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State officials discuss coronavirus variant, vaccination efforts in NJ

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said state officials are hesitant to loosen safety restrictions due to the spread of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant. – Photo by Governor Phil Murphy / Twitter

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference yesterday to provide updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 from the U.K. and vaccination efforts in New Jersey.

The state reported another 3,786 positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests yesterday, making the statewide total 673,108 confirmed cases. They also received 709 new positive antigen tests that are awaiting confirmation.

There were 2,370 hospitalizations as of yesterday, with 411 patients in critical or intensive care and 309 patients on ventilators.

In addition, 92 new deaths were confirmed, bringing the total to 20,343 deaths in New Jersey. Another 2,289 deaths were potentially linked to COVID-19.

“These numbers, it’s unmistakable, all continue their recent downward trend, which is a very promising sign,” Murphy said.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said there have been a total of 50 cases from the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant. This variant is currently the only one identified in the state.

Murphy said uncertainties surrounding the variant are keeping him from making larger steps to reopen New Jersey.

“We know it’s more easily transmitted,” he said. “And the science is incomplete ... We don’t have clarity — I don’t think anyone in America does right now — on how much hold it will take and its impact.”

Health officials said vaccines seem to remain effective against the U.K. variant in preventing serious illness and slowing down the spread of the virus. The state has administered a total of 1,501,767 vaccines as of 4:38 p.m. yesterday, with 1,075,792 of them being first doses and 425,326 being second doses, according to New Jersey’s COVID-19 Dashboard. (29:33)

Vaccine shipments this week have been delayed due to winter storms across the country, Persichilli said. New Jersey vaccine sites have plans to reschedule appointments if they run out of supply in anticipation of a winter storm today.

“We know there remain many, many residents who want to be included in these numbers but aren’t yet (due to) the scarcity of appointments,” Murphy said. “We hear you, and we understand your anxiety. We remain committed to doing everything we can to improve the platforms available for scheduling your vaccination appointment, and we remain committed to working with the federal government to receiving every single dose we can.”

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