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County’s Calm Amid Expanding Pandemic

Herald 9.30.20 pg3.jpg

By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – Cape May County’s new COVID-19 case numbers continue to decrease from higher levels reached after Labor Day weekend.  

In the week ending Sept. 7, the county reported 70 new cases, its highest total since early June. The week ending Sept. 21 saw that seven-day total drop to 59. 

This past week, county Health Department reports show the number of confirmed new cases at 43. The total number of active cases, individuals in quarantine, or receiving medical treatment remains fewer than 100, including the 43 from the past week. In contrast, over 85% of all confirmed resident cases of COVID-19 since March were removed from quarantine. 

Two deaths were reported this week. They were both men, a 71-year-old, from Lower Township, and a 73-year-old, from Sea Isle City. 

Both were also community fatalities not linked to any long-term care facility. 

As national health experts warn that the nation is not in a good place regarding the pandemic, Cape May County continues to be a calm spot in a roiling sea. 

 Eighty miles up the Garden State Parkway, the state deployed a “hot spot team” to Ocean County. In six days, New Jersey saw a spike of 3,360 new cases with 28% of those coming from Ocean County.  

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli reported Sept. 28 that the state had 561 new confirmed cases with 242, or 43% of the total, coming from that county.   

The positivity rate, a measure of the ratio of positive test results in a given period’s total test results, in the central portion of the state, the home to Ocean and Monmouth counties, is at 3.70%.  

In the state, as a whole, the rate is 2.48%, with the northern counties reporting 1.62%. In the southern counties, it stands at 2.58%. 

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 infection remain low, at 421, with 91 patients in intensive care and 39 on ventilators. 

Nationally, 35 states and territories have health metrics that placed them on New Jersey’s travel advisory, a list from which travelers entering New Jersey are expected to quarantine for a proscribed period.  

With rising case counts in several states, Sept. 27 saw 37,000 new confirmed cases nationally, with the national case total up 23% in 14 days. 

Federal health officials warn that, in over 20 states, rising cases per capita may be signaling new outbreaks this fall which could overwhelm medical facilities. 

Amid statewide case growth, it is easy to feel relatively comfortable in Cape May County. Local health officials continue to warn that we can’t afford to let down our guard. 

Gov. Phil Murphy announced that federal officials are sending the state 2.6 million BinaxNOW quick response tests, calling it a potential game-changer. The tests, developed by Abbott Labs, promise a reliable coronavirus result in 15 minutes. 

Murphy said the test would be a valuable weapon in combating spread in hot spots, like Ocean County. He also sees it as a “big weapon” in school testing. 

Persichilli reported on the results of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysiswhich showed New Jersey with 14.7% of the population showing antigens for COVID-19. Only New York was higher.  

She warned that this number is far below the levels that would provide “community protection,” a term Persichilli likes better than “herd immunity.”  

The point she made was that whatever one chooses to call it, antigen levels are way too low to rely on them as an effective means of curbing the spread of the virus. 

This week, Murphy formally extended the health emergency 30 days, keeping the executive orders that the declared emergency permits in place. 

The county appears to be entering fall with an unusually low COVID-19 profile amid rising worries elsewhere in the state and nation. 

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com. 

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