N.J. coronavirus update: U.K. variant reported in two cases in state

Medical assistant Michelle Gravinese (left) helps her colleague Kayla Clauso put on protective gear before administering COVID-19 tests at a testing site in the Motor Vehicle Commission parking lot in Camden, New Jersey. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Medical assistant Michelle Gravinese (left) helps her colleague Kayla Clauso put on protective gear before administering COVID-19 tests at a testing site in the Motor Vehicle Commission parking lot in Camden, New Jersey. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Ask us about COVID-19: What questions do you have about the current surge?

Updated 3:05 p.m.

New Jersey reported another 3,694 positive PCR tests for the coronavirus Friday, bringing the cumulative total of positive PCR tests to 584,291. The state also recorded 743 new positive antigen tests, for a total of 66,098 positive antigen tests.

There was a 10.1% positivity rate for PCR tests taken on Monday.

Some 3,328 residents were hospitalized with coronavirus, including 638 in critical care and 445 requiring ventilators.

Officials also reported another 118 deaths from coronavirus. New Jersey has now recorded 18,754 confirmed fatalities in the pandemic and another 2,121 probable deaths.

More contagious U.K .strain detected in N.J.

A more contagious variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom has arrived in New Jersey.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said two people in the Garden State tested positive for the new strain — an Ocean County man and a child who was traveling and staying in North Jersey.

“While the variant may spread more easily and more quickly than previous strains, at this time there is no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease, according to the CDC,” Persichilli said.

Health officials have also said there is no evidence showing that current vaccines are ineffective against the new variant, also known as B.1.1.7.

The strain was previously detected in patients in neighboring Pennsylvania and New York as well.

Murphy praises Biden’s coronavirus response

Gov. Phil Murphy heaped praise on the new federal administration in Washington, D.C., as the state continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Murphy applauded President Joe Biden — a fellow Democrat whose inauguration Murphy attended on Wednesday — for starting his term by signing several executive orders aimed at combating the pandemic. Biden has also vowed to step up the country’s coronavirus vaccination effort.

“The Biden administration recognizes that this is a war, and that we must be on a war footing,” Murphy said. “The administration recognizes that this vaccination push is one of the single greatest logistical challenges in American history.”

Like all states, New Jersey relies on the federal government for its supply of coronavirus vaccines, and it is also part of a federal partnership in which Walgreens and CVS are responsible for vaccinating long-term care staff and residents.

Murphy has blasted the administration of former President Donald Trump for sending fewer doses than the state could use, and also criticized the pharmacy chains for their slow inoculation rollout in nursing homes and other facilities.

CDC gives $591M for testing, vaccine distribution

New Jersey will receive $591 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under coronavirus relief legislation signed by former President Donald Trump in December.

The amount was announced in a press release by U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, who said they helped secure the federal funding for the state.

“As cases continue to rise across New Jersey, these vital federal funds will ensure our state can keep up with testing demands and distribute the vaccine efficiently,” Menendez said in a statement. “These steps will help us save lives and defeat the virus once and for all.”

About $511 million will be used for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and other mitigation efforts, while $80 million will be spent on vaccine distribution, the lawmakers said.

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