Are COVID numbers high enough in NJ to trigger new lockdowns?
Just one month ago, New Jersey health officials were reporting record low daily COVID infections. Today, the caseload is up nearly 200%.
The NJ Department of Health believes the spike is due to the spread of the COVID Delta variant, which they say is largely circulating through the unvaccinated population. However, there have been an increasing number of cases in people considered fully vaccinated.
New Jersey's rate of transmission (r/t) has been steadily increasing and is at 1.40, indicating an expansion of the virus after weeks of decline. The spot positivity rate has also risen to 2.5%. The state's seven day average for new cases is up 63% in a week.
However, hospitalizations remain near pandemic lows. 356 patients are hospitalized with COVID symptoms. Those needing life supporting care number fewer than 60. Among the reasons for the low hospitalization rate include strong protections from the vaccine, if administered, and the medical community having a far better understanding of how to treat the infection.
The spike in cases has led to worries about new restrictions, but Governor Phil Murphy has yet to announce any new rules. That includes a mask mandate for kids returning to full-time in-person instruction in the Fall.
When the public health emergency declaration was allowed to expire, the legislature did include a provision reinstating many of Murphy's pandemic powers if the r/t rose above one and there was a spike in hospitalizations. The language in the bill, however, was vague and did not set benchmarks for hospitalizations. It would be hard to prove there has been a spike in hospitalizations when the numbers remain near pandemic lows.
Still, Murphy has continued to say all options are on the table, including mask mandates and gathering restrictions.