New Jersey reported another 4,170 new coronavirus cases and 24 additional deaths, as the first batches of the coronavirus vaccine were shipped from the manufacturing facility Sunday.
The seven-day average for daily positive tests declined Sunday to 4,809, down 2% from a week ago — but up 59% from a month ago as the second wave of the virus has swept across the state.
That average has hovered around 5,000 for the past week— the highest it has been during the nine-month outbreak — though tests during the initial wave of cases were scarce and likely undercounted the extent of the infections.
The death toll for the first 13 days of December— 688 confirmed fatalities — is already higher than the entire month of November (615) and the combined totals for October (231), September (178) and August (238).
Hospitalizations rose slightly, with 3,591 coronavirus patients as of Friday night, more than double the hospitalizations at the beginning of November.
Those numbers come as the state is preparing for the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to be administered in New Jersey on this week. Shipments of the vaccine began on Sunday following an emergency approval by federal regulators late Friday.
The first dose of the vaccine will be administered in New Jersey on Tuesday at University Hospital in Newark, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Sunday. The first 76,000 doses are earmarked for healthcare workers and staff and residents of long term care facilities.
Murphy tempered the positive news about the vaccine with caution about the possible severity of the outbreak in coming weeks.
“For all the good news, the light at the end of the tunnel— and the vaccine exemplifies that as much as anything— the next number of weeks are going to be hell, I fear,” Murphy said in an interview on ABC Sunday morning, asking for residents to continue to take precautions.
The state’s rate of transmission stayed steady on Sunday, remaining at 1.15. Any number over 1 indicates the outbreak is expanding. The rate of transmission had increased for six consecutive days before stagnating on Sunday.
The positivity rate for Tuesday, the most recent day available, was 10.8% based on 44,609 tests results. The rate has been above 10% for all but one day since Nov. 25. It was 9.92% on Monday.
The death toll from outbreak reached 17,751 including 15,883 confirmed and 1,868 “probable” fatalities. New Jersey has had 400,650 total positive cases out of 6.5 million tests administered, though those totals do not include recently-deployed rapid tests.
As cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise, Murphy continues to say he’s keeping all options open for new restrictions to slow the outbreak.
But he reaffirmed on Friday that New Jersey is “staying with what we got” on indoor dining with 25% capacity limits and a requirement for indoor service to end at 10 p.m. each day. Murphy also gave counties and municipalities the ability to order bars and restaurants to close as early as 8 p.m. daily.
Murphy has said he’s watching hospital capacity closely when deciding whether to impose more orders to try and stop the spread. The governor said a month ago he was looking at three potential restrictions in particular indoor dining, elective surgeries at hospital and indoor sports.
The governor has since ordered the suspension of all indoor organized sports at the youth, high school and adult recreational levels. That started on Dec. 5 and lasts until at least Jan. 2. He’s since said he hopes indoor sports will be able to resume next month, but he left the door open to extending the temporary ban.
Murphy on Wednesday revealed two pairs of moderate-case and worst-case scenarios for the second wave. The moderate forecasts call for New Jersey to hit between 6,300 and 9,100 daily cases and between 5,700 and 7,100 patients hospitalized over the next two months.
The number of people hospitalized as of Saturday night was higher than on Friday, again reaching the highest level since May 14 — when 3,706 people were being treated.
There were 3,591 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Saturday (48 more than the previous day).
Of those hospitalized Friday, 691 were in critical or intensive care (one more than the previous night), including 448 on ventilators (10 more).
There were 467 coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals Friday, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.
New Jersey officials have reported 18 new in-school outbreaks and 103 new positive cases among students, teachers and school staff in one of the worst weeks since the state started tracking how many people were being infected with COVID-19 at school.
The names of the schools were not released to protect the privacy of the children and school staff members who tested positive, state officials said.
Although hundreds of school districts have announced coronavirus cases and dozens of New Jersey schools have temporarily switched to all remote classes since the start of the school year, state health officials have said only 88 schools have had confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks.
There have now been 388 total cases of in-school transmission in those 88 schools since the start of the school year.
Those numbers do not include students or staff believed to have been infected outside school, or cases that can’t be confirmed as in-school outbreaks.
Though the numbers keep rising every week, Murphy has said the school outbreak statistics remain below what state officials were expecting when schools reopened for in-person classes. The extensive rules for schools, which include social distancing guidelines for classrooms and strict mask requirements, have made schools among the safest places in the state, he said.
But for the second week in a row, every region in New Jersey is orange on the state’s COVID-19 map, indicating “high” virus activity across the state.
The color coding on the map is being closely watched by many school districts because if any area moves to red, indicating “very high” coronavirus activity, all schools in that region will be required to close classrooms and switch to all-remote learning, according to state health guidelines.
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%), 18-29 (19%), 65-79 (11.3%), 80 and older (6.1%), 5-17 (6.5%), and 0-4 (1.3%).
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 (47.69%), followed by those 65-79 (31.78%), 50-64 (15.84%), 30-49 (4.31%), 18-29 (0.37%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).
At least 7,373 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 been rising again at a steeper rate in recent weeks.
As of Friday, there have been 71.8 million positive COVID-19 tests across the world, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.6 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The U.S. has reported the most cases with 16 million and the most deaths at more than 297,000.