New Jersey health officials on Sunday reported another 4,613 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 17 additional deaths as predictive models from the state suggest we’ve hit the peak of the second wave of the pandemic.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the latest figures on social media.
The scenarios show there could be 5,467 new cases and 3,796 people hospitalized as of Sunday under a moderate prediction (there were 3,186 people hospitalized as of Saturday). But as many as 6,833 new positive tests and 4,745 hospitalizations could also play out on the same day under the worst-case scenario.
The moderate model shows a steeper decline in cases and hospitalizations over the coming months with the potential for around 500 new cases a day and about 375 people being treated in hospitals by the end of June.
Under the worst-case modeling scenario, however, the decline in cases and hospitalizations would be much slower. That model forecasts the state could still have 4,706 daily cases and 3,268 patients hospitalized by the end of June. Both forecasts predict a bump in cases and hospitalizations in the coming days.
Much could depend on how quickly New Jersey receives and distributes vaccine doses.
Murphy has said he wants to have 70% of the state’s eligible population — nearly 5 million people — vaccinated by May.
Health officials, meanwhile, announced Friday the first two cases of the highly-contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. have been discovered in the Garden State.
Scientists have said the mutation is up to 70% more contagious. But there is no evidence yet it is more deadly or more resistant to vaccines. New Jersey joins at least 20 states where the strain has been confirmed. The first case identified is from an Ocean County man in his 60s and the other is a child who was traveling to northern New Jersey.
The pandemic has killed at least 20,951 people in the state since the first COVID-19 death in March.
Deaths from the coronavirus in New Jersey surpassed what is typically recorded for heart disease and cancer, the two leading killers year after year. On Dec. 31, the state’s official coronavirus toll reached 19,042 confirmed and probable deaths in a pandemic that devastated during the spring, then exploded again in the fall and winter in a second wave that is still roiling.
That exceeded the usual annual deaths produced by cancer, which killed nearly 16,200 people a year from 2014 to 2019, according to Department of Health data. It also exceeded that of heart disease, which claimed more than 18,650 lives on average over those six years.
The rate of transmission of the virus, meanwhile, was 0.97 on Sunday. Any number over 1 indicates the outbreak is expanding.
The number of vaccine doses administered has pushed past 500,000, according to the state’s dashboard tracking vaccinations, which showed 524,865 as of Sunday afternoon. Of those, 459,635 were the first of two doses people will receive.
New Jersey has received 989,900 doses from the federal government, according to a running tally from the CDC.
The state hit a high of 31,859 doses administered in a single day Jan. 20, based on the most current data.
All six of the coronavirus vaccine mega-sites have opened throughout New Jersey to serve as vaccination hubs.
New Jersey has faced criticism for having a slower rollout than dozens of other states as it continues to deal with a second wave of the pandemic, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state has been doling out doses in phases. And even though officials last week greatly expanded vaccine eligibility, demand remains greater than supply, and residents are scrambling for scarce appointments. More than 4 million New Jersey residents are now eligible.
Murphy on Saturday said the federal government has not provided additional doses that were promised.
The 3,186 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases across New Jersey’s hospitals as of Saturday night included 590 in critical or intensive care (18 fewer than the previous night), with 376 on ventilators (53 fewer).
There were 74 fewer people hospitalized Saturday compared to the previous night.
There were also 397 COVID-19 patients discharged Saturday, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The governor has said any hospitalizations over 5,000 patients would likely trigger new rounds of restrictions. But the number of people being hospitalized has mostly ticked down slowly in recent days after hitting a more than seven-month high of 3,873 people on Dec. 22.
That’s an increase of 10 districts and 40 cases from the previous weekly report. There are now confirmed in-school outbreaks in all 21 counties, though the state does not identify the individual school districts.
Bergen County has the most outbreaks (26) and cases (115). The county also has the most confirmed cases overall with 55,349 as of 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.
New Jersey 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.
Broken down by age, those 30 to 49 years old make up the largest percentage of New Jersey residents who have caught the virus (31.2%), followed by those 50-64 (23.7%), 18-29 (19.3%), 65-79 (11.1%), 5-17 (7.5%), 80 and older (5.4%), and 0-4 (1.6%).
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%), followed by those 65-79 (33%), 50-64 (15.6%), 30-49 (4%), 18-29 (0.4%), 5-17 (0%), and 0-4 (0%).
At least 7,668 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. That number has been rising again at a steeper rate in recent months, with deaths at the state’s nursing homes nearly tripling in December.
There are currently active outbreaks at 431 facilities, resulting in 7,054 active cases among residents and 7,619 among staffers.
As of Sunday morning, there were more than 98.86 million positive COVID-19 tests across the world, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 2.12 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The U.S. has reported the most cases, at more than 25 million, and the most deaths, at more than 417,500.
NJ Advance Media Staff Writer Riley Yates contributed to this report.
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