By: Matt McGovern, MPH, CHES, LINCS COVID-19 Epidemiologist/Data Manager
COVID-19 cases have begun to uptick yet again the past two weeks following a two week decline in cases, which was preceded by weekly increases since mid-March. The 7-day total of cases in the state of New Jersey is 2,258, which is up 8% from one week ago, but down 40% from a month ago. In addition, the statewide transmission rate was 0.99, as of Thursday, 6/30/22. Thus, the rate of transmission signifies that each new case is leading to fewer than one additional case. However, the transmission rate is poised to pass the 1.0 threshold, which would display that each new case is leading to more than one infection and that the current outbreak is expanding. Additionally, Morris County is still in the high level of COVID-19 community levels due to the high new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days (≥200) and the high new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days (≥10). Morris County is the only county in northern NJ to be classified in the high level and is one of four total counties at the highest threshold, joining Monmouth, Atlantic, and Cape May counties. When a county is listed in the high level, masking indoors is recommended for all individuals regardless of vaccination status. Other protective measures in communities, schools, and workplaces are recommended such as universal indoor masking policies, weekly screening testing in congregate settings, physical distancing, and cohorting in daycares, schools, among farm workers and in congregate settings (separating those who test positive or are symptomatic and those who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive/symptomatic individual via isolation and quarantine guidelines in specific settings).
The recent COVID-19 cases in New Jersey can be attributed to the omicron variant, which is still the predominant variant with its subvariants comprising almost all cases. According to the most recent COVID-19 Variant Surveillance Report (week ending June 11, 2022), BA.2.12.1 has become the most common subvariant sequenced in the last 4 weeks (66.4%) overtaking BA.2 (25.3%). BA.4 (2.7%), and BA.5 (5.1%) appear to be on the incline, and 0.1% and 0.4% of sequenced samples over the last 4 weeks are classified as BA.1.1 and Other Lineages of COVID-19, respectively. In the U.S., the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants (considered to be the most contagious subvariants to date) made up about 52% of all new COVID cases for the week ending June 25, 2022. In the coming weeks, it is expected that BA.4 and BA.5 will collectively account for most COVID-19 cases in New Jersey.
Moreover, there were COVID-19 vaccine updates in the last week as well. Pfizer received approval by the FDA to vaccinate those ages 6 months– 4 years with a 3-dose primary series. In addition, Moderna received FDA approval to vaccinate those ages 6 months – 17 years. For Moderna, 6 month – 17-year-old age groups will receive a 2-dose primary series. As a result, those ages 6 months – 4 years old will be better protected from severe COVID-19 illness and those who are 6 – 17 years old will have access to another vaccine to choose from. COVID-19 vaccines are an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19 because they are effective against severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.
- A few locations in Morris County are providing vaccines to children who are 6 months old to 4 years old. This is due in large part to pharmacy technicians only being allowed to vaccinate those who are 3 and older (see DCA Administrative Order No. 2021-02, “Pharmacy technicians shall be authorized to administer childhood vaccines and related emergency medications, which shall be limited to diphenhydramine and epinephrine, to children three through seventeen years of age, and COVID-19 vaccines to patients ages three and older.”)
- Atlantic Health System is now scheduling infant COVID vaccines. Walgreens has select locations that are vaccinating 3 to 4-year-olds with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Zufall Health will be vaccinating 6-month-olds to 4-year-olds, but only for their established patients.
- It is recommended parents contact their child’s pediatrician about obtaining COVID-19 vaccinations for children who are 6 months old to 4 years old.
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