The COVID-19 vaccine is being deployed in record time. For more information on the vaccine and general updates on COVID-19, please read the additional info below.
On December 11, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine consists of 2 doses administered intramuscularly, 3 weeks apart. The Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%. Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 94.5%, is imminent. Moderna Vaccines are expected to arrive in NJ by December 21st.
On December 13, 2020, NJ Hospitals and Long Term Care facilities started to receive initial shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for deployment to healthcare workers within these facilities. Initial shipments will be received by most of the facilities by the middle of this week. On December 1, 2020, Great Britain was the first country to authorize and deploy COVID-19 vaccine.
Priority groups for vaccination have been established. The groups are broken into categories of priority. Categories 1-A, 1-B and 1-C, consist of healthcare workers in hospitals, long term care facilities, medi-centers, physicians, first responders, etc., and critical infrastructure workers who are responsible to provide essential services to the public. Some examples of these critical infrastructure workers would be those in utilities, sanitation, water treatment, transportation, food related industries, critical supply chain workers, etc. The first priority groups will also likely include residents at long term care facilities and those 65 and older with underlying conditions.
Regional mass vaccination clinics will be operating by appointment. These clinics will be coordinated by the NJDOH and County Health Departments in partnership with OEM. Statewide online registration and appointment scheduling capabilities have been developed and will be launched in the coming weeks.
Upon completing vaccination to the first priority groups (1-A, 1-B and 1-C, as described above ), vaccine will be disseminated to those in Category 2, which consists of those who are in vulnerable populations because of age or certain medical conditions. Last, the vaccine will be disseminated to those in Category 3, which consists of the general population, 18 years of age and older. The vaccines are being received incrementally through the end of January in order to complete vaccinations to Categories 1-A thru 1-C. In the months that follow, much larger volumes of vaccine will be available. Vaccination will continue through the priority groups and will eventually expand to the general public. It is projected that vaccine will be widely available to the general public in March or early April of 2021, through chain pharmacies, healthcare facilities, urgi-centers, primary care physicians, clinics, and other outlets. See more details at the following link:
More Details on the Vaccine from the State of New Jersey
Anti-Viral Therapies Approved and are Available with Limits
On October 22, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir) for use in adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older and weighing at least 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds) for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. The FDA states that Veklury should only be administered in a hospital or in a healthcare setting capable of providing acute care comparable to inpatient hospital care. Veklury is the first treatment for COVID-19 to receive FDA approval.
On November 21, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for casirivimab and imdevimab to be administered together for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age or older weighing at least 40 kilograms [about 88 pounds]) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19. This includes those who are 65 years of age or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions.
Casirivimab and imdevimab must be administered together by intravenous (IV) infusion. Casirivimab and imdevimab are not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19. A benefit of casirivimab and imdevimab treatment has not been shown in patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies, such as casirivimab and imdevimab, may be associated with worse clinical outcomes when administered to hospitalized patients with COVID-19 requiring high flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. Casirivimab and imdevimab are monoclonal antibodies that are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells.
For additional information about COVID vaccines, therapeutics and Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) please see the FDA and CDC links below:
Food & Drug Administration Website
CDC & CDC-FAQ
Nationally, the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to rise dramatically. Cooler weather, the increasing number of indoor activities, second waves of COVID outbreaks internationally, pandemic fatigue, and increased levels of testing will continue to contribute to the increasing numbers of cases. In New Jersey, the numbers of new COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths are also rising dramatically, but the hospitalizations and deaths are still in much lower proportion to total infections, than what was experienced earlier this year. This also seems to be true, nationally.
The rate of transmission in NJ is fluctuating in recent weeks between 1.10 and 1.60. Anything above 1.0 is considered concerning. The higher the number, the greater the risk of viral spread throughout the community. This rate has consistently averaged above 1.0 over the last several weeks. As of December 14, 2020, all six regions of the State remain classified as HIGH (Orange) COVID Activity. Within all of the Pequannock Health Department’s jurisdictions, the number of new COVID cases continues to rise sharply.
Understanding the Reported Numbers
Please note, the daily cumulative numbers of infected individuals displayed by municipality in the Morris County link below are subject to fluctuate. At times, a percentage of cases are assigned to the wrong municipalities. Also, labs sometimes mistakenly enter the healthcare provider’s address rather than the patients’ addresses, which may skew the numbers to some extent. Corrections are made over time, as these inaccuracies are discovered. However, it should be emphasized, that the trends illustrated by this data are generally accurate.
Please see the links below for the NJDOH COVID Activity Dashboard, the NJ Regional COVID Activity Report through December 10th ,and the links to the Morris County Health Department COVID Websites. Morris County links include daily updates of cumulative numbers of cases by municipality:
Statewide and Regional COVID Activity Report and Risk Level by Region
Morris County-Based COVID Information including Data for Total Positive Cases by Municipality and COVID Testing Availability
At Home and Walk-up Testing is now available in Morris County!
The County of Morris has finally received funding to conduct COVID-19 testing. This will include at-home testing and possibly, mobile test sites. At-Home testing can be done through a website where kits can be requested. The kits are sent to the requestor’s address with instructions. All tests offered will be lab confirmed PCR tests rather than the viable, but less accurate, rapid antigen tests that have become very popular over the last few of months. The cost for these tests will be paid through medical insurance. However, patients will not be responsible for the cost of the test if they are uninsured, or if they are insured, will not be responsible to pay any uncovered portion. Passaic County had been funded to offer COVID testing in this same manner since last May. Morris and ten other counties were not eligible for this federal funding at that time, however funding is now available.
Morris County-Based COVID Testing Availability
Contact Tracing and Disease Investigation
The NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) has provided additional contact tracers to our local Health Department from the State work force. They support the operation while under the direction of the Pequannock Health Department’s nurse supervisors. The Department has recently received additional contact tracers to assist in our jurisdiction.
Revised Definition of Close Contact to a COVID Positive Individual
Effective as of October 22, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) updated their criteria for what is now considered a “Close Contact” in regards to someone’s exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual. As you were made aware in past communications, the previous definition of a “Close Contact” by the NJDOH was any individual 6 feet or closer to a COVID-19 positive individual for 10 consecutive minutes. This definition has now been changed by the NJDOH to read – “a total of 15 minutes or more of close contact exposure (6 feet or closer) to an infected person during a 24-hour period”. Those who have been determined to be a close contact to a COVID -19 positive individual must quarantine or a period of not less than 14 days. This remains unchanged.
School Operations and COVID while addressing outbreaks
The Pequannock Health Department is working closely with these institutions to contact trace, isolate and quarantine individuals to quickly contain any spread of the COVID-19 virus that may be identified within these institutions. In many cases, as COVID cases have increased, classes or certain schools have suspended in-person instruction for 14 day quarantine periods when spread within the school population exceeds CDC and NJDOH guidelines.
Most school districts have implemented and are maintaining a hybrid model, which is mix of in-person and remote learning. The Pequannock Health Department continues to provide extensive and ongoing COVID-19 guidance, along with COVID planning, surveillance, and contact tracing efforts in all five public school districts, private schools and universities within our jurisdictions.
Though there has been an increase in cases among school aged children, much of the increases in new COVID infections are unrelated to the organized school, sports and classroom activities. Rather, they are more related to social interactions outside of school. It has also been seen that activities associated with sports events like the travel to and from the events, or other peripheral activities associated with sports along with other extracurricular social activities, especially if relaxed attitudes about practicing safety precautions are displayed, have been identified as a primary driver of the increases. This is also true among young and middle aged adults where travel and /or social interactions, especially indoors, while not practicing safety precautions, have also been identified as a driver of the increases. The greatest amount of infection is among those between 30 to 49 years of age.
Attendance at Crowded Gatherings, Travel and Attendance at Holiday Gatherings Increase Risk of COVID Transmission
As we begin to move indoor as weather changes and as cold and flu season approaches, it cannot be stressed enough that large, crowded gatherings, especially indoor or in closed tents, where social distancing isn't being practiced and where face masks aren't being worn when necessary, are in part contributing to the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true at parties or large events where eating and drinking precludes the use of masks and music may be playing loudly, which causes people to get close and project themselves so they can be heard in conversation. Indoor spaces may not be as well ventilated and these spaces may make it difficult to socially distance properly. Another driver of the sharp increases is among young and middle aged adults where travel and /or social interactions, especially indoors, while not practicing safety precautions, have been identified as a driver of the increases.
During Holidays, it is advised that travel be limited and that holiday gatherings be limited to 10 people or less.
The public must continue to be diligent about the following, while enjoying activities:
- Distancing six or more feet
- Wearing masks/face coverings when appropriate
- Practicing hand hygiene
- Avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth
- Disinfecting commonly touched surfaces
- Staying home when symptomatic
- Stay away from indoor gatherings or crowds, especially if at a higher risk of serious illness because of age or specific underlying health conditions
- Following all of the requirements and advisories set forth in the Executive Orders and Executive Directives and Travel Advisories.
- Adhering to isolation and quarantine recommendations and orders from the Health Department’s contact tracers and disease investigators
More from NJDOH Travel Advisory Information
As the number of COVID cases increase during this second wave, the latest Executive Orders are beginning to place restrictions on business, social activities and capacity at gatherings. As numbers increase, more restrictions will likely be forthcoming:
Executive Order No. 204 Pauses Indoor Youth and Adult Sports, Outdoor Gathering Limits Reduced to 25
Practices and competitions for organized, group, and/or competitive sports defined as “Low Risk”, “Medium Risk”, and “High Risk” by DOH’s “Guidance for Sports Activities” are prohibited in indoor settings.
This Order shall not apply to collegiate and professional sports activities, which are permitted to continue operations subject to compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, or to recreational and entertainment businesses.
The number of individuals at outdoor gatherings shall be limited to 25 persons or fewer.
*NOTE- Other restrictions and requirements may be applicable for the activities and/or the authorities specified in the above mentioned Executive Orders. For additional information, please refer to the entire content of the Executive Orders and Executive Directives at the links below.
Executive Orders to Date
List of Executive Directives that the Health Department is responsible to enforce