COVID-19: Don’t put family at risk over holidays, officials urge
By ERIN ROLL
With the Thanksgiving holiday now only three days away, Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli continue to urge New Jersey residents to use caution when gathering around the table.
COVID-19 cases continue to reach high numbers in the state as the holiday approaches. On Saturday, Nov. 21, New Jersey saw its highest number of daily cases — 4,679 — to date.
Residents are being urged to confine Thanksgiving celebrations to immediate family only, and to take measures such as having a celebration outdoors if feasible, or indoors with ample ventilation if not. Party hosts are also urged to have supplies such as masks, hand sanitizer and single-use towels on hand for guests.
Persichilli said 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases are being seen in adults aged 65 and over. But the highest positivity rate, she said, is among younger adults, aged 19 to 49. What that means, is that younger people are potentially putting older relatives and neighbors at risk. Murphy agreed that concerns are raised during a holiday that usually sees multigenerational families getting together.
Ed Lifshitz, the communicable disease services director, said that the incubation period for COVID-19 can last for up to 14 days, so officials will be watching closely the next two weeks following the holiday.
“We know this is not what you’re used to, nor what any of us want to do,” Murphy said. “It’s been a long nine months for sure, but we have to hold on a few months more.”
New Jersey hopes to start receiving its first 460,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine next month, starting with a shipment of 130,000 doses from Pfizer in mid-December.
AstraZeneca is the third vaccine company, after Pfizer and Moderna, to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
Persichilli said the goal is to get 70 percent of New Jersey’s adult population — between 4.7 and 4.8 million adults — vaccinated over a six-month period once vaccines begin to arrive. She said the Department of Health is preparing a public awareness campaign to encourage people to receive the vaccine once it becomes available to the general public. Health care workers will be given priority for the first shipment of vaccines, and the Department of Health has been working on a prioritization plan for the vaccine since March, she said.
For New Jersey health officials, however, there are concerns that the ongoing delay in starting the presidential transition process at the federal level will result in a break in the vaccine supply process, thus putting more lives at risk.
Murphy said he and Persichilli had sent a letter to General Services Administration administrator Emily Murphy, urging her office to start the transition process.
Murphy urged residents to reach out to the NJ Mental Health Cares helpline if they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Residents may call 1-866-202-HELP or text NJHOPE to 51684.
“We know that the holidays can be stressful. This year, even more so,” Murphy said.
Today, Nov. 23, health officials reported 3,592 new cases, down from 3,998 reported yesterday. The total number of cases in New Jersey is now 309,588. Officials also reported 11 new deaths, compared to 15 new confirmed deaths on Nov. 22. The total now stands at 14,960, with another 1,812 deaths classified as probable COVID-19 deaths. Hospitals reported another 21 deaths last night.
The rate of transmission currently stands at 1.32, and the positivity rate now stands at 8.65 percent, compared to 7.98 percent and 1.40 on Friday, Nov. 20.
Hospitals reported 2,693 patients, including 537 critical care patients and 240 ventilators in use, last night, compared to 2,595 patients, 475 critical care patients and 239 ventilators on Nov. 21.
Essex County reported 363 new cases on Nov. 23, compared to 338 on Nov. 22. The total number of cases now stands at 33,110, The county did not report any new deaths on Nov. 23, compared to three on Nov. 22, bringing the total to 1,973.
Montclair health officials reported 11 new cases, compared to nine on Nov. 21. The total number of cases now stands at 913, and the number of deaths remains at 57.