TRENTON, NJ — One month into New Jersey’s recovery period, trends in data are showing the state is well past COVID-19’s harrowing April peak.
But according to officials, the decreases in new cases and hospitalizations aren’t a declaration of victory. Gov. Phil Murphy reminded citizens on Wednesday that while numbers continue to fall the state, they’re still not where they need to be amongst New Jersey’s peers.
“We don’t and frankly can’t consider specific timetables until we meet our benchmarks on key factors. In our hospitals, we’ve begun to see the numbers we needed to see to begin our restart,” Murphy said at the state's press conference in Trenton. “There are still many, many people in our hospitals with COVID-19. We’re still more of an outlier than an average.”
On Wednesday, New Jersey clocked in at 156,628 positive cases and 11,339 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. That includes 148 new deaths and 970 cases over a 24-hour period, which Murphy said may be higher due to the holiday weekend.
Aside from hospitalization rates, expanded testing measures are one way the state is measuring its performance in combating COVID-19. Having ended March with just several thousand tests per day as states struggled with shortages, New Jersey is now exceeding 20,000 tests per day available to residents with and without symptoms.
That’s more than 92% of the country, with only New Mexico, Rhode Island and New York registering more tests per 100,000 residents as of May 25. There are about 164 sites offering tests throughout New Jersey.
“That’s a very good place for us to be given where we were just two months ago,” Murphy said.
Of the 30,000 test samples collected on May 23, only 7% of results returned positive, a major drop since April. Murphy added that if things continue looking up, he’s hopeful that summer camps could operate this summer.
While he said that the state is “not there yet” for summer camp activity, he is taking the same approach he did with high school graduations, which can now take place in person beginning July 6.
But as the governor continues lifting quarantine restrictions and the state begins to reopen, concerns about a second wave are surfacing.
Citizens and officials alike are especially anxious as the summer months approach, potentially lowering people’s inhibitions. Murphy made reference to a viral video of party-goers in the Ozarks packing themselves into a swimming pool on Memorial Day with no regard to social distancing.
State epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan said the incubation period for COVID-19 from the point of the exposure until the appearance of symptoms can be anywhere from six to 14 days.
“If we had any sort of situation, we’d probably start seeing something spike about 14 days (from today). But we have to take into account that there have been gradual reopening efforts, so we would monitor that along the way and potentially start to see issues five to six days after,” she said.