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COURT HOUSE - January's battle against Covid is not beginning well. 

The county reported 605 new infections in the first 11 days of the month, which is more confirmed cases than the totals for April and May together, a period when the spring surge was a major problem. The second wave is much greater. 

Of those January cases, 409 were reported in the past week. There have been 10 county resident deaths this month, five of those were reported in the past week.

On the positive side of the numbers, a large majority of people in this rapid rise of new cases have been removed from quarantine. It is still the case that 85% of reported cases eventually do so. This does not mean that the individuals categorized as off quarantine experienced mild symptoms, although many likely did.

At the end of this week, the county recorded 596 active cases of Covid infection among residents. The active case total has been at or near 600 cases every day this week, despite the large number of individuals being moved off the active list. 

The vaccination program continues to expand in the county, but it is still limited to the most vulnerable groups – frontline healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and staff and, added this week, first responders in law enforcement and fire professions. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reportedly considering opening the vaccine program to all those over 65 by releasing doses reserved for the required second injections part of the regimen for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The belief is that vaccine production is now at a point where the doses for the second injection can be reliably anticipated. 

State officials maintain that the best way for the public to know when the vaccine program is ready for them is by using the online registration system. Registered individuals will be notified when they would be eligible for an appointment to be vaccinated. 

The vaccination program is running too slowly for many in the public who are clamoring for a more intense effort. As of two days ago, the state reported that only 200,000 individuals received the vaccine in the four weeks since its program began. The problem, state officials maintain, is a limited distribution from the federal government and manufacturers; although, staffing also appears to be an issue. 

In Cape May County, the state plan lists three sites where people may be vaccinated when they are in the appropriate priority group, which are the county Health Department, in Court House, and two ShopRite pharmacies, in Rio Grande and Marmora. The state is also opening six mega sites, the closest of which to the county will be at the Atlantic City Convention Center. 

The capacity to provide the vaccine is different from having sufficient doses. The vaccination program's rollout will depend on the vaccines' delivery to the state, and from the state to its 21 counties. 

The problem is not all one of distribution. 

As of the January 11, New Jersey has received 572,000 doses, administering about 204,000. At least part of the problem with speeding up the program is staffing, and the state this week said it seeks volunteers, looking for retired medical professionals to help. 

Another part of the issue may be a lag in reporting from the distribution sites. 

The Department of Health says that some sites have found it difficult to report data in a timely manner through the state’s existing immunization information system. The actual number of doses administered is probably higher than what the system is reporting.

The goal remains vaccinating 70% of the state’s adult population in six months, or about 4.7 million people, meaning averaging over 25,000 vaccinations per day. Meanwhile, new infections are rising, numbers that may reflect exposures during the holidays. 

According to county health officials, “the post-holiday bump does show the importance to follow the necessary health protocols to keep yourself and your families safe.” It may be the only defense for several weeks.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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