New Jersey on Sunday reported another six confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 617 positive tests as the state prepares to lift its public health emergency and school mask mandate.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday he will end the state’s latest coronavirus public health emergency on Monday as New Jersey shifts from pandemic to endemic mode.
Officials said the state and country now have a much better grasp on the illness because of vaccinations, natural immunity, better treatment, and more knowledge of mitigation — though that doesn’t mean the virus has or will disappear completely. Officials said future surges are likely.
“We think we can responsibly live a normal life with COVID, but an endemic means it remains in our midst,” Murphy said Friday during his 257th and final regular COVID-19 briefing.
New Jersey’s seven-day average for confirmed cases was 879 on Sunday, down 17% from a week ago and 67% from a month ago as the recent massive wave driven by the omicron variant has largely receded. Before Thursday, the state’s daily average had not been below 1,000 since early August.
There were 734 patients with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases across 70 of New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Saturday night. Hospital levels have plummeted in recent weeks after peaking at 6,089 on Jan. 10 during the omicron wave.
There were at least 109 people discharged in that same 24-hour period, according to state data. Of those hospitalized, 114 were in intensive care (11 fewer than the night before) and 64 were on ventilators (five fewer).
New Jersey has reported more than 1,878,072 million total confirmed cases out of more than 17.3 million PCR tests conducted in the more than two years since the state reported its first known case March 4, 2020.
The Garden State has also recorded 296,401 positive antigen or rapid tests, which are considered probable cases. And there are countless cases that have likely never been counted.
The state of 9.2 million residents has reported 33,011 COVID-19 deaths in that time — 30,043 confirmed fatalities and 2,968 probable fatalities.
New Jersey has the fourth-most coronavirus deaths per capita in the US — behind Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama — as of the latest data reported Tuesday.
The statewide transmission rate increased to 0.85 Sunday, up from 0.83 Saturday. But any rate below 1 indicates the outbreak is on the decline with each new case, leading to fewer than one additional case. When the rate is 1, that means the outbreak has leveled off at its current numbers.
The statewide daily positivity rate as of Tuesday was 1.97%.
The state on Sunday also reported 115 probable cases from rapid antigen testing at medical sites.
All of New Jersey’s 21 counties are currently listed as having “medium or “low” rates of transmission, according to recently updated guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seven counties — Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem — are at the medium level. The rest are at low.
Healthy people in the low and medium categories are no longer recommended to wear masks.
New Jersey will drop its statewide mask mandate in schools and child care centers on Monday, the same day children and drivers on school buses can also stop wearing masks under updated guidance.
Murphy has largely ended most other mask mandates, though face coverings are still required on mass transit, in health-care settings, and in state government buildings.
At least 9,301 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, to state data.
There were active outbreaks at 355 facilities, resulting in 9,187 current cases among residents and 10,535 cases among staff as of the latest data.
A new strain of COVID-19 — known as BA.2 — has started to spread in small numbers in New Jersey. Officials have said it’s too soon to know how the variant will affect both the state and nation.
For the week ending Feb. 12, the omicron variant accounted for 93% of positive tests sampled, followed by BA.2.
More than 6.77 million of the 8.46 million eligible people who live, work, or study in New Jersey have received the initial course of vaccinations and more than 7.71 million have received a first dose since vaccines began here on Dec. 15, 2020.
More than 3.12 million people in the state eligible for boosters have received one.
Murphy has stressed the state needs to get more residents vaccinated and boosted to continue to keep the virus at bay.
Officials continue to emphasize that while vaccinated and boosted residents can still catch the virus, they are less likely to spread it and far less likely to become hospitalized or die — especially those who have gotten booster shots. That also helps alleviate pressure on hospitals, they say.
The state does not issue daily breakdowns of the vaccine status of those who test positive, are hospitalized, or died because of the virus. Instead, officials release figures for periods of time.
For the four-week span from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19, New Jersey reported 63,339 total COVID-19 cases, leading to 2,136 hospitalizations, and 277 deaths.
Among the 2.29 million residents unvaccinated or who haven’t completed the initial course of vaccination, there were 34,627 cases in that span. Those cases led to 1,153 hospitalizations and 123 deaths.
Among 3.44 million residents having received only an initial vaccine course (one dose for the Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Pfizer or Moderna), there were 17,233 breakthrough cases that led to 592 hospitalizations and 90 deaths.
Among the 3.02 million people who received booster shots on top of their initial vaccine course, there were 11,479 cases breakthrough cases that led to 391 hospitalizations and 64 deaths.
For the week ending Feb. 20, with around 58% of schools reporting data, another 1,894 COVID-19 cases were reported among staff (389) and students (1,505) across New Jersey’s schools.
But Murphy has said the state is seeing “the rates of in-school transmission now down to where they were pre-Omicron.”
Since the start of the academic year, there have been 100,375 students and 27,800 school staff members who have contracted COVID-19 in New Jersey, though the state has never had more than two-thirds of the school districts reporting data in any week.
The state provides total student and staff cases separately from those deemed to be in-school transmission, which is narrowly defined as three or more linked cases through contact tracing.
New Jersey has reported 511 total in-school outbreaks including 3,469 students and staff.
As of Sunday, there have been 445 million COVID-19 cases reported across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 5.99 million people having died due to the virus.
The US has reported the most cases (more than 79.2 million) and deaths (more than 958,446) of any nation.
There have been more than 10.5 billion vaccine doses administered globally.
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Steven Rodas may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @stevenrodasnj.