New Jersey on Saturday reported five COVID-19 deaths and 4,327 new confirmed positive tests as the so-called “stealth” omicron sub-variant continues to spread.
The update from the state Department of Health comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated nine counties in the state to “high” transmission risk for the first time since the CDC changed how it evaluates risk in February.
Those in high risk areas are recommended to wear a mask indoors in public and on public transportation and stay up to date on vaccination, according to the CDC. The counties ranked as “high” risk include Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Gloucester, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean and Sussex.
Eleven counties are in the medium risk category: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union, and Warren. Masks are not recommended in the medium and low regions.
New Jersey’s seven-day average for confirmed cases increased to 3,608 on Saturday, up 41% from a week ago, and up 137% from a month ago.
Hospitalizations, which typically lag about two weeks behind case trends, have also been up this month compared to the last, though the number decreased slightly from Thursday to Friday.
There were 708 patients with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases across the state’s 71 hospitals as of Friday night, a decrease of 19 patients from the previous night. Hospitalizations still remain significantly lower than when they peaked at 6,089 on Jan. 10 during the omicron wave.
There were at least 159 people discharged in that same 24-hour period ending Friday night, according to state data. Of those hospitalized, 96 were in intensive care (2 more than the previous night) and 45 were on ventilators (4 more than the night before).
New Jersey’s statewide transmission rate was 1.23 Saturday. When the transmission rate is over 1, that means each new case is leading to at least one additional case and the outbreak is expanding.
The positivity rate for tests conducted on Monday, the most recent day with available data, was 10.75%.
The state on Saturday also reported 959 probable cases from rapid antigen testing at medical sites.
The BA.2 strain of COVID-19 has been spreading in New Jersey for weeks, though at much lower rates than the omicron surge in December and January. Officials have said the omicron “stealth” subvariant appears to spread more easily but generally does not cause more severe illness.
For the week ending April 23, BA.2 accounted for 96.7% of the positive tests sampled (slightly up from 96.6% the previous week), while the omicron variant accounted for 1% of positive tests sampled.
New Jersey has reported 1,993,677 total confirmed COVID-19 cases out of more than 17.6 million PCR tests conducted in the more than two years since the state reported its first known case March 4, 2020.
The Garden State has also recorded 324,552 positive antigen or rapid tests, which are considered probable cases. And there are numerous cases that have likely never been counted, including at-home positive tests that are not included in the state’s numbers.
The state of 9.2 million residents has reported 33,543 COVID-19 deaths in that time — 30,491 confirmed fatalities and 3,052 probable.
New Jersey has the eighth-most coronavirus deaths per capita in the U.S. — behind Mississippi, Arizona, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and Arkansas — as of the latest data reported Monday. Last summer, the state still had the most deaths per capita in the country.
The latest numbers follow a major study that reveals even a mild case of COVID-19 can significantly affect the brain. Long COVID — the term commonly used to describe symptoms stemming from the virus long after a person no longer tests positive — has been found to affect between 10% and 30% of those who contract the infection, regardless of whether they have a mild or serious case.
More than 6.88 million of the 8.46 million eligible people who live, work or study in New Jersey have received the initial course of vaccinations and more than 7.79 million have received a first dose since vaccinations began here on Dec. 15, 2020.
More than 3.67 million people in the state eligible for boosters have received one.
SCHOOL AND LONGTERM CARE NUMBERS
For the week ending May 1, with about 59% of schools reporting data, another 4,928 COVID-19 cases were reported among staff (1,312) and students (3,616) across New Jersey’s schools.
Since the start of the academic year, there have been 111,905 students and 32,428 school staff members who have contracted COVID-19 in New Jersey, though the state has never had more than two-thirds of the school districts reporting data in any week.
The state provides total student and staff cases separately from those deemed to be in-school transmission, which is narrowly defined as three or more cases linked through contact tracing.
New Jersey has reported 725 total in-school outbreaks, including 5,063 cases among students and staff. That includes 72 new outbreaks.
At least 9,049 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to state data.
There were active outbreaks at 277 facilities, resulting in 3,062 current cases among residents and 2,816 cases among staff, as of the latest data.
As of Saturday, there have been more than 520 million COVID-19 cases reported across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 6.2 million people having died due to the virus.
The U.S. has reported the most cases (more than 82 million) and deaths (at least 999,519) of any nation.
There have been more than 11 billion vaccine doses administered globally.
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Deion Johnson may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DeionRJohhnson
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