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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

More NJ Omicron Cases Suspected As Hospitalizations Surge

NEW JERSEY — The Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in the country, including in New Jersey, with suspected cases reported and hospitals straining once again to keep up.

“We suspect that by now this is not the only case of Omicron in our state. At least a handful of others that are pending. Either being sequenced or pending sequence,” said Gov. Phil Murphy during a news conference on Wednesday.

These cases have yet to be officially confirmed as Omicron or Delta, state officials said.

The New Jersey Department of Health identified its first COVID-19 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) case on Friday, Dec. 3 in a traveler to the state. The individual, an adult female, who is a fully vaccinated Georgia resident, had recently traveled to South Africa, officials said. Read More: 1st Omicron COVID Variant Case Confirmed In New Jersey

“As researchers continue to look more deeply under the so-called Omicron hood there is still so much we still do not know conclusively regarding its transmissibility, virulence of the vaccine,” said Murphy.

While there are still some uncertainties, a study conducted by Pzifer found that their booster dose had similar levels of antibodies as the initial two-shot regiment shown to work against the prior strain of the virus.

As a result, Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli continue to urge residents to get vaccinated and get their boosters.

“We encourage everyone to seek out opportunities to get your booster shots and we will be opening up several more megasites … to help get these shots in arms as soon as possible,” said Murphy.

There is currently a mega-site in Glouster County and Burlington County. A third site is expected to open in Somerset County, Persichilli said Wednesday.

“The last time we were together, basically 10 days ago, I said the added protection of a booster is not a bonus. It is a necessity. That statement is even more true today. And the early data of the ability of the Pfizer vaccine in particular to enhance protection against Omicron bears this out,” said Murphy.

Along with New Jersey, a number of other states are finding cases of the Omicron variant, with authorities in New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts reporting their first confirmed cases this weekend, and Missouri reporting its first presumed case. The variant also has been detected in Nebraska, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Colorado and Utah.

Murphy also noted that New Jersey hospitals are seeing a surge in new COVID case admissions.

“We are seeing an increase in hospitalizations up to 1,409 today. This number has been increasing,” said Persichilli.

Since last week, there have also been two additional reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. There are now 151 cumulative cases in the state and one of the children is currently hospitalized.

As of Wednesday, 6.1 million or 72.38 percent of eligible New Jersey residents have been fully vaccinated while 7 million or 83.47 percent have received their first dose. This is out of the 8.4 million eligible New Jersey residents. A total of 1.5 million or 34.14 percent out of 4.5 million of eligible New Jersey residents have received their boosters.

To help residents get boosted, Murphy said New Jersey will be hosting a special “Get Boosted NJ” event on Wednesday, Dec. 15 where walk-in locations will be available. This is in celebration of the one year anniversary since the first vaccination was administered in the Garden State.

“The reality is everyone needs to be vaccinated and get boosted,” said Murphy.

Murphy pointed to the breakthrough numbers that show the effectiveness of the vaccines.

“As we look to the overall performance of the vaccine we can see they continue to work exceptionally well in protecting vaccinated individuals against infection, hospitalization and death,” said Murphy.

Have a news tip? Email alexis.tarrazi@patch.com.

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