NEW JERSEY — Hours after administering the first COVID-19 vaccines in New Jersey long-term care facilities during a ceremony in Old Bridge, Gov. Phil Murphy called on residents to reign in the New Year with caution.

“This is not the year for a wild New Year's Eve party,” Murphy said during a Trenton press conference Monday. “[Even] Time Square in New York City will be empty."

Following Christmas weekend, the Garden State confirmed 2,745 cases this afternoon (for a total of 463,965) and 21 new deaths (a total of 18,651 deaths with 1,945 considered probable). As of Monday, the positivity rate is 10.98 and the rate of transmission (rT) is 0.96.

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“As we usher in 2021 we have a lot to look forward to the new year. But it must start with our staying focused on the practices that have gotten us through most of 2020,” Murphy continued. “Social distancing, wearing our face masks, washing our hands with soap and water, using common sense meaning if you've been exposed, take yourself off the field. If you don't feel well, take yourself off the field…wait the requisite number of days, get tested. We've got the capacity, go out there and get tested. But make no mistake, better days are ahead. Let's make sure that we make to those days together.”

State health officials reminded those watching that the state’s indoor gathering limit stands at a maximum of 10 people.

The hospital census was updated to the following (officials noted that some hospitals were late to report so figures may change on the state dashboard):

  • 3,684 hospitalizations (202 awaiting confirmed test results)
  • 286 discharges Sunday
  • 396 patients admitted Sunday
  • 73 in-hospital deaths Sunday (require further testing to be added to state’s fatality total)
  • 715 patients in intensive/critical care units
  • 505 patients on ventilators

The New Jersey Department of Human Services will extend childcare assistance programs and will continue to waive co-pays (learn more at www.childcarenj.gov).

The governor addressed the nation’s recently-signed second stimulus package as well.

“An estimated HALF-MILLION New Jerseyans will not be receiving federal unemployment benefits this week because of the President’s delay to sign the stimulus bill,” he said. “I agree that more stimulus was and remains needed, but this was the wrong way to go about it.”

Status of vaccine rollout

The vaccine rollout, somewhat delayed due to failure to meet a filing deadline, is now underway.

New Jersey, a state of roughly 9 million, has been sent over 405,000 vaccines this month, according to State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. Of those, roughly 120,000 have been set aside for long-term care facilities, which have barred a brunt of the virus (over 1,100 outbreaks, more than 7,400 resident/staff deaths and over 47,000 cases).

Hospitals and community sites will be sent 280,000 doses - 220,425 of which have already been delivered with the rest expected to arrive this week.

Persichilli noted that thus far, 46,217 vaccinations have been administered (although those figures don’t include Christmas weekend numbers). Over 44% of the 55,000 Pfizer vaccines sent to hospitals have been administered.

CVS has visits to 277 long-term care facilities set up across the state, scheduled to provide about 80,000 coronavirus vaccines. Walgreens has 15 long-term care facility visits scheduled, with more than 4,000 inoculations on hand.

“Our professional Advisory Committee continues to work through the prioritization of essential workers, which will be the Phase 1-B,” Persichilli said. “They are guarded by several principles. One to maximize benefits and minimize harm. This aligns with the goal of preserving services essential to the COVID-19 response and the overall function of society. Promoting justice, recognizing that those unable to work from home have the highest exposure risk and also recognizes the need to increase access to vaccine and reduce barriers for workers with low vaccine uptake.

And lastly, mitigating health inequities, acknowledging that racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in many essential industries. About 25% of our essential workers live in low income communities.”

Murphy said officials will be virtual Wednesday and return to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday in-person updates Jan. 4, 2021. Watch Monday’s press conference below:

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