Camden County COVID panel addresses mu variant and booster shots

Members continue to urge vaccines amidst Delta surge and child cases

Camden County’s COVID panel addressed a new mu variant of the virus, booster shots and related issues more at its latest meeting on Sept. 13.

The panel featured Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr., senior infectious disease investigator; Rianna DeLuca; and Gabrielle Sweeney, COVID-19 data manager/epidemiologist.

Cappelli said Camden County is averaging about 114 new cases of COVID a day, and that the numbers have plateaued. While the rate of infection has dropped from 1.07 people per 100,000 to 1.04, the positivity rate (the number of positive tests over the total number of tests) has increased slightly to 7.7 percent.

The panel addressed both the Delta and mu variants of COVID, with Sweeney explaining that the difference between the Delta variant and the original COVID strain is that the former has about double the amount of transmissibility. She noted that of the COVID specimens sampled in New Jersey in the past week, 98.8 percent had the Delta variant, an increase from last week’s 98.1 percent. For the mu variant, Sweeney noted that globally, it makes up about 0.1 percent of the cases sampled, and 0.02 percent in New Jersey, though there is not enough data to know if it causes severe illness or hospitalization.

The COVID panelists urged people to get vaccinated, and Cappelli reported that though there are a small number of breakthrough virus cases, their symptoms are less severe than in the cases of the unvaccinated.

“The number-one way we can stop this virus from spreading is through getting vaccinated,” Cappelli said. “The more people are vaccinated, the fewer number of cases we’ll have each day.”

Ron Tomasello, a representative for Camden County, said in an email that the county is experiencing trends similar to the state in breakthrough cases, with approximately .06 percent of vaccinated residents testing positive for COVID.

“This shows that the vaccines do prevent severe illness and hospitalization,” said Sweeney.

As far as children contracting the virus, DeLuca said the county has seen a significant increase in cases, but that the contact tracers and case investigators have determined the main sources of infections are still family gatherings and household contacts, rather than those in school.

The panel also touched on booster shots, with Sweeney clarifying that a booster is different from a third shot of the vaccine. Those who are immunocompromised, are now eligible for their third shot 28 days after the second vaccine dose. For the general public, booster shots are now available, with Pfizer being the first booster approved.

 

 In other news:

 

  • Cappelli began the panel meeting by giving general updates on events happening around Camden County, acknowledging the candlelight vigil on Friday Sept. 10 to commemorate the lives lost 20 years ago in the 9//11 attacks. “We were reminded of the fact that, if you think back 20 years ago this week, we were all together as a nation against terrorists,” Cappelli said. “… Wouldn’t it be nice if today we could rally together against COVID-19?”
  • Camden County offers assistance for small businesses at www.camdencountyrecovers.com.
  • Rental assistance for residential tenants is available for applicants who apply by Oct. 30 at ttps://www.camdencounty.com/service/covid-19-updates-and-preparations/camden-county-cares-rental-assistance-grant/
  • The county is considering the creation of another COVID testing site as the demand  increases. The full COVID panel meeting is available for viewing on the Camden County website at www.camdencounty.com and the Camden County Facebook page.