The highly contagious delta variant now makes up 98.8% of all sampled COVID-19 cases for the four weeks ending Aug. 28, according to data released Sept. 15 by the state Health Department, as the pandemic reaches its highest levels since late spring.
State officials are responding to the variant and plans by the federal government to roll out a public health apparatus for providing booster shots.
A key issue is whether the booster shot would be recommended six or eight months after receiving a final jab from the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. If it’s six months, then upward of 2.4 million people in New Jersey would suddenly be eligible for the shot, so the state is looking at reactivating at least half of its previous six vaccine-mega sites, on top of county-level sites for all 21 counties.
The Biden administration, in pushing for a booster shot, has cited numerous studies suggesting immunity from the vaccine wanes over time.
“Once the booster plan is released by the federal government, we do anticipate demand for shots to increase greatly,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a regular COVID-19 press briefing on Sept. 15.
“We do not have any updates for you on booster shots, as the federal government has yet to give us any clearer guidance,” Murphy said. “We continue to pound away at planning for whatever the [Food and Drug Administration] and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices sends our way. When we do have final guidance, we will get to you with all the vital information you will need.”
More than 5.7 million people who live, work or study in New Jersey have been fully vaccinated—over 6.25 million have gotten at least one dose.
The youngest someone can get the shot is the age of 12 from Pfizer, which is in the midst of seeking federal approval for children as young as five.
Data posted by the New Jersey Department of Health showed the state logged 1,815 new daily cases. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the state logged a seven-day average of 2,087 cases as of Sept. 13, compared to a seven-day average of fewer than 200 cases during the July Fourth weekend.
The positivity rate among COVID-19 tests was 7.45% and the rate of transmission, or how fast the virus spreads, was 1.01.
There were 1,115 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations marking the eighth day in a row where New Jersey’s hospitals logged at least 1,100 COVID-19 patients.