By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey will open the first of its so-called coronavirus vaccine “mega-sites” this week — with one a half hour’s drive from Montclair.
State officials first announced plans for the six centers, which allow walk-up access for vaccines to eligible residents, in December — though it could be months before vaccines are available to all members of the public, under a phased rollout that prioritizes healthcare workers and those in congregate living. Centers in Morris County at Rockaway Townsquare mall, and Gloucester County at Rowan College are expected to open Friday.
Before the month is out, state officials expect to open the rest of their sites, including one at the Racetrack at the Meadowlands, in East Rutherford. Healthcare workers may make an appointment at any of the mega-sites or satellite sites around the state.
The Department of Health expects to set up appointment portals where people in the first eligible category — known as “Phase 1A” — can make appointments to get the vaccine at the mega-sites once they are open. As of Monday, the state’s COVID-19 site said pre-registration for vaccination was “coming soon.”
Also Monday, ShopRite announced two locations in Essex County will begin distributing vaccines — at ShopRite of Newark, and ShopRite of Livingston — as part of a statewide effort involving dozens of stores.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday 193 long-term care facilities are now holding vaccine clinics for residents and staff. Murphy said 120,000 vaccine doses have been reserved for long-term care residents and staff through the Federal Pharmacy Program.
Monday was the first time some New Jersey healthcare workers received their second doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, which began its New Jersey rollout three weeks ago. That included staff at University Hospital in Newark receiving their vaccines with the governor and other state officials in attendance.
As of Monday, 101,417 first doses had been administered, Murphy said at a press briefing in Trenton.
Up until Monday, officials had only reported the number of positive PCR tests to the public. Monday, the state also began releasing the number of positive antigen tests, which indicate a probably case of coronavirus.
On Jan. 4, officials reported 2,292 new positive PCR tests, down from 3,676 on Jan. 3, bringing the total number of PCR tests to 494,317.
Officials reported 822 new positive antigen tests, bringing that total to 50,838.
The positivity rate Monday stood at 11.2%, compared to 10.98% on Dec. 28. The rate of transmission — and estimate of how many people each infected person gives the virus — was 0.92, down from 0.96 on Dec. 30.
Another 38 new deaths were reported, compared to 21 on Jan. 3, bringing the total to 17,223, along with 2,021 probable deaths. Another 60 in-hospital deaths were also reported, but have not yet been confirmed as COVID-19.
Hospitals reported 3,633 patients, 664 of whom were in critical care, and 476 of whom were on ventilators on the night of Jan. 3 — compared to 3,521 patients, 669 critical care patients and 462 patients using ventilators on Jan. 2. Essex County health officials reported 140 new cases and one new death on Jan. 4, compared to 306 new cases and three new deaths on Jan. 3. The totals now stand at 48,470 cases and 2,155 deaths.
Montclair health officials reported 17 new cases on Jan. 2, bringing the total to 1,352. The number of Montclair deaths since the start of the pandemic remains at 61.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the department is monitoring the 14-day incubation period following the Christmas and New Year holidays for a possible increase in cases.
Persichilli said state officials did not know exactly how many vaccines would be received in January and February. She said that the state places an order, and the federal government tells state officials how much they will be getting, but the vaccines are shipped directly to the vaccine sites, which then claim the vaccines and report how many are received.
Murphy continued to urge residents to remain patient and to continue with social distancing. “This is not forever and for always,” he said.