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N.J. Coronavirus Update: 60K Calls to Vaccine Hotline; Candidates Can Get Signatures in Person

New Jersey reported another 3,694 positive coronavirus PCR tests Monday, for a cumulative total of 598,660 positive PCR tests since the start of the pandemic. Another 645 positive antigen tests means the state has recorded a total of 68,291 positive antigen tests.

Another 21 residents died of complications from COVID-19. The state has now seen 18,851 confirmed coronavirus fatalities and another 2,121 probable deaths.

The positivity rate for PCR tests administered on Thursday was 9.62%. The state’s rate of transmission was 0.94.

There were 3,254 coronavirus patients in the hospital Monday, including 598 in critical care and 392 requiring ventilators.

Vaccine hotline fields 60K calls in four hours

A New Jersey hotline set up to field questions about the coronavirus vaccine fielded more than 58,000 calls in the first four hours it was operational Monday, officials said.

Officials created the hotline to answer all manner of questions that New Jersey residents, workers, and students have about getting the shot.

The surge in interest highlighted an imbalance that state officials have been discussing for days: there is far more demand for the vaccine than there are doses in the Garden State.

“Everyone who wants to get vaccinated will eventually have the opportunity to be vaccinated,” said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “Additional slots will become available for people to make appointments as more vaccine supply becomes available.”

Gov. Phil Murphy and state officials had criticized the Trump administration for sending fewer vaccine doses than the state needed, but they hope vaccine supply will increase under President Biden.

Persichilli said the state would add more live agents to the hotline to keep pace with the high call volumes.

Political candidates can collect signatures in person for June primary

Gov. Murphy also announced Monday that he would sign an executive order allowing candidates for political office to collect nominating petition signatures in person for the upcoming June primary election.

It was a change from last year when, at the height of the spring surge, the state ordered candidates to collect their remaining signatures online instead of door-to-door to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“We want campaigns to have the option to collect signatures either virtually or in person, but we are hopeful that all campaigns will ensure that the collection of signatures is done safely and responsibly,” Murphy said.

The state implemented a number of other changes to its elections last year in the name of public health. So far officials have not announced plans for voting in the June election.