The spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey has reached the level such that masks should be worn in all 21 counties, per guidance put out by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Under the agency’s recent recommendations, anyone in a county with “high” or “substantial” spread of COVID-19 should wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccine status.
When the CDC first put out those recommendations, less than 10 counties met the threshold. Then, all but Warren County crossed the threshold, as the delta variant fueled months-long highs in daily cases and hospitalizations, mainly among those who have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
Gov. Phil Murphy has assured that the state is “still far” from using restrictions on businesses, travel and public gatherings to halt the spread of the virus–virtually all of which have remained lifted since May.
The state logged 1,208 new COVID-19 cases Aug. 8, the highest since the start of May and nearly 10 times the daily cases seen on June 21. There were 651 COVID-19 patients, more than twice the number of patients in May.
New Jersey’s seven-day average on Aug. 6 was 1,346, compared to a seven-day average of 222 cases on July 9, according to the CDC.
More than 5.3 million people who live, work or study in the state have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine since the first jabs were given in December. But despite boasting some of the nation’s highest vaccination rates, the levels fell short of those needed to reach herd immunity to halt the spread of this new variant.
For now, mask usage is just a recommendation by the Murphy administration, save for anyone in a K-12 school building starting this fall. While judges and court workers are among the first state workers that have to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and have until Aug. 20 to do so.
Last week, 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. They have until Sept. 7 to do so, or they have to submit to routine testing.
There has yet to be an announcement for state workers, and for teachers and school employees.
Municipal workers in Hoboken and East Brunswick have to get the shot, as well.
Private employers are slowly beginning to require their staff to get the vaccine. New York City said it is requiring the vaccine for all patrons at indoor dining, gyms and theaters. But Murphy has not publicly stated whether New Jersey would follow suit, instead opting for his oft-used phrase: “all options are on the table.”