New Jersey

NJ Confirms 2 Cases of UK COVID-19 Variant, More Vaccine Sites Come Online

New Jersey has confirmed its first cases of a highly contagious variant of COVID-19

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What to Know

  • New Jersey's top health official says the state has identified its first two cases of the COVID-19 variant seen in the United Kingdom.
  • Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli says one case involves a man in his 60s from Ocean County whose symptoms have since resolved. She added that he had no history of travel. The second case involved a child who stayed in northern New Jersey and had a history of traveling. The child tested positive in New York earlier this month.
  • Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday the variant is believed to be more transmissible but it’s unclear whether it’s deadlier.

New Jersey has confirmed its first cases of the highly contagious UK variant of the coronavirus as the state looks to ramp up its vaccination program.

On Friday, New Jersey reported two lab confirmed cases of the UK COVID variant B.1.1.7. One was in a child traveler staying in North Jersey who tested positive in New York and the other was in an Ocean County man in his 60s with no travel history or clear exposure, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. The Ocean County man has recovered.

Murphy said Friday that he wasn't surprised by the variant confirmation as they had assumed the new variant, which has been confirmed in neighboring Pennsylvania and other states, was in New Jersey.

Scientists in the U.K. said they believe the variant is more contagious than previously identified strains. The vaccines being given now are thought to be effective against the variant, officials have said.

The Call for More Vaccines as 6 Mega Sites Are Now Open

Starting Friday, New Jersey now has six coronavirus mega vaccination sites open as the state marks at least 500,000 doses of the vaccine being administered.

On Friday, the mega site at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic County opened, bringing the total number of mega vaccination sites in New Jersey to six. The AC site could eventually serve 3,000 to 5,000 people a day, Persichilli said.

During the morning, Gov. Phil Murphy and health officials toured the previously opened COVID-19 vaccine mega site at the former Lord & Taylor store in the Moorestown Mall. The first-term Democrat already toured the site open at Rowan College of South Jersey in Gloucester County.

New Jersey has cleared millions to begin receiving the vaccine. Among them are health care workers, first-responders, those 65 and older and people 16-64 years old with medical conditions (including smoking, which is a risk factor for the virus).

New Jersey has the infrastructure set up to start vaccinating more people against COVID-19 but doesn't have the supply of shots to meet demand, Murphy said Tuesday. The state has been getting about 100,000 doses a week.

“We need the vaccine supplies to ramp up out of Washington," Murphy said at his Friday afternoon news conference.

To date, more than 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given in New Jersey, most as first doses.

Murphy praised the Biden administration's COVID-19 plan and said he hopes to soon see more doses.

"We have built a vaccine infrastructure that can handle this job," Murphy said. "We need the doses. I have complete faith that the Biden Administration will get us to where we need to be."

Murphy on Friday explained that the government is divvying out vaccines in two ways, directly to states and to pharmacy partners like CVS and Walgreens. The pharmacy companies are charged with giving out vaccines to congregant living centers.

Those does aren't included in the 100,000 weekly doses the state is getting, Murphy said. He noted that the state has been far more efficient in using its allotment.

"We’ve been able to get between 50 to 70%, depending on the day, of the vaccines we control into the arms of our residents," Murphy said. "Our pharmacy partners are only distributing around 10%."

He said he is pushing for the doses to be given quicker at long-term care facilities.

"I understand the anxiety of residents who are waiting to be vaccinated," Murphy said. "Frontline workers go to work every day not knowing if they’re going to be exposed. Older residents and those with chronic conditions have been living in isolation for protection. We need the doses for them."

He said he wants people who live and work in New Jersey to get the vaccines and asked people from Pennsylvania to not come over for doses ahead of people in the Garden State.

Coronavirus Cases, Hospitalizations and Deaths

On Friday, another 3,694 PCR test confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported to bring the statewide total of cases to more than 584,000 since the start of the pandemic. More than 66,000 antigen test-confirmed cases have been reported.

Hospitalizations dipped to more than 3,300 as of Thursday night, with more than 600 patients in intensive care.

Murphy noted that daily cases and hospitalizations are trending down in recent days but that they are still too high.

The positivity rate as of Monday was 10.10% and the most recent rate of transmission was 1.04.

Murphy announced another 118 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. At least 18,754 deaths are confirmed with another 2,121 deaths suspected to be related to COVID-19.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Jersey fell slightly over the past two weeks, from 5,403 new cases per day on Jan. 7 to 5,210 new cases per day on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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