The highly contagious delta variant accounts for more than 90% of new COVID-19 cases, as this strain drives surges largely among the unvaccinated populace in the state.
As of the latest report available, released Aug. 10 from the New Jersey Department of Health, the state saw 1,392 new COVID-19 cases and 671 hospitalizations, while the delta variant accounted for over 90% of cases during the four-week period ending July 24.
Daily cases and total hospitalizations – two of the biggest metrics used to gauge the extent of the virus – have risen to their highest levels since the start of May when Gov. Phil Murphy began lifting the final round of COVID-19 restrictions.
Less than 5.4 million people in New Jersey have been fully vaccinated, leaving another 4 million residents unvaccinated. While the former number initially drove down the spread of the virus through the early summer, waning vaccination rates coupled with the more contagious nature of the delta variant have pushed recent surges.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli cautioned that the state could see at least a thousand cases a day “for awhile,” but was confident that “our hospitals have the capacity to take care of people.”
For comparison, the state had more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients during the first wave in the spring 2020, prompting a three-month ban on elective procedures at hospitals.
Most of the current hospitalizations and fatalities are among those who have not gotten the vaccine, or not gotten the full-dose regimen, according to Murphy.
While Murphy has largely shied away from top-heavy mandates, he’s nonetheless contended that some alternative to the New York City rules could be in order. In Manhattan, proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for patrons to gain access to indoor activities such as restaurants and gyms.
One such restaurant in New Jersey – It’s Greek To Me Ridgewood – became the first eatery in the state to enact such a mandate.
All 21 counties in the state have reached a high-enough transmission level that under the guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks should be worn at indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.
Murphy has largely been resistant to vaccine mandates in the private sector, and many employers NJBIZ interviewed, either said they will not require the shot, or opted not to comment or respond to inquiries. Public sector workers – like state employees and teachers – still are not required to get the jab.
Last week, the State Judiciary said that its more than 8,000 court staff and judges have to get the shot by Aug. 20, and Murphy signed an order mandating employees get the vaccine if they work at New Jersey’s county jails and state correctional facilities, veterans homes, psychiatric centers, 71 acute-care hospitals, specialty hospitals, developmental centers, long-term care and assisted-living facilities, short-term and post-acute in-patient rehabs, home health agencies, behavioral health care facilities, and the state-owned University Hospital.
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