BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Cases are seeing an uptick, especially in Central Jersey, and so is the number of residents filing for unemployment.
Daily new COVID-19 cases have gone from 396 on Monday to 430 on Wednesday to 588 on Thursday to 612 today, officials announced at the Friday, Sept. 25, briefing.
Last week, the state saw an increase of 5,000 new unemployment applications over the week before, up to 24,663. To date, 1.4 million New Jerseyans have filed claims, with 96 percent receiving at least one payment, Gov. Phil Murphy said. Residents have received a total of $15.65 billion in unemployment benefits to date.
Murphy also announced that FEMA funds would cover an additional $300 a week for up to six weeks for each recipient of unemployment. Residents should expect to receive these funds in one lump sum next month, he said.
MOTOR VEHICLE AGENCY
Murphy reminded residents that they do not have to visit an agency in person to renew driver licenses in most cases. Photos are now valid for 10 years, and licenses can be renewed online even if a notice was attached. He said that the notices were preprinted prior to extending the life of photos.
“Try to renew online first, save that spot for someone who has no other choice than visit an agency,” he said.
Special hours have been set aside for seniors, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-4 p.m.
The state now has 1,873 contract tracers. More residents — about two-thirds — are picking up the phone when called. But the state has only seen a 2-percent increase in the number of people cooperating with tracers. Forty-two percent are refusing to give tracers information about whom they were in contact with.
State health officials reported large increases in COVID daily cases in Ocean, Gloucester, Monmouth and Middlesex counties. Since Monday, Ocean has seen an increase of 439 new cases, Monmouth 248, Middlesex 224 and Gloucester 130. Most of the cases are among 18- to 29-year-olds, said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
“We are tracking 150 cases a day in Ocean, with half of those in Lakewood,” she said. The state has increased testing sites and has deployed more contact tracers to that county.
In Monmouth County, house gatherings and business operations are contributing to the increase in cases. In Gloucester, Rowan University student housing, both on-campus and off, has seen a surge in numbers, she said.
While the state’s overall positivity rate is 2.2 percent, Central Jersey is now up to 3.07 percent, and South Jersey is at 2.37 percent.
MURPHY SITS DOWN WITH FAUCI
Yesterday, in a Zoom meeting with Murphy, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said that New Jersey is in “good shape” in relation to the virus and heading into the colder months. He said that the FDA should have a decision on whether a vaccine is safe to distribute perhaps as early as November.
By early 2021, 700 million doses of the vaccine will be produced, Fauci said. How the vaccine will be distributed and to whom will play out through the rest of next year, but it could be widely available by the end of 2021.
He warned, however, that containment of the virus will depend on how many Americans get inoculated and the overall effectiveness of the vaccine.
Murphy said the new normal of face-masking, hand-washing, social-distancing and no hand-shaking will most likely stay in place.
“The vaccine is a huge weapon, but a weapon in a broader fight,” he said.
With the 612 new daily COVID tests reported today, the state total to date is at 202,100.
Eighty-eight were removed due to duplication, or out-of-state residency.
The positivity rate continues to climb, from 1.93 percent reported on Wednesday to 2.2 percent today, from tests conducted on Sept. 21. The virus transmission rate remains at 1.15, up from the 1.12 reported on Monday.
Officials reported seven new deaths — the same as on Wednesday— while hospitals reported 10 overnight. The state death toll is now at 14,306. The number of deaths probably due to COVID-19 remains at 1,791.
Hospitals reported 405 new patients last night with COVID-related illnesses. Of those, 75 were in ICUs and 32 on ventilators. On Tuesday evening hospitals reported 459 COVID-related patients, with 90 in critical care and 31 on ventilators.
Essex County health officials reported 26 new COVID cases, up from the 24 reported on Wednesday, bringing the total to 20,918. The number of deaths increased by one, now totaling 1,900.
Since Sunday, Sept. 20, Montclair health officials reported 13 new cases — four today — with the total now at 562. No new deaths were reported; the death toll remains at 57.