NEW JERSEY — Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday he expects the progress made so far in the state’s vaccine rollout to be given a much-needed push forward by the Joe Biden administration once the President-elect is sworn in on Wednesday.
So far, the state has had to reckon with delays in the arrival of doses from the federal government and thus large segments of the population left waiting for their turn in line.
“We know that there is pent-up demand, that getting an appointment may be proving challenging. However, with the incoming Biden administration taking office tomorrow and a new federal focus on pushing vaccines out at a greater pace, we are hopeful that we'll be able to start ramping up our in state capabilities to meet what we know is a tremendous demand,” Murphy said during a virtual update in Trenton this afternoon.
As of mid-morning, New Jersey has administered 388,160 vaccinations at 130 sites statewide. The governor said more than 100 “are coming online soon” but would not go into detail.
Over 50,000 of the 214,000 vaccine shots committed to long-term care facilities have been administered.
Speaking on how CVS and Walgreens, federal partners entrusted with part of the vaccine efforts, Murphy said, "They're working through their appointments, but they need to punch at a higher rate, especially Walgreens.”
Ten months into the pandemic, he extended the public health emergency for another 30 days - the eleventh time he’s done so.
Over a million people have pre-registered on the state’s vaccine site, officials said.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said residents - who got the first dose but have not received word about a second shot - should contact the state. A hotline has been set up at 855-568-0545 in both English and Spanish, with a call center scheduled for launch next week.
“When more slots open up, we are asking the public to be patient because supply of vaccine is limited. It may be some time before you receive an invitation to make an appointment, even if you are currently eligible,” Persichilli said, a week after the state expanded those who qualified for priority.
“With the expansion of eligibility into more categories, there are now many more people who are eligible to get vaccinated but our vaccine supply is still very limited and will be for some time,” she continued.
At the moment the state is inoculating patients with either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, both of which require two doses. Towards the end of press conference, Murphy said the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine - expected to just require one dose - would be a “game changer.”
As for the latest case figures:
- 3,761 new positive PCR tests
- 572,306 total PCR tests
- 1,039 new positive antigen tests
- 63,395 total antigen tests
- 54 new coronavirus deaths
- 2,091 “probable” deaths
- 18,421 confirmed deaths
The positivity rate is 10.12% and the rate of transmission is 1.11.
In NJ hospitals there are 3,506 patients being treated (219 not yet confirmed to have COVID-19), 643 patients in intensive care and 429 patients on ventilators. On Monday, 240 people were discharged after undergoing treatment, 347 people were admitted for the coronavirus and there were 45 in-hospital deaths believed to be linked to the virus.
At state nursing homes, 90% of patients have been scheduled for a vaccine shot, the same percentage are set to receive shots at intellectual or developmental disability centers and homes in the federal partnership program, 74% of people at residential care facilities are scheduled and 64% of residents at assisted-care facilities.
In December, however, Persichilli said New Jersey received 18% less of the shots they expected.
Late last year, Murphy said the state planned to vaccinated 70% of the adult population (or 4.5 million people).
In the first two weeks of January, NJ received 53,000 Pfizer shots and 53,000 Moderna shots. This morning, Persichilli said she was informed that next week it will get 55,575 Pfizer and 56,100 Moderna shots.
Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, medical advisor for the health department, addressed the latest on the new coronavirus strain.
Although it’s one of many variants, the mutation - first discovered in the U.K. - is notable for being more transmissible.
“It's now been reported in at least 20 states in the country but less than 100 cases as of last week…reported by the CDC,” said Bresnitz, noting that Delaware has at least one confirmed case. “So it's just a matter of time before New Jersey will report a case. We send samples down to the CDC on a regular basis for testing and our own laboratory is actually developing its own capabilities for doing that testing as well.”
“As the governor mentioned, there's no evidence to date that it causes more severe disease, but because it's more easily transmissible we can expect that it will have an impact on the incidence of disease,” he added.
Bresnitz said New Jersey, like many other states in the U.S., is now in a race to get as many people vaccinated before the new COVID-19 mutation becomes the dominant one.