After a post-holiday surge, New Jersey's COVID-19 metrics are showing some encouraging signs.

What the summer looks like in New Jersey, meanwhile, is contingent upon dramatically increasing the number of vaccine doses available. Gov. Phil Murphy is hanging hope on the vaccine candidate now in final testing from Johnson & Johnson. The New Brunswick-based pharmaceutical giant is hoping to present data by the end of the month, and possibly win FDA approval in February.

There is preliminary data that shows the J&J vaccine is not quite as effective as the ones currently available but still near 90%. Murphy calls the J&J vaccine a "game changer."

New Jersey's rate of transmission has fallen to 1.07. While that number still indicates the virus is actively spreading, the rate has been steadily dropping in recent days. Ideally, you want that number to be below 1.0.

Hospitalizations are also dropping: 444 COVID patients were discharged on Wednesday, and the number of infected needing a hospital bed has dropped below 3,400. The number of patients needing critical/intensive care has fallen to 626 with 427 on ventilators.

Public health officials are still worried about a surge in hospitalizations but New Jersey has not seen the same large spikes in states like California and New York. The state on Thursday reported another 98 deaths attributed to COVID-19, for a total of 18,639.

Efforts to vaccinate the masses in New Jersey continue but the state simply doesn't have the needed supply. All six of the state's mega-vaccination clinics are open, but they are by appointment only, and will not accept walk-ins.

Murphy expanded eligibility for vaccination earlier this month, available appointments booked quickly through April. Those who registered on the state's COVID portal are getting e-mails that read: "You are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, due to supply limitations, vaccination appointments may be difficult to get so we ask for your continued patience during this process."

New Jersey has managed to vaccinate just 400,000 residents, well short of the pace needed to achieve the herd immunity that will allow a full reopening of the state.

 

J&J plans to have 100 million doses ready for U.S. distribution by spring. It has several advantages, but the biggest is it requires only one dose. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second dose weeks after the first. A single dose shot would allow the state to double the number of people inoculated, and move New Jersey closer to a return to normal.

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