As the COVID metrics continue to improve, the percentage of workers at New Jersey long term care and assisted living facilities getting vaccinated is on the rise.

Seven weeks ago only 56% of long term care workers had received a vaccine, but during the Wednesday coronavirus update in Trenton, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the latest data shows 64.7% of those employees have now been vaccinated.

“So that is going up every week,” she said. “I have to say that the owners, the managers, the union leaders we’ve been on calls with have been very responsive in trying to get the staff fully vaccinated.”

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She said while having almost 65% of long term care employees vaccinated is good, efforts will continue to push that number higher.

“70% is not a magic number but it’s certainly a number that we feel anything above that is really excellent. I think we’ll get there," she said.

The goal announced by state officials months ago is to have 70% of the adult population of New Jersey vaccinated by the end of June.

Persichilli said some long term care workers have been hesitant to get a new type of vaccination (the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines) or confused by rumors that the vaccine was not safe.

She noted the effectiveness of the vaccine has been clearly demonstrated, especially in nursing homes, where 86.3% of residents have now been vaccinated.

Persichilli pointed out back in January the Health Department was reporting COVID outbreaks in 450 to 460 long term care and assisted living facilities every week, but right now there are only 52 active outbreaks.

“An active outbreak is 1 positive case,” she said, “either in staff or a resident.”

She explained an active outbreak case at a facility could have started 3 or 4 months ago, because it takes 28 consecutive days of COVID free activity to “clear” active outbreak status.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the focus on vaccinations in long-term care facilities is important because this is where many of the state’s most vulnerable residents live.

“We’re not trying to vilify the staff but it is important that there is a plan at each one of these facilities," he said. "And the numbers are proving that things are going in the right direction, thankfully."

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