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State officials speak on vaccine distribution, new coronavirus variant in NJ

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said individuals who made an appointment to receive the first dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine through the state's scheduling system will automatically be rescheduled for their second dose. – Photo by Gov. Phil Murphy / Twitter

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) press briefing yesterday to further discuss the state’s vaccine program.

Murphy said they have received 3,950 new positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, bringing the statewide total to 606,492 positive cases. They have also received 1,080 new positive antigen tests, for a total of 70,045 positive tests.

There were 3,190 individuals hospitalized for the virus as of Thursday, with 578 patients in critical or intensive care and 406 patients on ventilators.

Additionally, there were 107 new confirmed deaths, for a total of 19,091 deaths statewide. Murphy said there were also 2,129 probable deaths.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli also discussed the new variant of COVID-19, the B.1.1.7. variant, that originated in the U.K. She said there have been six new cases of this variant in New Jersey, for a total of eight cases.

She said four of these cases were in Ocean County, with two cases each in Essex County and Morris County. In addition, Persichilli said there has been one death from this new variant.

She said they are working on adding case information for this new variant on the COVID-19 dashboard.

Murphy also gave updates on the state’s vaccine efforts and gave details on how individuals can receive their second doses.

He said there have been a total of 642,613 COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey as of yesterday. They are hopeful that they will soon see an increase in the state’s vaccine allocation from the federal government, he said.

“Make no mistake that we, like every other state, greatly need increased vaccine production and delivery. We just need the doses to make our program run as it has been purposely built to run,” Murphy said. “We are working hard to ensure that those who need their second dose will get it in a timely manner.”

He said those who made an appointment for their first vaccine dose through the state’s vaccine scheduling system will receive an email confirmation for their appointment for the second dose, which was automatically scheduled.

For those who scheduled their first dose appointment directly with one of the state’s vaccine sites, Murphy said these individuals should contact the site directly to schedule their second dose appointment.

Murphy said that anyone who is unsure of the status of their second dose appointment by the end of this weekend should reach out to New Jersey’s Vaccination Call Center.

Persichilli said it is important that individuals receive their second vaccine dose as close to the recommended date as possible. She said for the Pfizer vaccine, individuals should get their second dose 21 days after their first dose. For the Moderna vaccine, individuals should get their second dose 28 days after their first dose.

In the end, Murphy said New Jersey residents need to continue to take precautions in the upcoming weeks as the vaccine becomes more widely available.

“To get us to that brighter future, we need to get through the next few weeks. We need to have patience as our vaccine program awaits the doses we need to kick into higher gear,” he said. “We need to maintain our social distancing. We need to keep wearing our masks. We need to keep doing all of the smart things to drive down the numbers to keep folks out of hospitals and ultimately to save lives.

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