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Coronavirus update: Five N.J. cities join community vaccine program

New Jersey reported another 3,149 new positive PCR tests Friday as well as another 1,007 antigen tests, for a cumulative total of all positives since the start of the pandemic to 782,833.

The positivity rate for all PCR tests recorded on Monday was 6.53%. The statewide rate of transmission is 0.89.

On Thursday there were 2,008 coronavirus patients in New Jersey hospitals, including 439 in critical care and 270 on ventilators. Hospitals also discharged 264 patients.

Another 46 died from complications of COVID-19. New Jersey has now recorded 20,861 lab-confirmed fatalities and another 2,331 probable deaths.

Five new cities part of N.J.’s community vaccination program

New Jersey has named five additional cities that are part of its community-based vaccination program, which is aimed at inoculating hard-hit and underserved areas.

Camden, Jersey City, Newark, Orange, and Plesantville will host new community vaccination sites. That is in addition to previously-announced locations in Trenton, Elizabeth, Vineland, Paterson, and Franklin Township in Somerset County.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the cities were chosen based on an “analysis of municipalities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and also are some of our most diverse and socio-economically challenged communities in the state.”

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, who was on hand for the announcement during a Friday press conference, praised the state’s community vaccination program.

“New Jersey clearly understands how you reach people, the people who have been the hardest hit. Not through just top-down messaging campaigns but through real engagement,” Nunez-Smith said. “Trusted spaces, trusted messengers.”

State officials said they hope to vaccinate 15,000 residents across those communities by the end of March.

Vaccine appointments will be arranged through local community groups and leaders or places of worship.

70K Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses coming — if the feds approve it

As New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson awaits approval of its vaccine from the FDA, Gov. Phil Murphy said the drug could be a “game-changer.”

Murphy announced Friday that the state was notified it could expect an initial shipment of about 70,000 J&J vaccine doses next week pending a blessing from the feds.

“This, remember, is a vaccination that would require only one dose, regular refrigeration, no follow up necessary.”

Murphy has said the vaccine could help the state dramatically ramp up its vaccination program and inoculate hard-to-reach communities.

The state is currently vaccinating residents using both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and has administered 1,262,124 first doses as well as 636,947 second shots.