New COVID cases fall below 2K for first time in months

Daniel J. Munoz//February 15, 2021

New COVID cases fall below 2K for first time in months

Daniel J. Munoz//February 15, 2021

New COVID-19 positive cases have fallen below 2,000 for the second day in a row, on Feb. 15, reaching a milestone not seen since November 2020, as the state coasts down from a wintery second wave and ramps up vaccination efforts.

Whether the months-long record-low numbers were affected by lab reporting issues remains to be seen, however, and Gov. Phil Murphy said in a series of tweets that those numbers might change.

The state reported a similar issue on Feb. 8 with the labs.

“We are aware of an electronic lab-reporting issue that may be affecting today’s numbers,” Murphy said on Feb.15, when reporting the latest stats. “These labs have been alerted and we’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

On Feb. 15, the state reported 1,222 new positive cases, and on Feb. 14 the state reported 1,798 cases. The last time there was less than 2,000 new daily cases was on Nov. 4 last year, when the state reported 1,751 total overnight cases.

But the last two days of numbers were half what they were on average for the past week when the state saw around 3,000 new daily cases.

Other key indicators of the spread of the virus – hospitalizations, fatalities, transmission rate and positivity rate among tests – have all slowly trended downward after hitting their peak in January.

With testing capacity dramatically greater than during the first wave in spring 2020, daily cases would inevitably be higher, with the all-time record-high of nearly 7,000 cases reported on Jan. 13.

Those four metrics in turn are some of the key numbers used in order to gauge the severity of the pandemic at any given date.

Statewide, there were 2,408 COVID-19 patients in hospitals as of Feb. 15, compared to a Dec. 23 peak of 3,802 patients, but still far below the more than 8,000 patients seen in the spring.

The rate of transmission – or how fast the virus spreads, was 0.89 on Feb. 15, and the statewide positivity rate for tests conducted on Feb. 10, the most recent day available, was 7.24%, down from a 17.12% positivity rate on Dec. 25.

Murphy loosened indoor dining capacity restrictions just before Super Bowl weekend in response to the stabilization of the pandemic. Restrictions were also loosened on other indoor businesses like gyms, casinos, nail and hair salons.

Public health experts warned that the move was unwise given a sluggish rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the increasing presence of a highly infectious variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

Vaccine efforts are a key step to building widespread resistance to the virus. State officials are aiming to vaccinate 4.7 million New Jersey adults by June. As of Feb. 15, state health officials and private health care providers administered nearly 1.4 million shots, of which over 1 million were the first dose and nearly 370,000 were for the second dose.