See Hopatcong, Sparta's Latest COVID Case Numbers Through Jan. 7

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HOPATCONG, NJ — COVID experienced a dramatic surge in New Jersey in the first week of the year, after students and teachers returned to school following the holiday break.

In that short timeframe, in which Gov. Phil Murphy coined COVID’s uptick as an “omicron tsunami,” the first day of 2022 saw 29,740 new positive cases, the highest since the pandemic start in March 2020.

Though asymptomatic, that past week also started off with New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy testing positive for COVID-19, after a “recent known non-family contact” was in their home. Murphy, at that time, was asymptomatic, her results from a “rapid antigen test.”

In New Jersey, the term “flurona” also made its first appearance in the past week, which is defined as a blend of COVID-19 and influenza diagnosed simultaneously, according to Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman from New Jersey’s Department of Health. Leusner reported to Patch there have been 95 flurona cases in New Jersey from November 2021 through the start of January 2022.

An Overview Of New Jersey's Northwest Region

Though Governor Murphy said on Jan. 3, there were no plans to mandate schools head into virtual mode, some throughout the region voluntarily did.

This past Friday with the winter weather, schools in Chatham and Chester, for example, closed from a combination of the snowy roads and staff shortages, each opting for a traditional snow day.

Both Superintendents from these districts, Dr. Michael LaSusa in Chatham and Dr. Christina Van Woert in Chester, say they are doing all they are able to, to keep classes in-person for their students, with VanWoert even substitute teaching herself and helping with bus duties, to fill in the gaps. LaSusa, like Van Woert, spelled out the district’s virtual contingency plan for Patch, should there be a need, which would only happen if in-person schools couldn’t be maintained because of staff shortages. In Chatham, a remote component is temporarily in-play, along with in-person classes, for those out ill because of COVID or families not currently comfortable with sending their kids to school.

In Sparta and Hopatcong, schools did head into virtual mode in the past week, along with another one in Sussex County, Lenape Valley Regional High School, mainly because of COVID staffing absences, with Hopatcong aiming for a in-person return on Jan. 10 and Sparta and Lenape on Jan. 18.

Sussex County’s former Andover Subacute II, now renamed Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center, where 17 lives lost to COVID were crammed into a makeshift morgue and one in a shed in April 2020, agreed this past week to the return of the National Guard on Jan. 10, to help with infection control and other duties, following a new COVID spike in the facility.

According to the County of Sussex, as of Jan. 7, 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. 7 report, the cumulative total case count for Hopatcong since the start of the pandemic was 3,019 and Sparta's 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 299 since the pandemic began.

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.

This was the second week that the Northwest Region 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 Carly Baldwin, Anthony Bellano and Nicole Rosenthal.

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This article originally appeared on the Hopatcong-Sparta Patch

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