New Jersey on Tuesday reported another 4,378 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 61 additional confirmed deaths, while COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state continued to rise and slightly more than 1 in 5 adults have now been fully vaccinated in the state.
The Garden State has one of the the highest new infection rates as numerous states across the U.S. are seeing upticks in daily positive tests, even as vaccine rollout continues. New York and Connecticut are witnessing similar increases.
This marks the second time in five days New Jersey have reported more than 4,000 cases in one day. The state’s seven-day average for newly confirmed cases is 3,783, up 11.6% from a week ago and 31.2% from a month ago.
“We’re at a pretty critical moment,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a television interview Tuesday afternoon with News 12 at the Prudential Center in Newark. “There’s good news and bad news. I continue to think the good news outweighs the bad. But the bad news is real.”
President Joe Biden on Monday urged Americans to continue to be cautious about the pandemic and called on states to pause reopenings, saying “our work is far from over.“ Earlier in the day, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said she has a feeling of “impending doom” as cases grow again in the country.
New Jersey officials said this week there are a number of reasons why cases have been rising lately: There are multiple COVID-19 variants spreading, there is pandemic fatigue, the weather is only now getting warmer, the state has the densest population in the nation, and it’s located next to New York City.
“It’s a race between these vaccines and the variants,” Murphy said Tuesday.
But the governor stressed the weather is improving and vaccinations are increasing.
“I still think by Memorial Day we’re in a whole different ballgame,” he added.
Tuesday marks the first time in six days New Jersey has reported more than 30 COVID-19 deaths in one day, though some deaths often happen weeks or months earlier and were just confirmed. There have now been 1,083 coronavirus deaths reported in March, compared to 2,377 in January and 1,589 in February.
There were 2,329 coronavirus patients across the state’s hospitals as of Monday night — the most since Feb. 15. After falling below 2,000 late last month, hospitalizations have been slowly creeping up the last two weeks.
The state’s rate of transmission fell to 1.09 after five days at 1.10. Any number over 1 indicates that the outbreak is growing, with each new case leading to at least one other case.
The latest statewide positivity rate was 10.38% on Friday, the day with the latest data, on 52,737 tests.
New Jersey health facilities and vaccine centers have now administered slightly more than 4.11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since the state’s first shot was given Dec. 15. That includes about 2.67 million people with at least one dose and 1.5 million people considered fully vaccinated, according to state data.
The state’s goal is to vaccinate 70% of its eligible adults — about 4.7 million people — by the end of May. So far, about 22% of the state’s 6.9 million adults have been fully vaccinated.
In all, New Jersey has now reported 796,700 coronavirus cases out of more than 12 million PCR tests in the year since the state reported its first case on March 4, 2020. There have also been 108,444 positive antigen tests, including 1,071 reported Tuesday. Those cases are considered probable, and health officials have warned that positive antigen tests could overlap with the confirmed PCR tests because they are sometimes given in tandem.
The state of 9.2 million people has reported 24,486 residents have died from complications related to COVID-19 — 21,951 confirmed deaths and 2,535 fatalities considered probable.
The state has reported 574 COVID-19 “variants of concern,” as defined by the federal Centers for Disease Control. The majority are of the U.K. variant.
Despite the recent case upticks, the state is set to increase its outdoor gathering limit to 200 people as of 6 a.m. Friday. The indoor gathering limit will remain 25 people. In addition, venues that can seat 2,500 people will be permitted to increase indoor seating capacity to 20%, up from 10%, and outdoor capacity to 30%, up from 15%.
Murphy was asked Monday why he won’t lift restrictions more quickly because hospitalizations aren’t rising as much as cases.
“I think we’re gonna continue to be incremental,” the governor said. “We’re comfortable with that. We want to open, there’s no question about that, but we want to make sure it’s a one-way street and we don’t go back. With the variants in our state and the level of transmission right now, which is about as high as it is anywhere in the country, we are in the better-to-be-safe-than-sorry category.”
Meanwhile, officials say vaccine demand continues to outpace supply from the federal government, causing a backlog of people trying to get appointments. But officials say doses are expected to increase significantly in the coming days.
“I’m confident we get through the next number of weeks, it’s gonna be in a dramatically different place,” Murphy said Tuesday.
This past Monday, another round of people became eligible to receive the vaccine in the state — including restaurant employees, warehouse workers, hospitality workers, clergy, and more.
This coming Monday, people ages 55 to 64, those 16 and older with intellectual or developmental disabilities, higher education teachers and staffers, communication support workers, sanitation workers, and members of the media will become eligible.
Murphy repeated Tuesday that every adult in the state will be eligible by May 1 — five weeks from now.
There were 2,329 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Monday night — 104 more than the previous night.
That included 452 in critical or intensive care (39 fewer than the night before), with 239 on ventilators (one fewer).
There were also 185 COVID-19 patients discharged Monday.
Hospitalizations peaked at more than 8,300 patients during the first wave of the pandemic in April and more than 3,800 during the second wave in December.
New Jersey has reported 205 in-school coronavirus outbreaks, which have resulted in 947 cases among students, teachers and school staff this academic year, according to the state’s dashboard.
The state defines school outbreaks as cases where contact tracers determined two or more students or school staff caught or transmitted COVID-19 in the classroom or during academic activities at school. 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.
There are about 1.4 million public school students and teachers across the state, though teaching methods amid the outbreak have varied, with some schools teaching in-person, some using a hybrid format and others remaining all-remote.
Murphy last week announced most New Jersey schools can move classroom desks three feet apart, instead of six feet, under new social distancing guidelines.
The governor also said the state’s schools will return to full in-person classes for the next school year and districts will not be allowed to offer virtual learning, even for parents who want that option due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
Broken down by age, those 30 to 49 years old make up the largest percentage of New Jersey residents who have caught the virus (30.9%), followed by those 50-64 (23%), 18-29 (19.7%), 65-79 (10.7%), 5-17 (8.9%), 80 and older (4.8%) and 0-4 (1.8%).
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 (47.07%), followed by those 65-79 (32.79%), 50-64 (15.68%), 30-49 (4.05%), 18-29 (0.37%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).
At least 7,980 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
There are active outbreaks at 232 facilities, resulting in 3,792 active cases among residents and 4,546 among staffers. Those numbers have been slowing as vaccinations continue at the facilities.
As of early Monday afternoon, there have been more than 127.86 million positive COVID-19 tests across the world, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 2.79 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The U.S. has reported the most cases, at more than 30.34 million, and the most deaths, at more than 550,100.