COVID-19: As numbers slow, mysterious disease surfaces in children
COURTESY RICH HUNDLEY
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli said that 17 children in New Jersey are being investigated by the New Jersey Department of Health for pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, also known as Kawasaki disease.
At least four of the 17 children — including one in Essex — have tested positive for COVID-19. The children range from ages 2-18 and are cases have been found in nine counties: Bergen, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Union and Warren.
The department has not established a clear link to COVID-19 among these patients, she said.
Kawasaki disease is a fever-causing illness in children whose cause is unknown. Symptoms to look for include: fever, irritability, sluggishness, abdominal pain, rash, conjunctivitis, swollen glands, hands or feet, diarrhea, vomiting, red cracked lip and red tongue.
“You'll hear it called Kawasaki. You've heard toxic shock syndrome. More commonly now you're hearing pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. These are all different names for the same thing that we're kind of learning about,” said Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the medical director of the Department of Health’s Communicable Disease Service. “I do want to make one thing clear because I actually had this question come in. Kawasaki syndrome is a rare, serious illness that involves the pediatric population. Coxsackievirus is a very common infection of younger children that causes what's known as hand, foot and mouth disease. So I don't want people out there, parents out there to get concerned, ‘Oh, my child had Coxsackie.’ Coxsackie is very different from Kawasaki, even though they sound somewhat similar.”
Kawasaki disease occurs mostly in infants and children under 5 years of age. It is more common in boys than in girls. There is no specific test for Kawasaki disease; the diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms.
Persichilli advised parents of children with any of the symptoms to call their health care provider.
“It is treatable, so get to your practitioner early,” said Persichilli.
“There will be more reporting on that as the CDC identifies a case definition and we finish our case investigations,” she said.
BEACHES TO OPEN
Beaches and lakes throughout the state will open by Memorial Day, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at the state’s COVID-19 briefing Thursday, May 14. A dry run will take place this weekend at Sea Isle, Ocean City and Strathmere beaches.
“Our job has always been to bring as many as we can to [the Jersey Shore]. Now we have to practice capacity management,” said Leonard Desiderio, a Cape May County Freeholder.
Six-foot social distancing will be enforced between families or couples, swimming will be allowed but contact sports will be prohibited. Capacity limits will be enforced through limiting beach tag sales. No gatherings -- including summer camps, fireworks or concerts -- will be allowed.
Boardwalks will be open. Restaurants can offer pick up service, but rides and arcades will remain closed. Showers, restrooms and changing rooms will be open and sanitized frequently.
Although not mandatory, face masks should be worn, said Murphy, “like when you are waiting in line for a slice of boardwalk pizza,” he said.
Bathrooms will also begin opening this weekend at state parks.
Rob Asaro-Angelo, commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said that as of today nearly 800,000 New Jerseyans are receiving $2.7 billion in unemployment benefits. Another 139,000 will become eligible this week.
Some of the hold-ups that have affected all claims are the more than 200,000 employees who were self-employed or independent contractors, or who have very little salary history. The salary history of these claims has to be verified by law.
The certification process locked out 40,000 this week alone, he said. Although problematic, the certification process can not be eliminated according to federal law, he said. The department plans to move through 82,000 applications that were marked for errors and will investigate at later a date.
On Thursday, state officials announced 1,216 new COVID-19 positives, increasing from the 1,028 announced on Wednesday and the 898 on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 142,704.
The death toll increased by 244, up from the 197 announced yesterday and the 198 reported on Tuesday. The number of deaths in New Jersey now numbers 9,946, of which more than half were from long-term care facilities.
Essex County long-term care facilities have seen 526 deaths, which equates to more than a third of all county deaths related to the virus.
At 10 p.m. Wednesday, the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 was 3,958, down from 4,226 reported the night before. Fewer patients were in critical care, at 1,157, and 898 patients were on ventilators, 100 fewer than the previous night. Hospitalization are down 49 precent since the peak a month ago.
Hospital admission was also down at 171, markedly lower than previous night’s 364. Patients discharged numbered 366.
Thursday morning, Essex County officials reported 68 new positive cases bringing the total to 15,973. With 18 new deaths, there are 1,500 county residents who have died due to complications with the virus. Yesterday, officials reported 71 new cases and 34 new deaths.
On Thursday, Montclair health officials reported the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from 392 to 393; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 47.
Of the 451,696 tests administered so far in New Jersey, the positivity rate is now down to 22 percent. The positive rate had been 40 percent as recently as May 4; testing of asymptomatic residents began on Sunday, May 10.