By ERIN ROLL
More than 450,000 New Jersey residents had signed up by Jan. 6 to get a novel coronavirus vaccine, just a day after the state officially launched its online registration portal.
The portal is available to any state resident, though not all residents are immediately eligible under a phased rollout that prioritizes healthcare workers, frontline responders and long-term care residents and staff.
“That number alone gives us great optimism as we roll out our robust statewide vaccination program,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at his coronavirus press briefing that day.
The portal, which is accessed through the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 hub, will inform registrants when they will be eligible to receive the vaccine and allow them to make appointments at distribution sites.
Murphy urged residents to have patience when registering through the portal, noting that the sheer number of users slowed the portal down when it first went live.
Firefighters and police officers, as frontline first responders, become eligible to for vaccination on Thursday, Jan. 7, as the state enters Phase 1B of its tiered plan. Paramedics were included in Phase 1A, and were already eligible for the vaccine.
As of Jan. 6, 137,829 vaccine doses had been administered in New Jersey. Of those, 135,606 were first doses, and 2,149 are second doses. The vaccines currently available require a two-dose regimen.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said workers in Phase 1A are still eligible, and vaccinations for that group will continue as the next phase begins. She said that there may be overlap between different phases as the vaccine becomes available.
Former Health Commissioner Eddy Bresnitz, who now serves as COVID-19 adviser, addressed two rumors that had been circulating: That the vaccine affects fertility or alters a person’s DNA. Both are myths, he said.
Persichilli said that since many health care workers are women of childbearing age, it is important to address and counter what they might be hearing on the internet.
The first two of six vaccine mega-sites are scheduled to open on Friday in Morris County and Gloucester County. On Friday, Murphy and Persichilli will visit an Essex County vaccine site at the former Kmart building in West Orange.
Health officials reported 5,028 new positive cases confirmed through PCR testing. With that number, New Jersey has now surpassed 500,000 cases, with the total now standing at 504,647 confirmed cases. That means that about 1 in 20 New Jersey residents has tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, Murphy said.
The positivity rate now stands at 14.9%, and the rate of transmission — an estimate of how many people each infected person gives the virus — now stands at 0.96, compared to 11.2 percent and 0.92, respectively, on Jan. 4.
Hospitals reported 3,744 patients, including 668 critical care patients and 456 ventilators in use as of Jan. 5, compared to 3,702 patients, 679 critical care patients and 481 ventilators on Jan. 4.
Besides the confirmed cases from PCR tests, officials reported another 921 positive tests from rapid antigen tests, which indicate probable cases of coronavirus. Murphy said that if someone tests positive on the antigen tests, he or she is urged to go get the more reliable PCR test as well.
Officials reported 104 new deaths, compared to 138 on Jan. 5. There have now been 17,464 confirmed deaths, as well as 2,059 probable deaths.
Essex County reported 458 new cases and six new deaths, compared to 357 cases and six new deaths on Jan. 5. The totals now stand at 49,285 cases and 2,167 deaths.
Montclair health officials reported 10 new cases on Jan. 6. One new death was reported on Jan. 5, and the total in the township now stands at 62.