New Jersey on Thursday reported 5,107 new cases of the coronavirus and another 90 deaths as the rate the virus is spreading dropped slightly, as did the number of people hospitalized throughout the state for the second day in a row.
But the pandemic has claimed 19,042 lives in the state since the first death was recorded March 10.
“We urge everyone to stay safe. Avoid large gatherings. Social distance. Mask up.” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a tweet.
The statewide rate of transmission dropped to 0.94 after it was 0.95 for two straight days. It increased Monday to 0.96 before returning to 0.95, where it had been from Dec. 25-27. Prior to Saturday, the rate dropped for 12 straight days to 0.95.
There were 3,716 people hospitalized in the state as of Wednesday evening, down for the second straight day from a more than seven-month high on Dec. 22 of 3,873 patients.
The state of 9 million residents has reported 19,042 deaths — 17,021 confirmed and 2,021 probable fatalities from complications related to the virus.
Health officials administered the first round of vaccines to 62,901 people as of mid-week, Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Wednesday during a COVID-19 briefing.
The first round of people to get the shots are health care workers and people who live and work at nursing homes. There are about 650,000 health care workers in the state, and long-term care homes should be fully vaccinated by early February, Murphy has said.
New Jersey unveiled a website this week where people can sign up to receive a vaccine in “the near future,” Murphy said.
The website — covid19.nj.gov/vaccine — doesn’t currently allow people to register or pre-register for the vaccine. But the governor has said he hopes doses for the wider public will be available by April or May.
Meanwhile, all indoor organized sports at the youth, high school and adult recreational levels that were put on hold for four weeks because of the pandemic will be permitted to resume beginning Saturday, Murphy announced Wednesday.
But teams will only be able to exceed the state’s current 10-person limit on indoor gatherings during practices and games, an official with knowledge of the announcement told NJ Advance Media. Otherwise, they will need to abide by other COVID-19 restrictions.
Spectators will not be allowed at practices and games, and the state’s ban on interstate sports and competitions is still in effect, the official said.
There were 3,716 patients hospitalized in New Jersey with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday night, 11 fewer than the previous night.
That included 693 in critical or intensive care (eight fewer than the previous night), with 462 on ventilators (five fewer than the previous evening).
There were 493 COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.
There have been 108 school outbreaks involving 546 students, teachers and staff since the school year began in late August, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard updated Wednesday.
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 them among the safest places in the state, he said.
But at least 83 students or staff members caught COVID-19 at one Essex County school in what appears to be the largest outbreak reported in a single New Jersey school building, according to new state data.
Though the state has released minimal information about the cases, most of the outbreaks have involved 10 or fewer people catching the virus at each school. In November, an unidentified Union County school reported an outbreak in which at least 23 people got sick.
New Jersey defines school outbreaks as cases where contract tracers determined two or more students or school staff caught or transmitted COVID-19 in the classroom or during academic activities at school.
Broken down by age, those 30 to 49 years old make up the largest percentage of New Jersey residents who have caught the virus (31.4%), followed by those 50-64 (23.9%), 18-29 (19%), 65-79 (11.2%), 80 and older (5.8%), 5-17 (6.9%), and 0-4 (1.4%).
On average, the virus has been more deadly for older residents, especially those with preexisting conditions. Nearly half the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents 80 and older (47.51%), followed by those 65-79 (32%), 50-64 (15.85%), 30-49 (4.25%), 18-29 (0.37%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).
As of Thursday morning, there were more than 82.8 million positive COVID-19 tests across the world, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.8 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The U.S. has reported the most cases, at more than 19.74 million, and the most deaths, at more than 342,450.