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first vaccines
COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli speaks at a Dec. 14 press briefing in Trenton.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

After the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine late Friday, Dec. 11, the first vaccinations in New Jersey are to be administered beginning tomorrow, Dec. 15.

Health care workers at University Hospital in Newark will be the first to get vaccinated. 

After health care workers, residents in long-term care facilities are expected to be vaccinated.

Five other hospitals will get the Pfizer vaccine, besides University Hospital: Hackensack University Medical Center, Morristown Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, AtlanticCare in Atlantic City, and Copper Hospital in Camden.

Moderna’s vaccine, which is still awaiting FDA approval, is expected to arrive later this month. 

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said University Hospital and Hackensack University Medical Center are both expected to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and that University Hospital already had theirs on site. 

Because the Moderna vaccine does not require deep-freeze storage, which the Pfizer vaccine does, more hospitals will be able to carry the Moderna vaccine. New Jersey could receive as many as 154,000 vaccines in Moderna’s first shipment. 

The Department of Health anticipates that the second COVID wave could peak in mid-January or early February. 

Murphy said the state cannot afford to have its hospitals overrun, which would then lead to more stress on the healthcare system. Furthermore, unlike the first wave, in which the tri-state area was badly affected while much of the country was not, New Jersey will not be able to call upon out-of-state doctors to come help. “We’re running at the bone,” he said. 

Persichilli urged residents to continue wearing masks and washing hands. “And bask in the joy that you are doing your part to save lives in the state of New Jersey,” she said. 

Murphy said officials hope for an overlapping vaccine schedule: as the first group receives their second dose, a second group receives their first dose. It is likely that April and May will be the time period in which the vaccine will be offered to the general public. 

But even with the vaccine now arriving in New Jersey, Murphy reiterated that the pandemic is far from over. “These numbers will not magically return to zero because we are about to provide our first vaccines,” he said. 

Snowstorm

The first winter storm of the season is expected to take place on Wednesday, Dec. 16 and into Thursday, Dec. 17. The northern part of the state expected to receive as much as 12 to 18 inches of snow, State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said. 

The National Weather Service called for light snow and wintry mix on Monday afternoon, Dec. 14. 

Callahan said the Department of Transportation is preparing to deploy plows and salt trucks, and state emergency officials are monitoring the storm forecasts. 

Today’s numbers

Officials reported 4,805 new cases, up from the 4,170 reported on Dec. 13. The state has now passed the 400,000 mark on total cases, with 405,448 cases.

The positivity rate stands at 10.95 percent, and the virus transmission rate now stands at 1.13, compared to 9.95 percent and 1.14, respectively, on Dec. 11. 

Last night, hospitals reported 3,635 patients, including 704 critical care patients and 491 ventilators in use. It marks the first time since May 28 that there have been more than 700 patients in critical care, Murphy said. By comparison, on Dec. 12, hospitals reported 3,591 patients, including 691 critical care patients and 448 ventilators in use.

Officials also reported 25 new deaths, compared to 24 on Dec. 13, bringing the total to 15,907, along with 1,868 probable deaths. Hospitals also reported an additional 50 deaths, which have not yet been confirmed as COVID-19. 

Essex County reported 383 new cases, compared to 438 on Dec. 13, bringing the total to 41,432. Another three deaths were reported, compared to one on Dec. 13, bringing the total to 2,065.

Montclair health officials reported nine new cases on Dec. 13, bringing the total to 1,136. The number of deaths remains at 58.