The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations hovered above 300 for the fifth day in a row this weekend, as the highly contagious Delta variant surges among unvaccinated New Jerseyans and Americans.
Data posted over the weekend – both Sunday and Saturday – by the New Jersey Department of Health reflected at least 300 COVID-19 patients every day since July 6, punctuating weeks of historic lows in virtually every number used to gauge the spread of the pandemic.
Gov. Phil Murphy has credited widespread vaccination efforts as key to halting the spread of the pandemic, allowing him to pull back virtually all restrictions such as mask-mandates, travel restrictions and limits on brick and mortar businesses, such as gyms, restaurants, retail and entertainment.
More than 5.5 million people, out of the state’s 9 million residents, who live, work or study in New Jersey have gotten the vaccine.
Murphy boasted the state’s ability to reach its inoculation goals of 70% of state adults by June 30 – a celebration which remained elusive at the federal level, as nationwide vaccination rates ahead of the Fourth of July weekend fell flat.
But lagging interest among anti-vaccination skeptics, and vaccine-hesitant populations, has derailed gains the state had made.
Meanwhile, the highly contagious Delta variant, first detected in India, has swept across the nation, making up a third – 26.8% – of new COVID-19 cases in the state and more than half nationwide.
“We do not have a pandemic among the vaccinated,” Murphy said during a July 7 regular COVID-19 press briefing. “This is only a pandemic among the unvaccinated.”
At the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, thousands of COVID-19 patients flooded the state’s hospitals, while thousands more cases were logged and hundreds of New Jerseyans lost their lives to the virus.
During a July 9 interview with the Washington Post, Murphy said he was keeping “all options on the table” with regard to possibly re-implementing new restrictions. But, the first-term Democrat, who is seeking reelection this November, stressed he would like to avoid that move, which has become politically risky and harder for New Jerseyans to stomach.
“It is our sense that the overwhelming amount of folks who are passing away … are unvaccinated,” Murphy last week. “Folks that are going into the hospital, today, are overwhelmingly, if not completely unvaccinated.
Health officials stressed that the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson shots are all thoroughly effective against the variant.
“The protection you get from vaccines against disease … is still way better than not getting a vaccine at all where you have zero protection,” Christina Tan, the state epidemiologist, said on July 7.