‘On the Road from Pandemic to Endemic,’ Murphy Says

The tsunami of COVID-19 omicron variant infections that washed through the state this past month and a half is now receding, Gov. Phil Murphy said today at his weekly COVID-19 press briefing.

“We see that the rate of transmission has now settled in a positive place, with the longest rate below 1% in a long time,” he said. Since Jan. 27, the rate of transmission has been 0.56% or lower.

Reporting on the National Governors Association meeting, which he attended this past Sunday and Monday, Murphy said, “The general consensus was that we are on the road from pandemic to endemic.”

However, the governor did not want to appear too optimistic as he stated, “Every time you think we have this thing figured out, it humbles you. … I almost didn’t want to [tell you about] the [positive] summary assessment.

“No one knows how straight the road is or how long it will take us, but the overwhelming sentiment is that we want to get to a place where we could live with [COVID-19] in as normal a fashion as possible. … That is the general consensus.”

While COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped 30% in more than a week, there are still 2,800 patients in hospitals infected with the virus. “We are only now back to where these numbers were at Christmastime, and they compare with what we experienced last February,” Murphy said.

He reported that he was unhappy with the state’s booster vaccination rate of just 50% of eligible residents, but he added the national average is just 27%. “So, we know we are saving lives by pounding away,” he commented.

Approximately 90% of eligible New Jersey residents (nearly 8 million people) have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 76% have completed their primary series.

Underscoring the effectiveness of primary course vaccines and boosters, the governor revealed a chart of breakthrough transmission rates from Dec. 25, 2021 through Jan 22, 2022, which showed there were 1,775 COVID-19-related hospitalizations among people who only received their primary vaccination course (5 per 10,000 people); 600 hospitalizations among people who received booster shots (2 per 10,000); and 3,290 hospitalizations among the unvaccinated (13 per 10,000).

COVID-19 related deaths during this same time frame were: 350 for those who received a primary vaccine course (10 per 100,000 people); 126 for those who received a booster shot (5 per 100,000); and 633 for the unvaccinated (26 per 100,000). Of the latter number, the governor commented, “That meets the definition of stark.”

When asked if he will extend the public health emergency for another 30 days because of decreasing hospitalization and transmission rates, Murphy said he “has no news to break,” but that he will discuss the issue tomorrow with legislative leaders. “We always want to do this in a smart and responsible way … we don’t want to undershoot or overshoot this.”

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