Murphy on COVID risk: Please do ‘not go big for Christmas’

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Gov. Phil Murphy visited a mobile vaccination clinic for health workers in Toms River last week. PHOTO BY MARK R. SULLIVAN

TRENTON — Hours before Christmas Eve, Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials urged residents to “not go big for Christmas,” warning of a post-holiday spike similar to what was seen after Thanksgiving.

Despite Thanksgiving being “better than we feared,” according to the governor, there was still a blow back with a spike in new cases and numbers of individuals hospitalized with the virus.

“I wouldn’t say make or break, but this is a big weekend we are pulling into,” Gov. Phil Murphy said about the coming holiday weekend. “The extent to which we handle this and do the right things dictates a lot of whether or not this gets in the neighborhood of a plateau or another jolt upward.

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Guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Health urged residents to limit travel and instead to stay home and connect with family members virtually.

On Wednesday the state reported an additional 4,919 cases of COVID-19. Since March, the state has recorded 445,138 cases of COVID-19. The rate of transmission, or the average number of persons infected with the coronavirus that infected another, was recorded on Dec. 21 as .97.

Hospitalizations, as of Dec. 22, were 3,841, the highest amount of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 since May 13. Of the total 765 are in intensive care and 485 are on a ventilator.

An additional 103 individuals were reported to have died of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total to 16,521. It is the first time the state has experienced back-to-back days of triple-digit deaths since May. Probable deaths since March is estimated to be 1,945.

27,730 health care workers have received their first vaccine dosage. This week, the state received a total of 208,000 vaccine doses from both Pfizer and Moderna, health care workers. Overall, the state expects to receive a total of 405,825 vaccine doses from both companies.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health Commission Judith Persichilli announced that an agreement with Rite Aid to provide vaccination to home care and hospice staff. The company will provide end to end management of the process and mobile clinics to treat staff.

On Monday group 1B – made up of nursing homes and long-term care staff and residents- will be able to get vaccinated. Starting next week, the state is expecting to provide 112,000 doses of Pfizer to this group over the next. Around 90 nursing homes are scheduled for vaccination clinics next week.

After nursing home residents and staff, the next group to get the vaccine will be assisted living facilities, federal housing facilities for seniors and other long-term residential facilities. The state is expecting to allocate 500,000 vaccine doses to cover that group.

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