COVID-19 Update — March 2022

By: Matt McGovern (LINCS COVID-19 Epidemiologist/Data Manager) 

The COVID-19 omicron wave is steadily waning, as cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths continue to decline and stabilize. According to the most recent COVID-19 Variant Surveillance Report on February 19th, the original omicron variant (B.1.1.529) is still responsible for the vast majority of cases being sequenced for variants (93.8%), meanwhile, the subvariant of omicron called BA.2, but better known as stealth omicron, is at 5.9% of cases being sequenced. The 7-day total of cases in the state of New Jersey is 910, which is 16% less than last week, and 64% less than a month ago. In addition, the statewide transmission rate was 0.85, as of Monday, 3/7/22. Thus, the rate of transmission signifies that each new case is leading to fewer than 1 additional case.

It is also important to note that the CDC is pivoting from looking at transmission levels as the only indicator that demonstrates how communities are doing with COVID-19. While transmission levels are still important, they primarily were utilized as a protocol (began in September 2020) before vaccines were available and as a result emphasized new cases per 100,000 and positive test results for the past 7-days in each county and state. A new guidance tool called community levels will be the primary focus when looking at COVID-19 levels due in large part to the vaccination coverage in most areas throughout the country. Most importantly, the community levels tool accentuates reducing medically significant illness and minimizing strain on the healthcare system. The CDC will measure these levels by analyzing a) new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, b) the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and c) total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.

The statewide mask mandate in schools and daycares ended Monday, March 7th. Now school districts and day care facilities will have the option to create their own COVID-19 guidelines and stipulations based on the diverse settings of schools and daycares (classes, recess/lunch, extracurricular activities, busing, etc.). Also, the Governor has ended the public health emergency, but certain guidance pertaining to health care systems will continue such as vaccination requirements. Another noteworthy update comes from Pfizer. They decided to postpone their request for the FDA to authorize their COVID-19 vaccine for those 6 months old – 4 years old, stating that they want to receive more data on the effectiveness of a booster dose. More information on vaccines for 4-year old’s and younger should be coming some time in April. 

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