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Monday, July 15, 2024

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NJ Infection Rate Leads to COVID Act Now Downgrade

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By Vince Conti

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – The non-profit COVID Act Now brings together technologists, epidemiologists, health experts, and public policy leaders to categorize and rate the management of COVID-19 response in all 50 states.
Using data from several vetted sources, the COVID Act Now four-color system, rating COVID management and response, has been widely used as a measure of how well state and local governments compare against the challenge of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks.
New Jersey joined the coveted ranks of “green” states, in June, after weeks as an epicenter of the pandemic. Gov. Phil Murphy made that status a recurring item at his daily COVID-19 briefings. Then, the state experienced a downgrade.
In the four-category rating system used by the non-profit, green connotes a state that is “on track to contain” the virus. A week ago, the real-time modeling and metric used by COVID Act Now said the state’s infection rate increased past the threshold for green and moved into yellow territory.
Yellow is the color used to denote something that “does not meet standards for containment.” It means the disease is still spreading in a slow and controlled manner. Staying green required a negative growth rate, which the state could no longer demonstrate.
The other two rating categories are orange, where the state is at risk of devolving into an active outbreak, and red, where the data indicate the virus is spreading rapidly.
Red is reserved for the most severe situations.
The COVID Act Now map showed four green states, 15 yellow states, 25 orange states, and six red states.
The rating system measures states against four variables the model considers key in assessing a state’s status for responding to the virus. They are:
* Infection rate – The rate of transmission for each new infection must be kept below one. For green status, it must be at or lower than 0.9. New Jersey’s R value rose in recent weeks and no longer qualifies for green status.
* Positivity rate – The relationship between the number of positive test results and the total number of tests. This is also used as an indicator of how widespread testing is in a given area. For green status, the rate must be less than 3%, which is the case in New Jersey.
* Intensive Care Unit (ICU) headroom – This measures the unused capacity for intensive care in the hospital system, as a way of rating a state’s ability to handle a new wave of infections. Green status requires that occupied ICU beds represent less than 50% of total capacity.
* Contact tracing – A measure of the state’s ability to trace contacts from an infection point in 48 hours. To earn a green status, a state must have the infrastructure to accomplish this for 90% of new cases.
The model, based on actual experience, assumes that it will take five contact tracers to accomplish the tracking for each new case in the 48 hour timeframe.
Based on the one variable of infection rate, New Jersey fell from its green status and joined 14 other states in the yellow category.
What does it mean? A respected group of health professionals with a model that is well regarded sent a message to New Jersey that the battle isn’t over, the virus isn’t contained. Continued care is needed.
More information is available at www.covidactnow.org.

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