Essex County Models Rollout While Battling Covid Variant
Over this last month, the number of Americans in hospitals with Covid-19 fell below 100,000 for the first time since December 2020. Vaccine rollout continues nationwide as new variants of the virus, originating in the UK and South Africa, are appearing in the U.S. While vaccinations are assisting in the fight to lower the Covid outbreak, variants present new challenges.
New Jersey has faced Covid-19 head on, staying consistently at the top of national case records since the start of the pandemic. On January 14, the state began vaccinating residents over the age of 65 in accordance with Governor Phil Murphy’s vaccine distribution plan. Healthcare and frontline workers are now the priority.
As of February 8, the New York Times’ vaccine rollout analysis shows that the state has administered 1,094,886 or the 1,480,825 vaccines provided by the federal government. N.J.com reports Bergen County leading the state with nearly 102,248 doses administered as of February 5. Essex County follows with 72,856 doses. Despite supply shortages, Essex County is distributing 1,400 shots per day, making it a national example for vaccine rollout.
The county received praise from local and federal officials as well as the press after Senator Cory Booker (D - N.J.) told FOX5 News: “Essex County has become a national model for getting vaccines out really quickly and in people's arms.”
Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. also made statements on the county’s efforts via social media. "We've created an effective plan for distribution that ensures our residents get both doses of the vaccine. Essex County has done an amazing job! So happy to live here," DiVincenzo said.
While visiting a distribution center on January 27, DiVincenzo watched as the first dose of the vaccine was administered to 1,536 people and another 913 people returned for their second dose. U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) also visited centers, even volunteering at a vaccination site in West Orange.
Media accolades aside, a more concerning headline on the virus has slowly emerged. As of January 29, Ocean, Morris, Hudson, Middlesex, Warren and Essex counties all reported cases of the new UK variant.
N.J.com released an article on that day stating, “Cases of the highly-contagious variant of the coronavirus that was first discovered in the United Kingdom have been identified in New Jersey, bringing the total number identified in the Garden State to 11.”
Scientists maintain the mutation is up to 70% more contagious. The bigger worry, scientists warn, is that the virus mutates by changing the proteins on its surface. This will allow the variant to pass through the body undetected by current vaccine antibodies. New Jersey is among at least 24 states where the strain has been confirmed.
As of February 11, the more deadly South African virus variant has not been reported in New Jersey. In early February, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control detected the first South African variant case in South Carolina. A state lab later identified a second case, according to CNBC. The first case of the Brazilian variant in the U.S. was found in Minnesota around the same time.
Both Moderna and Pfizer completed preliminary studies on their vaccines. Researchers from both companies stated their vaccines offer some protection from the variants. For now, New Jersey residents are reminded to continue following CDC guidelines and register to receive their vaccinations.