HOPATCONG, NJ —COVID continued its dramatic surge in New Jersey in mid-January, with some schools that had transitioned to a virtual format after the holiday break, already back to in-person classes.
New confirmed case counts have fallen back as of Jan. 14, when the state reported its daily count at 20,624. In what Governor Phil Murphy previously called an “omicron tsunami” - after the first day of 2022 saw 29,740 new positive cases - the new case count crested to 33,459 on Jan. 7, New Jersey’s new daily record high.
After a slight dip in hospitalizations this past week for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, from 6,089 to 5,933 between Jan. 11 and 12 - hospitalizations falling further to 5,835 on Friday - the State of New Jersey questioned if the variant has peaked.
New Jersey Department of Health Spokesperson Donna Leusner told Patch it may take weeks to know, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli suggesting the daily count could rise again to 8,000 hospitalized, by next month.
Though there’s been a drop in hospitalizations, President Joe Biden announced that over 120 military medical personnel are being sent to New Jersey and six other states, their arrival dates and locations not yet announced.
On Jan. 10, National Guard arrived to help after a COVID spike, with sanitizing and other tasks at the former Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II, now called Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center. As of Jan. 6, their newest outbreak, which included some cases at the former Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation I - now renamed to Limecrest Subacute and Rehabilitation - climbed to 429 collectively in both facilities, the week ending Jan. 13. On Jan. 6, the total count for the two nursing homes was 390 cases.
There have been dramatic changes on other New Jersey COVID fronts during the week leading up to Jan. 14.
New Jersey’s school mask mandate was in jeopardy, after the legislative branch declined to extend Murphy’s emergency powers by another 45 days on Jan. 11. With executive orders like the K-12 mask mandates ready to expire, Murphy declared another 90-day state of emergency, to the ire of legislators on both sides of the aisle. This extended his mask mandate order and twice-weekly COVID testing mandates for unvaccinated teachers and healthcare workers.
While the state of emergency was renewed, COVID isolation rules were shortened in the schools themselves, with New Jersey’s Department of Health changing its K-12 guidance to mirror the CDC's, recommended isolation days dropping from 10 to 5 days for COVID-positive students and staff.
An Overview Of New Jersey's Northwest Region
In the midst of cases peaking, Morris County’s COVID testing center reopened at the County College of Morris on Jan. 10, to accommodate the demand for testing.
Though the School District of the Chathams remained open, Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa noted on Jan. 10 that since Dec. 15, there had been about 500 COVID cases districtwide. The district currently has a virtual component for any student uncomfortable to come to school and other accommodations for families, that the district intends to phase out in the coming week.
While Sparta Schools and Lenape Valley Regional High School currently remain virtual, each expected to return after the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, the Hopatcong School District - which was temporarily remote - returned to in-person classes on Jan. 11.
Case Breakdowns By Town, County, Region
According to the County of Sussex, as of Jan. 14, there were 218 new cases and no new deaths reported, the county's cumulative case count since the pandemic's beginning 31,307, with 21,335 "classified as recovered."
This compares to Jan. 7, when there were 499 additional new COVID cases countywide, with one new death recorded. Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the county reported 28,751 cases, with 20,863 "classified as recovered."
On the Jan. 13 report, Hopatcong had 3,324 COVID cases since March 2020 and Sparta, 4,146. Vernon's was the highest of all the counties, with 4,507 cases.
This compares to the Jan. 7 report, when the cumulative total case count for Hopatcong since the start of the pandemic was 3,019 and Sparta's was 3,761. The towns had the second and third highest cumulative counts to date, with Vernon's case count at 4,117, since March 2020.
The State of New Jersey’s Department of Health has currently logged the COVID total death toll in Sussex County at 313 since the pandemic began, as compared to 299 the week prior.
As of the State of New Jersey's Jan. 1 COVID-19 Activity Report or "CALI," Sussex County, which is lumped into the Northwest Region with Morris, Passaic and Warren Counties - like all counties statewide - is listed at a "very high level" of transmission or "red" level.
Regionally, the score is "4," mirroring the statewide score, with the Northwest now having the highest case rate statewide at 304.2. The "COVID-Like Illness" or CLI percentage however, is the second lowest statewide at 14.74 percent, according to the report. The Northwest Region's positivity percentage though is currently the second highest statewide, at 36.62, according to the report.
The Northwest Region first plateaued at the very high designation with a CALI score of 4, having gotten there during the week of Dec. 25, from the previous "high" or "orange" level. During that week, two regions - the Southwest and Southeast - still stayed in the orange level of COVID transmission. At that point, the regional case rate was 139.89, the second highest of all the regions. The CLI percentage was then 12.68, the midpoint of the six state regions. The positivity percentage that week was 21.30, again at the midpoint of the state's six regional areas.
This story contains reporting from Josh Bakan, Carly Baldwin, Michelle Rotuno-Johnson, Alexis Tarrazi, Matt Troutman.
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