New Jersey on Friday reported 3,635 more coronavirus cases and 23 additional deaths, while hospitalizations rose for the 21st straight day as the second wave of the pandemic continues.
On a positive note, officials also announced New Jersey could could get up to 160,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by Christmas if the company wins emergency use approval from the federal government.
And if Moderna’s vaccine takes a similar path, that could mean a total of 460,000 vaccine doses in the state by early January, while broader rollout to the general population could come by April or May.
In the meantime, Gov. Phil Murphy did not announce new restrictions Friday to battle the second wave — even though Newark’s mayor announced the state’s largest city will ask residents to stay at home for 10 days beginning the day before Thanksgiving.
But Murphy warned the next few months as we await a vaccine will be difficult. He said numbers will get “unequivocally worse” as more people head inside because of the colder weather, even though in the state has significantly increased testing.
Officials continued to urge residents to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands, and keep the upcoming string of holiday celebrations small.
“Between personal responsibility and exceptional New Jersey behavior and more testing and vaccines that are real … you start looking at distribution as early as next month and April and May broad access, we’re in a completely different place (than the first wave in the spring),” Murphy said at his latest coronavirus briefing in Trenton.
“This is crunch time,” he added. “This is the locker room. The next six to eight weeks are the Super Bowl. We’ve got to win in.”
New Jersey has now announced 297,370 total positive tests out of more than 5.5 million tests administered since the start of the outbreak in March.
The state of 9 million residents has reported 16,712 coronavirus deaths in that time, including 14,900 confirmed fatalities and 1,812 considered probable.
Friday marked the first time in four days New Jersey reported fewer than 4,000 new cases. But the statewide seven-day average for new positive tests increased to 3,892 — up 29% from a week ago and 278% from a month earlier.
The seven-day average of cases is now higher than the pandemic’s first wave, though the comparison is deceiving because the state was conducting less than 12,000 tests a day then and the outbreak was likely undercounted. The state is averaging about 45,000 tests a day this month, and that number does not include recently deployed rapid tests.
Murphy reminded residents that more than 400 testing sites are available throughout the state.
Still, key numbers health officials use to track the outbreak keep trending in the wrong direction.
There were 2,505 patients with confirmed (2,272) or suspected (233) coronavirus cases in New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Thursday night. That’s much lower than the 8,000 who were hospitalized in April but the most since May 28. Hospitalizations have nearly tripled over the last month.
The positivity rate for tests conducted Monday, the most recent day available, was 7.98% — which Murphy said was “a little bit better.“ The rate throughout last week had remained above 8% after having been below 4% through the summer.
The latest statewide rate of transmission dropped to 1.40. Any number above 1 means the outbreak is continuing to expand. New Jersey has been above that mark since early September.
Thirteen of 21 counties reported at least 100 new cases on Friday led by Passaic (386), Essex (343) and Bergen (338) counties.
The state did not announce when the 23 newly reported deaths occurred.
The update comes as coronavirus cases, deaths, and hospitalizations surge all over the United States.
Murphy has said New Jersey’s figures are increasing because people have fatigue over observing virus restrictions like wearing masks and are gathering more indoors as the weather gets colder, especially inside private homes.
To fight the spread, Murphy has ordered indoor bars and restaurants in New Jersey to close at 10 p.m. daily and canceled interstate indoor sports up the high school level. Indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people, down from 25, and starting Monday, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150, down from 500.
Murphy has stopped short of ordering another statewide shutdown like he did in the spring but has stressed that all options remain on the table.
He also suggested Friday it’s irresponsible to close indoor dining or nonessential retail stores without more federal aid, saying you’d “be putting a bullet in them” and there “would be blood on our hands.”
COUNTY-BY-COUNTY NUMBERS (sorted by most new)
- Passaic County: 26,415 positive tests (386 new), 1,152 confirmed deaths (144 probable)
- Essex County: 31,902 positive tests (343 new), 1,965 confirmed deaths (230 probable)
- Bergen County: 31,006 positive tests (338 new), 1,852 confirmed deaths (246 probable)
- Monmouth County: 18,006 positive tests (276 new), 792 confirmed deaths (92 probable)
- Camden County: 16,103 positive tests (270 new), 604 confirmed deaths (56 probable)
- Middlesex County: 27,418 positive tests (255 new), 1,269 confirmed deaths (203 probable)
- Ocean County: 19,648 positive tests (254 new), 1,026 confirmed deaths (67 probable)
- Hudson County: 28,370 positive tests (253 new), 1,396 confirmed deaths (158 probable)
- Mercer County: 12,087 positive tests (217 new), 612 confirmed deaths (36 probable)
- Union County: 25,437 positive tests (196 new), 1,245 confirmed deaths (171 probable)
- Burlington County: 11,411 positive tests (177 new), 489 confirmed deaths (41 probable)
- Gloucester County: 7,718 positive tests (129 new), 256 confirmed deaths (7 probable)
- Morris County: 11,883 positive tests (127 new), 707 confirmed deaths (147 probable)
- Atlantic County: 7,023 positive tests (96 new), 263 confirmed deaths (13 probable)
- Somerset County: 8,146 positive tests (84 new), 532 confirmed deaths (75 probable)
- Cumberland County: 4,636 positive tests (51 new), 162 confirmed deaths (8 probable)
- Cape May County: 1,498 positive tests (45 new), 95 confirmed deaths (10 probable)
- Hunterdon County: 2,155 positive tests (36 new), 75 confirmed deaths (54 probable)
- Sussex County: 2,245 positive tests (36 new), 162 confirmed deaths (36 probable)
- Warren County: 2,181 positive tests (25 new), 160 confirmed deaths (13 probable)
- Salem County: 1,442 positive tests (17 new), 86 confirmed deaths (5 probable)
There were 2,505 patients with confirmed (2,272) or suspected (233) COVID-19 cases across the New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Wednesday night. That’s 34 more than the night before.
Of those, 452 in critical or intensive care (four fewer than the night before), including 233 on ventilators (17 more).
There were 333 coronavirus patients admitted and 290 discharged Monday, according to the state’s online dashboard.
New Jersey’s 71 acute-care hospitals are currently two-thirds full, according to the New Jersey Hospital Association. Patient ages have tended to be younger, making for shorter hospital stays, and hospitals have become better at treating the virus.
New Jersey’s latest transmission rate of 1.40 is down from the 1.42 reported Thursday.
That’s far lower than when the rate was above 5 toward the end of March as the extent of the outbreak was still coming into focus and testing was scarce.
But any number above 1 means each newly-infected person, on average, is spreading the virus to at least one other person. Any number below 1 means the outbreak is decreasing.
A transmission rate of 1.40 means every 100 infected people will spread the virus to 140 others.
Although hundreds of school districts have announced coronavirus cases and dozens of New Jersey schools have temporarily shut down since the start of the school year, state health officials have said 56 schools have had confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks.
The state’s dashboard shows 239 cases in those 56 schools, but those numbers only include confirmed in-school transmissions. Students or staff believed to have been infected outside school, or those cases that can’t be confirmed as in-school outbreaks are not included.
Murphy has resisted ordering schools to close statewide, saying those numbers are better than expected.
“We take every one of those transmissions and every one of those cases deadly seriously,” he said Friday. “However, if you look at where the safest places to be (are), where contact tracing is as good as it gets, I think, outside of our hospitals and health care systems, it’s the schools. We know exactly who are in those buildings.”
That’s even though the state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, accused Murphy on Thursday of downplaying the risk of keeping schools open.
Broken down by age, those 30 to 49 years old make up the largest percentage of New Jersey residents who have caught the virus (31.6%), followed by those 50-64 (24.7%), 18-29 (18.5%), 65-79 (11.7%), 80 and older (7.1%), 5-17 (5.2%), and 0-4 (1.1%).
On average, the virus has been more deadly for older residents, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Nearly half the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents 80 and older (47.1%), followed by those 65-79 (32.2%), 50-64 (16%), 30-49 (4.3%), 18-29 (0.4%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).
At least 7,274 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. That number has also been rising at a steeper rate in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, at least 17,500 more people in New Jersey have died this year than would be expected, state mortality data shows, which suggests the pandemic has claimed even more lives than state totals, according to an ongoing analysis by NJ Advance Media.
As of Friday morning, there have been more than 57.1 million positive COVID-19 tests across the globe, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.36 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The United States has the most positive tests in the world, with more than 11.7 million, and the most deaths, at more than 252,800.