospitalizations climb to a 10-month high

Published: Dec. 26, 2021

New Jersey on Sunday reported another seven confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 12,538 confirmed positive cases, bringing the state’s seven-day case average to a new pandemic record just as statewide coronavirus hospitalizations reached their highest number in nearly 10 months.

The number of cases reported Sunday represents a significant decrease, approximately 24%, from the high reported Christmas Day, but the state’s seven-day case average still increased to 11,905, the highest ever recorded. It’s more than double the average a week ago and is more than 500% percent higher than this time last month.

Numbers in the Garden State have been on a record-breaking tear as the omicron variant has surged, cold weather has driven people indoors, and demand for testing has spiked ahead of holiday gatherings. Before this week, the previous daily record for reported cases was 6,922 on Jan. 13. Then, on Wednesday, the state reported 9,711 confirmed cases. Since then, the state has been reporting five-digit case tallies.

The transmission rate, which indicates whether the pandemic is growing or shrinking, rose to 1.56 from 1.46 on Sunday. Any transmission rate above 1 indicates each infected person is passing the virus to at least one other person and the outbreak is expanding.

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 the pandemic, making it difficult to compare periods. For example, it’s likely the state had similar or even greater case numbers during the early days of the pandemic from March to May 2020, when the extent of the outbreak was probably undercounted because there was so little testing. The highest day in that span for confirmed positive tests was 4,427 on April 23, 2020.

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

But the state has more than doubled case numbers in the past week, indicating a significant trend. Sunday marks the eleventh straight day in which the state has reported more than 6,000 new positive tests a day.

Still, it’s not just that more testing is leading to an increase in positive tests in New Jersey. The statewide positivity rate for tests administered Wednesday, the most recent day available, was 20.08%.

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%.

Officials and experts stress vaccines and booster shots continue to significantly help prevent serious cases.

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 over the next week or so. They are especially asking people to get tested before gatherings and to get booster shots.

Gov. Phil Murphy — who left Wednesday for an eight-day family vacation to Costa Rica — has suggested in recent days that all options are “on the table” when it comes to reinstalling 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.

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.

As of Saturday night, there were 2,462 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals. That’s 67 more than the night before, when all but one hospital reported data. It’s also 614 more than a week ago, or 33%, and nearly triple (192%) from a month ago. The increase occurred despite the fact that 340 patients were discharged statewide in the 24 hours leading up to Saturday night.

Hospitalizations have not yet grown at the level they did during last winter, when figures exceeded 3,800, or at the beginning of the pandemic, when hospitalizations exceeded 6,000. But increases in patients typically follow a week to 10 days after surges in case numbers.

Of the 2,462 hospital patients reported Saturday, 469 were in intensive care (41 more than the previous night, when 70 out of 71 hospitals reported data) and 223 were on ventilators (one less than the previous night).

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.

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 few 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. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated more than 73 percent of all new coronavirus cases nationwide were from the omicron variant.

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 6.38 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 7.22 million (or 84%) have received a first dose since vaccines began here on Dec. 15, 2020.

More than 2.09 million, or 45% 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.

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 28,861 deaths — 26,019 confirmed deaths and 2,842 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 1,247,308 total confirmed cases out of more than 16.40 million PCR tests conducted since the state’s first case was announced on March 4, 2020. The state has also reported 196,607 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 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 Tuesday 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 8,751 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 271 facilities, resulting in 947 current cases among residents and 1,236 among staffers, as of the latest data on Friday.

As of Sunday, there have been more than 279.6 million COVID-19 cases reported across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 5.39 million people having died due to the virus. The U.S. has reported the most cases (more than 52.1 million) and deaths (more than 816,500) of any nation.

There have been more than 8.94 billion vaccine doses administered globally.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-12-27 03:36:18 -0800