COURT HOUSE - This wasn't the best week (March 23-29) for county Covid numbers.
The county reported 265 new cases among residents and five additional nonresident cases, up from 190 new cases the previous week.
A week ago, the active case count fell below 300, to 296. This past week, it climbed again, to 369.
The spurt this week, with 105 new cases reported in two days toward the end of the week, does not necessarily mean a new surge is at hand. It means the virus is, again, spreading more easily than it has for the last few weeks.
The week also claimed two county residents, raising fatalities to 193.
The vaccination program continues to progress well. The county Health Department March 26 announced 34,452 county residents received at least one dose of the vaccine, 21,019 of which are now fully vaccinated.
Those numbers have only increased since then. As of March 29, 56,822 doses were administered, counting all county locations and programs.
Gov. Phil Murphy said vaccine supply should significantly increase after April 1, which would further boost numbers.
For the near term, the probability is that the most available vaccines will continue to be Pfizer and Moderna's two-shot vaccines. The latest numbers from the state show Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine still has only a minor presence in total vaccine doses distributed to New Jersey.
As of this week, 50% of the doses distributed to New Jersey were Pfizer, 48% Moderna and only 2% Johnson & Johnson.
For those frustrated by an inability to get a vaccination appointment, state usage statistics show that doses distributed to the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for long-term care centers are being maximized, at a 93% rate. Similar efficiency is apparent at state and county sites, at an 86% rate. Both programs are making use of the supplies available to them.
The best possibility to get one of the elusive appointments might rest with the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, where the dashboard shows the doses are being used at a 58% rate, indicating some available room, but it comes with the burden of hunting possible appointments at various pharmacies.
Concerning the timing, the state receives word on what the distribution numbers will be for the following week, on a Tuesday. The shipments go directly to points of dispersal the following Monday.
One continuing concern is the spread of virus variants. Thus far, no variant is taking a dominating position among those infected with Covid.
State numbers show the most prevalent variant in New Jersey is B.1.1.7, first discovered in the United Kingdom. The state March 15 reported 165 cases of B.1.1.7, and two weeks later, the number is 560.
The state dashboard reports 18 of those cases are in Cape May County, up from three March 15. The numbers are small but growing, with Ocean County said to have 132 cases involving the variant.
Even though the county is reporting improved numbers than it has in the previous three months, the tracking site COVID Act Now lists Cape May County as very high risk. The main factor driving that designation is new cases per day per 100,000 of the population.
Admittedly, this respected tracking system does not account for the fact that the county is seldom at its census population level due to the number of second homeowners who elected to wait out the pandemic here. Yet, the caution that comes with the high-risk designation is one promulgated by the county Health Department, as well.
In the daily county Health Department releases, local health officials urge that “individuals continue to follow all of the necessary social distancing protocols.”
To contact Vince Conti, email email@example.com.