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County’s Covid Cases Continue to Climb

Monthly Covid Summary 8-27.jpg

By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – Cape May County entered summer 2021 with a feeling that the pandemic was starting to ebb. As of Memorial Day, the county could boast 54% of its total resident population fully vaccinated.  

The number of new cases per day dropped to five, a decrease of 70% over the previous month. Long-term care facilities were free of Covid, while the county’s resident population had 53 active cases, led by Wildwood, with 15. 

That emerging sense of security was upset by a new variant of the Covid virus, B.1.617.2, later named delta. The variant was first seen in India in late fall 2020. It moved on to Western Europe, upsetting Great Britain’s reopening plans.  

The variant surfaced in the U.S. as summer began and was declared a variant of concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) June 15.  

In a short time, it became the dominant variant in the nation, proving itself significantly more transmissible than the Kent or alpha variants that preceded it. 

August and Delta  

As Cape May County entered August, the delta variant caused a spike in Covid cases. Over 10% of cases the county reported since the start of the pandemic occurred in August. Delta was at work before Aug. 1. 

The county recorded 167 active cases in its July 30 Department of Health report. By the Aug. 27 report, the county had 550 active cases, a growth of 230%. The total of new cases among county residents this past month was 1,173, or an average of 42 new cases per day. Each week of the month had higher numbers than before. 

This has been a particularly difficult month for some of the county’s municipalities. Middle Township moved from 33 active cases going into the month to 119 at the end. The municipality saw 289 new cases in the month. Lower Township saw 253 new cases in August, Wildwood, 129, and Upper Township, 120.   

The virus has a greater opportunity with larger populations, but it has also shown itself to be the most highly transmissible where the vaccination rate is lower.  

Upper Township had twice the number of new cases in August, when compared with neighboring Ocean City (50). Their resident populations are similar. One significant difference is the vaccination rate, which, according to the state dashboard, was 58% for Upper Township’s population going into the month of August and 70% for Ocean City. 

Hospitalizations 

With more cases, the impact on the health care system has not been as severe as it might have been. There is, however, steady growth in hospitalizations.  

The county’s Aug. 6 report cited 11 Covid hospitalizations. Cape Regional Medical Center (CRMS) Aug. 21 imposed a no-visitor policy because of the high rate of community spread of the virus. That day, CRMC reported 16 Covid patients.  

The number grew Aug. 28 to 24, with five of those requiring intensive care. The age range of the patients was 31 to 88. This is not the same level of burden that some health care facilities are experiencing in other parts of the nation, but it’s growing each week. 

Eleven of the 24 patients at CRMC were vaccinated. While medical professionals say hospitalization is a less likely occurrence for the vaccinated, it can occur in some cases. 

Fatalities, at less than the rate experienced early in the pandemic, increased in August, when Covid claimed seven county residents’ lives. The age range was 61 to 92, with an average age of 72. By comparison, the county recorded two Covid-related deaths from Memorial Day to Aug. 1. 

Start of School 

The new developments are occurring against the backdrop of the imminent reopening of schools 

Children are still considered at lower risk of serious infection. Most experts put the value of returning to full, in-person instruction higher than the risks associated with the virus. One study, by McKinsey and Company, says students fell behind by five months in mathematics and four months in reading during the 2020-2021 school year. 

Health officials admit they are still learning about delta’s impact on infections in those 17 and younger. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ weekly Covid report states pediatric cases climbed by over 7% in the last two weeks.  

Data, as of Aug. 19, showed children represented 22% of all cases in the previous week. That compares with a cumulative percentage of 14.6% for the pandemic period. Less than 2% of all child Covid cases result in hospitalizations, but the rate has recently varied, from 1.6% to 3.6%. As of Aug. 28, Cape May County had no pediatric Covid hospitalizations. 

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

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