N.J. coronavirus recovery: Officials tracking spike in Ocean County

Coronavirus patient samples

In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 file photo, a technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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New Jersey officials reported 561 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday. That brings the new cumulative total to 204,107 since the state began tracking cases March 4. Officials also reported one additional death from the virus; raising the cumulative toll to 14,316. The number of probable deaths is 1,791.

The latest rate of transmission is at 1.12, meaning for every 100 new cases, 112 more people will get infected.

Ocean County cases still rising

New Jersey officials say they’re keeping close tabs on a coronavirus spike in Ocean County, which accounted for about 40 percent of the state’s 561 new cases on Monday.

“We continue to see the statewide number driven in large part — not completely — but in large part by significant new cases coming out of Ocean County,” said Gov. Phill Murphy at a Monday press conference.

Statewide, New Jersey’s test positivity numbers are around 2.5% — a figure that hasn’t budged much in recent weeks.

Ocean County has been the outlier. State leaders said the county registered another 242 cases on Monday. The next highest county was Middlesex County with 54 new positive cases.

Murphy said state leaders are “still parsing through the sources” of Ocean County’s COVID-19 outbreak. The governor mentioned religious gatherings, weddings, funerals, schools, and sporting events as potential sources of the viral spread.

The state is sending 20 contact tracers to the county and boosting testing capacity in the area, according to Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

“We’ll monitor it and we’ll continue to monitor it,” Murphy added.

Testing help from Washington

The state expects testing reinforcements from the federal government to boost New Jersey’s diagnostic capacity and help tamp down future outbreaks.

New Jersey will receive 2.6 million rapid tests from the federal government over a 12-week period, starting in about two weeks. The new tests, developed by a company called Abbott, can deliver results in about 15 minutes, Murphy said.

New Jersey tests about 25,000 patients a day for COVID-19, and Murphy said the state’s testing capacity would nearly double with the influx of these new rapid tests.

It’s not yet clear how the state will deploy these tests, although Murphy mentioned that they could be used in schools or in areas that appear to be viral hotspots.

“This could be a gamechanger,” he said.

Also of note, Heath Commissioner Persichilli spoke to the results of a CDC analysis that looked at the prevalence of COVID 19 antibodies among the population of each state.

The study found that 14.7% of New Jerseyans in the sample had antibodies, the second-highest rate in the country behind New York. Officials cautioned that the tested sample might not be representative and there are debates about the effectiveness of the tests used.

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