New Jersey on Wednesday saw more than 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the second day in a row and the third time in a week, as the nation and much of the globe experiences a second wave of the pandemic.
Data from the New Jersey Department of Health released Wednesday shows the state reporting 3,078 new cases. Tuesday, the state reported a “devastating” six-month record high of 3,877 new cases, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. The state reported 3,457 new cases on Saturday.
“The numbers are rising. Take this seriously, folks. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe,” Murphy said on Twitter.
Total COVID-19 hospitalizations clocked in at just over 1,800. At the height of the pandemic on April 17, the state reported 4,391 new cases, and over 5,600 total hospitalizations at the end of April.
That patient surge worried state health officials at the time, as the health care system and Murphy administration scrambled to broaden hospital capacity, both in terms of beds and extra manpower to deal with the surge and any non-COVID emergencies.
Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, whose department regulates the 71 acute-care hospitals and sprawling health care system, assured that the medical infrastructure is far more prepared for the second wave.
The virus claimed 14,661 lives since the first case on March 4, according to state health data.
Meanwhile, the positivity rate among COVID-19 tests stood at 8.24% as of Nov. 5, while the rate of transmission – or how quickly the virus spreads – was at 1.27. And New Jersey may be seeing between 2,000 and 3,000 daily new cases a day for the near future, Persichilli said.
To reverse the surge, the governor signed an order that goes into effect Nov. 12, requiring restaurants to stop indoor dining at 10 p.m., while indoor high school sports will be off-limits for the near future. Seating at indoor bars is banned altogether, but outdoor dining will be allowed to continue operations.
That’s despite his repeated assurances that the culprit behind the outbreaks were private indoor gatherings and not indoor dining. In those settings, social distancing is not followed and face coverings are not worn.
“These restaurants are basically turning into clubs at night. Folks are letting their hair down, as the hours go on, particularly at bars. They’re turning into situations that are turning COVID-positive outbreaks,” the governor said Tuesday night on WBGO’s “Ask Governor Murphy” segment.
Murphy warned that more shutdowns could be forthcoming, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka this week enacted strict curfew and far-reaching shutdown orders for the three zip codes hardest hit by the virus.
Newark has become ground zero for the new wave, leading Essex County to consistently report the highest number of new cases. The county reported 675 new cases Tuesday, and 360 new cases Wednesday.
Whether those restrictions, or these new statewide measures, have any impact, would not be known for two weeks, which is the average incubation time for the virus.
With federal authorization of a vaccine on the horizon, potentially from drugmaker Pfizer, Persischilli said that the state is wargaming actions for a “large-scale vaccination plan” that would run “the end of December and go through July.”
The goal is to inoculate over 4 million New Jerseyans in the six months following the vaccine’s approval, starting with roughly half a million health care workers, Persichill said in a recent 60 Minutes segment.
“That’s not forever… They’ll be able to be broadly distributed by the spring,” Murphy added last night. “We’ve just got to bear down for the next four to six months, particularly as we’re going indoors.”