State health officials detected New Jersey’s two cases of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant first discovered in Brazil – the third variant found in the state so far.
Both cases of this variant – known officially as P1 -were in Hudson County, and the two cases are linked, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. Investigations are underway to determine if either person had any travel history.
So far, the state has detected 72 known cases across 16 counties of a variant first detected in the United Kingdom, known as B117, according to state health data.
A third variant first detected in New York City has spread to 34 cases in the Northeast parts of the state, Persichilli added.
“While we are concerned about the increase in variant strains, the public health prevention measures we’ve all been using — physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, getting vaccinated when it’s your turn — are important tools to prevent the spread of this virus,” the health commissioner assured at a daily COVID-19 press briefing on March 3.
The state has largely moved past its second wave, which peaked in the middle of January. And the vaccination efforts are showing signs of picking up by the beginning of April, on top of the more than 2.1 million New Jersey adults who’ve gotten a first or second dose.
But federal and state health officials have warily eyed the presence of these new variants, which they said are slated to drive back up daily cases and total COVID-19 patient count.
Already there’s been a “slight uptick in cases” across North and Central Jersey thanks to the variant, Persichilli said.
Were it not for the uncertainty around these new variants, Gov. Phil Murphy said, the state would be much further along in its reopening process, meaning business restrictions might have been loosened even further by now given the latest COVID-19 metrics and current progress with vaccines.