TRENTON, NJ — Newly-released COVID-19 figures that show New Jersey may be heading in the wrong direction could mean the state will be forced to remain in Stage 2 of its recovery plan longer than expected.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Monday during the state’s coronavirus press briefing that the rate of transmission or “Rt” is over 1.0 for the first time in 10 weeks. The last two days saw an Rt of 1.03 — meaning every new additional positive COVID-19 case is leading to at least one more.
Another concerning figure, the health department has been made aware of multiple outbreaks stemming from nationwide “hot spots” — 12 of 13 new Hoboken cases tied to travelers from several states known to have severe spikes and several cases in North Jersey from attendees of a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“We're not going to be jumping the gun on a whole lot more opening-up steps right now,” Murphy said Monday afternoon in Trenton. “We are where we are now and my guess is we're going to be here for a bit. If we see these numbers, particularly the RT go down again precipitously and the spot positivity rates stay down…that will allow us to take some steps that I don't think we feel comfortable taking today.”
Following July 4 weekend, Murphy announced 216 newly-known coronavirus cases (total: 173,611) and at least 20 new deaths (total: 15,229). Of the fatalities announced, 13,373 are lab-confirmed and 1,856 are considered “probable.”
As far as those receiving treatment, there are now 861 hospitalizations, 187 patients in intensive/critical care and 152 people on ventilators.
Monday marked the tail end of Stage 2, with the allowance of graduation ceremonies, reopening of in-person summer education, youth day camps and expanded NJ Transit and light rail service.
According to the state’s website, “in Stage Three, higher-contact activities restart with significant safeguarding." However, a date has not been issued over when that will take effect.
Known locations to have seen significant jumps in their daily coronavirus outbreaks — leading in many instances to a pullback on reopenings include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. Travel rules are in effect for anyone touching down at Garden State airports, as officials continue to stress the wearing of face masks and social distancing.
“We know it is an inconvenience to separate yourself from others and to stay home for 14 days, but it is vital to break in the chain of transmission,” Persichilli said.
In addressing the expected interruption to its phased plan with a second wave coming, the governor said that state Health Department and his office were aware of the risks of reopening, “but there's a further element of risk associated with hotspots [and] that is something that we weren't planning on a month ago."