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Friday, April 12, 2024

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COVID-19 Update: Growth in New Cases Highest Since May

Herald 10.28.20 pg3.jpg

By Vince Conti

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – For the last several weeks, COVID-19 cases spiked in New Jersey, but Cape May County maintained a moderate increase in new infections. The county may be losing its place of relative calm if this week’s trends continue.
In the week that ended, the county reported 82 new resident COVID-19 cases, the highest one-week total since the end of May. Four of the seven days saw double-digit increases in new cases.
This stands in contrast to recent weeks where a one-day spike in cases was followed by days in which the new case count was low. The county reported 15 new confirmed cases Oct. 24, followed by 13 Oct. 25, and 16 Oct. 26. The retreat to lower numbers didn’t happen this week.
The state is experiencing a surge in cases no longer localized to a few super-spreader events. As Ocean and Monmouth counties are seeing a decline from outbreak levels, the state’s hotspot team is on the move again, but the number of places to go is multiplying. Five counties are reporting over 100 new cases a day, and others are not far behind.
This week, New Jersey confirmed almost 8,800 cases, an average of 1,254 per day. Cape May County’s numbers seem small by comparison, but they are high for the county. They beat any one week set of numbers all summer and into fall.
There is an area where the county diverges from the state. Across much of New Jersey, hospitalizations are rising rapidly. State officials Oct. 26 reported 948 COVID-19 hospitalizations, an 80% increase since Oct. 1.
While the percentage of those patients who require intensive care increased from 18% to 19%, the number of those intensive care unit (ICU) patients who were placed on ventilators grew to over 40%.
In the seven-county southern region designated by the state Health Department, hospitalizations overall are up 40% since Oct. 1.
Cape Regional Medical Center, as of Oct. 23, was treating two COVID-19 patients, one of whom was on a ventilator in the ICU. Throughout the summer and early fall, the county cases vectored to a younger demographic, a population less likely to experience severe complications. Whether that is what is keeping county hospitalizations low is unclear.
The county’s active cases among long-term care facility residents remain low, with a total of four, all reported as new in a Dennis Township facility Oct. 25.
The community count of active cases, including all those reported this week, stands at 117, benefiting from the fact that 32 previously active cases were moved off quarantine. There were no new county fatalities.
State health officials point to a positivity rate of 4.48%, which is slightly lower, at 4.36%, in the southern region. They also note that the transmission rate increased to 1.23, almost a quarter higher than the desired threshold of 1.0 or lower.
These two-benchmark metrics measure the relative number of positive results from a given testing period and the likelihood that a newly infected person will pass the virus onto more than one additional person, enhancing the spread.
Information from contact tracing suggests that the culprits in the increased spread of the disease are private, in-home gatherings. Unlike earlier, when the virus spread from overcrowded bars or large parties, the spread is mostly from careless behavior in private homes. Officials worry that this behavior will only increase as the cooler weather forces more people indoors and the holiday season arrives.
This week, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled details of the state’s plan for the “equitable and workable” distribution of a vaccine when one becomes available. The plan deals with the logistics, prioritization, and public outreach issues involved in achieving the state’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population in six months.
Predicting a limited initial supply with priorities given to front-line health workers, essential workers and the population most vulnerable to severe complications – those over 65 – Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that it will take months to reach 70% state adults, even vaccinating 81,000 people a day. Persichilli reminded the public that some of the vaccines in clinical trials require two doses separated by two to three weeks.
State officials set three major goals for the roll-out of a vaccine or multiple vaccines. The governor stated these goals as providing equitable access to a vaccine, achieving maximum community protection, and building public trust that whatever vaccine the state endorses is safe and reliable.
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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