March 24, 2021

COVID Numbers Rise; More Vaccine Doses On the Way Soon

By Donald Gilpin

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in New Jersey, which is leading the country in new positive tests. But along with fears of yet another wave, there are high hopes of a dramatic increase in vaccine doses coming next month.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has described the current situation as “a balancing moment,” and “a foot race.” According to Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser, “The results will be based on people’s behavior,” and, along with continuing attention to masking and social distancing, he recommends “thinking long and hard about any travel plans unless you have been vaccinated.”

The Princeton Health Department on Monday, March 22, reported eight new cases in Princeton in the previous seven days and 16 cases in the previous 14 days, well below the totals at their peak in December. “We’re still seeing consistently one or two cases per day,” said Grosser. “We want to get that lower. We’re seeing random spread within households.”

Grosser noted that Princeton is not facing spikes at this point like those in some other parts of the country, but he added that spring break is still ahead for most of New Jersey and that Princeton’s statistics often lag behind those of north and central New Jersey, where there have been recent outbreaks.

Grosser expressed optimism about accelerating vaccine distributions. “We’re expecting a mass increase in vaccine doses in April,” he said. “It sounds like help is on the way. The vaccines will be available. It may depend on where the state distributes them, but most people should be vaccinated by the end of April.”

Murphy, in his March 23 news conference, reported 3,429 confirmed COVID-19 positive tests and 27 additional confirmed COVID-related deaths. There were 2,066 COVID patients in New Jersey hospitals on March 22, the first time since February that number has been over 2,000.

Noting that New Jersey leads the nation in new cases, Murphy warned, “We still have work to do together.” He added that most likely no additional restrictions would be lifted in the near future. On March 19 the state increased capacity limits to 50 percent for restaurants, gyms and health clubs, recreational facilities, and personal care businesses. 

The seven-day average for new confirmed cases, reported on March 23, was up 11 percent from a week ago and 29 percent from a month ago. The state’s rate of transmission remained at 1.09 on Tuesday, with any number over 1 indicating that the outbreak is growing.

As of Tuesday morning, 1,259,736 New Jersey residents, about 18 percent of adults, had been fully vaccinated, with a total of 3,560,502 doses administered, according to the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH).  The state’s goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of New Jersey adults, about 4.7 million people, by the end of May. About 500,000 doses were administered last week, Murphy reported.

Vaccine demand still outpaces supply in New Jersey, officials reported, but, as Grosser said, New Jersey’s allotment from the federal government is expected to increase significantly by the beginning of April.