By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey hit a new all-time high of daily COVID-19 cases over the weekend, with 6,046 new cases reported on Sunday, Dec. 6.
The new case level exceeds the high points of the pandemic’s first wave, which saw approximately 4,800 new cases on several days in April.
With that knowledge, state officials repeated warnings for residents not to get careless during the holiday season, even with relief expected to arrive in the form of the first COVID-19 vaccines.
“Don’t let your hair down. Don’t be the last person who died in the war, or the last person to get infected,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to arrive in New Jersey within the next week, with the first 76,000 vaccines from the first consignment to be distributed to hospitals. Moderna’s vaccine is expected to arrive one week later, pending emergency use authorization.
Ed Lifshitz, the state’s communicable disease services director, said it is believed, though not yet officially determined, that a number of the new cases are related to the Thanksgiving holiday. The holiday period caused a disruption to testing and case monitoring, he said.
Hospital numbers remained steady over the weekend, but are well above 3,000. Even with that figure, Murphy said the numbers are still well removed from the 8,000 people who were in the hospital during the first surge in the spring.
“We were at the edge,” he said, with hospitals almost out of beds, little to no testing capabilities and supplies of personal protective equipment exhausted.
Lifshitz acknowledged that holiday events and traditions are important to families and communities. “Unfortunately, this virus is not going to cooperate, and this year will be a holiday season like no other,” he said.
Outside of his role as a state health official, Lifshitz said the pandemic was difficult for him and his family and community. “I’m really not crazy about wearing a mask,” he admitted. “And I certainly don’t like what this pandemic has done to my children, and their athletic, academic, social and professional lives. And I really don’t like what it’s doing to my neighbors and community, the disruption of family and social life, especially during this holiday season, and the economic pain as the pandemic causes businesses to falter.”
But for families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, the loss is a permanent one, unlike a temporary absence of a family member from a holiday gathering, he said. “This is important, what we do now,” he added.
Health officials reported 3,573 new cases on Monday, Dec. 7, well below the 6,046 new cases reported on Dec. 6. The total number of cases now stands at 371,579. The positivity rate was 11.4 percent, compared to 10.42 percent on Dec. 4, and the rate of transmission was 1.05, compared to 1.08 on Dec. 4.
Officials reported an additional 17 deaths, compared to 16 on Dec. 6. The total number of deaths is at 15,550, and the number of deaths probably due to COVID-19 is at 1,836.
Hospitals reported 3,346 total patients on Dec. 6, including 637 critical-care patients, of whom 391 were on ventilators. By comparison, on the night of Dec. 5, hospitals reported 3,241 patients, including 621 in critical care and 396 ventilators in use.
Essex County health officials reported 321 new cases on Dec. 7, compared to 516 on Dec. 6, bringing the total to 38,535. Officials also reported two new deaths, compared to none on Dec. 6, for a total of 2,029.
Montclair health officials reported seven new cases on Dec. 7, down from 13 on Dec. 6, bringing the total to 1,071. The number of deaths remains at 57.