County COVID cases, hospitalizations are on the decline

Monthly panel cites impact of Omicron over the past month

Camden County continues to see a decrease in COVID cases reported at its weekly town hall on Feb. 2. 

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The COVID panel at the county’s Health Hub in Blackwood consisted of Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash;  Assistant Public Health Coordinator Caryelle Lasher; and Dr. Sam Weiner, vice president of Clinical Operations at Virtua Medical Group.

Since the panel last convened on Jan. 19:

  • Daily case averages have dropped from 915 to 281.
  • The infection rate has decreased from 1.11 percent to 0.69 percent.
  • The test positivity rate has been halved, from 36.2 percent in January to 18.1 percent by Feb. 2. 
  • Hospitalizations for COVID have decreased from 1,302 to 807.
  • The number of deaths remains high: Nash reported 32 new COVID-related deaths in the past week, compared with 35 at the last panel.
  • Over 398,000 of the 520,000 Camden County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 343,300 have received at least two doses, and 157,000 who have received either a third dose or booster shot.

You see the direct relationship between those who have not been vaccinated and those who have been hospitalized,” Nash said. “… If you have had two doses of Moderna or Pfizer or one dose of J&J, you are no longer considered to be fully vaccinated. Being fully vaccinated requires that third dose or a booster.”

It was later clarified that residents become eligible to receive a booster shot five months after receiving their second vaccine. 

Throughout the panel, officials balanced optimism about the decrease in cases with vigilance and caution, given a higher number of cases and hospitalizations and COVID-related deaths than there have been in months. Weiner explained that is   largely due to the infectious nature of the Omicron variant.

“Even though for any given person, they very likely will have a mild illness, just the infection rate and the amount of patients that were affected, again, we had more hospitalizations than we’ve had in a long time,” he said.

 “ … I am thrilled to be here talking to you as the case counts are coming down,” Weiner  added, “but by no means can this suggest we can let our guard down.”

In late October, prior to the Omicron variant announced by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26, the county averaged 69 cases a day with an infection rate of 0.96 percent and a test positivity rate of 4.7 percent. 

On the topic of COVID in schools, Lasher said the trends mirror that of the larger community, with schools currently seeing a decrease in transmission rates. She  reiterated that a lot of the cases are occurring from in-home contacts and sports activity. 

Lasher encouraged parents to vaccinate their children, as the 5- to 11-year-old population has low vaccination rates.

“Children, we have seen, are more likely to have asymptomatic cases and less severe illness, but children do get really sick and they do die, and we’ve got a great way to protect our children,” she noted.

Weiner addressed natural immunity from the virus and recommended people receive a  booster, even if they have that immunity. 

“I want to be clear about this, natural immunity does not take the place of getting a booster shot,” he explained. “We still believe after your infection resolves that you should still receive either that primary vaccination series or a booster.”

Nash reported that COVID testing is now more widely available with at-home kits. With the decreased demand for tests, the county has updated testing and vaccination hours at its various locations. 

For more information, visit https://www.camdencounty.com/service/covid-19-updates-and-preparations/. The full panel is available for viewing on the Camden County government Facebook page.

 

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