NEW JERSEY — New Jersey officials visited University Hospital in Newark on Monday morning as healthcare workers received their second doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine. A similar effort to inoculate frontline workers throughout the Garden State brings the number to roughly 100,000 inoculations as of this afternoon.
With another 120,000 shots set aside for long-term care facilities and the state expected to have received approximately 400,000 by the end of December 2020, Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli explained the status of the "gap" of 180,000 doses.
“Some of it is reporting. For example, I know that the psych hospitals are behind,” Persichilli said during Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus press briefing in Trenton. “So getting into the system has proven to be logistically part of the problem. But other than that, I think people after the holidays will be lining up. We [also] did get anecdotal information that people did not want to get vaccinated during the holidays."
"Hopefully by the end of this week we'll have much better reporting," she added, with Murphy shortly after stating that he would not be surprised if the figure stood at thousands more.
During the in-person briefing, the first of 2021, Murphy said the state has confirmed a total of 545,155 positive coronavirus tests (counting antigen tests for the first time). The breakdown was as follows: 2,292 new PCR tests (total of 494,317) and 822 new antigen tests (total of 50,838).
There were 38 newly-confirmed deaths, as well as 2,021 considered probable, for a total of 19,244.
The race and ethnicity breakdown was provided: White 54.9%, Black 17.2%, Hispanic 19.8% Asian 5.3% and other 2.8%. Of the total deaths, 47% have been individuals 80 years or older, 33% are those 65 to 79, 16% are people 50 to 64 and 4% are people 30 to 49.
“Currently, almost 80% of our deaths are in those 65 years or older,” Persichilli emphasized during the gathering.
Prior to today, the state only reported lab-confirmed results of molecular tests, which apply a technique called polymerase chain reaction. Persichilli said these tests work by making millions to billions of copies of the viral-related DNA. Even small amounts of the generic material in the simple are detected.
“Thus, the PCR tests are highly sensitive and very specific,” Persichilli explained. “However, since molecular tests are almost always performed in specialized labs, it is relatively a slow process with a longer turnaround time. The antigen test on the other hand is much simpler and can be done in many doctor's offices using a nasal or throat swab. However, it is somewhat less sensitive than the molecular test. There needs to be more virus present before the test will turn positive. But because of its ease of use, antigen tests are available in many settings, some of which are not accustomed to reporting data to the department.”
The positivity rate in New Jersey is 11.22%, the rate of transmission (Rt) is .92. In hospitals, 3,633 people are being treated for COVID-19 (195 awaiting final test results), 664 patients are in intensive care and 476 ventilators are in use. There were 295 discharges Sunday, 395 people admitted for the coronavirus and 60 in-hospital deaths that have yet to be confirmed.
“We must begin the New Year in the same war footing and taking the same precautions as we did the old,” Murphy said during his opening comments. “This remains a fight we must engage in together to save every life. We can to push these numbers down and gain the upper hand against this virus.”
Currently, 77 schools across the state are offering in-person instruction, 348 are using a hybrid model, 339 are using all remote and 47 districts are using a combination of in-person, hybrid and all-remote.
Two of the state’s six vaccine “mega-sites” will open Friday in Morris and Gloucester counties. Each will have capacity to administer 1,000 doses a week for those who will in the 1A population - including frontline healthcare workers and long-term care residents/staff. A timeline for the additional four mega-sites was not given.
Persichilli clarified that the state does not stockpile vaccine doses.
Instead, NJ orders are submitted and then the federal government sends them to the sites directly. She also provided an update on the pharmacy partnership in place through CVS and Walgreens. To date, 69 vaccine clinics have inoculated over 4,200 long-term care residents and more than 3,800 employees. Another 193 facilities are set to receive doses this week and another 615 are on schedule through the end of January.
She also noted that specifically 101,417 inoculations have been provided as of today.
New Jersey officials encouraged residents to visit covid19.nj.gov/vaccine to read answers to frequently-asked vaccine questions, as well as to register for an inoculation once they are available.
Speaking on the prioritization of the doses, Murphy said, “Remember, the one thing we can't let get overrun here are our hospital systems.”
“If you look at our capacities, we feel really good about every capacity except health care workers and the vaccine,” the governor continued, touching on the safety of the shots as well.
He did not discuss the state's previous stated intention to vaccinate 70%, or roughly 4.7 million adults, within six months of the vaccine being widely available.
“The professional advisory committee, as I've shared in the past, meets twice a week they'll be meeting tonight to discuss the 1B categorization and the prioritization," Persichilli said. "As far as the timing of when we move on 1B, we're balancing the number of healthcare workers remaining to be vaccinated based by surveys of people that are telling us that they desire to be vaccinated versus vaccine availability. Those numbers don't match yet. When they get closer, we'll open up 1B probably by segments and start moving in.”
The governor is back to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday in-person virtual conference. Watch Monday’s briefing below: