Statewide pandemic falls to ‘moderate’ activity levels for first time in months

Daniel J. Munoz//February 26, 2021

Statewide pandemic falls to ‘moderate’ activity levels for first time in months

Daniel J. Munoz//February 26, 2021

The statewide COVID-19 activity level in the state dropped to “moderate” earlier this month for the first time in 15 weeks, according to data from the New Jersey Department of Health, as the state slides down from a second wave peak earlier this winter.

According to state data, just two of the six regions across the state  – the Northeast and Central East regions – marked “high” levels of activity as of Feb. 20, while the rest were moderate.

Key metrics used to gauge the extent of the COVID-19 spread have all gone down – hospitalizations, as well as daily COVID-19 cases and fatalities – both in New Jersey and across the entire nation, suggesting that the COVID-19 second wave has passed.

“Other states have seen these numbers come down even faster,”  Gov. Phil Murphy said at a Feb. 26 daily COVID-19 press briefing. But, he noted, “we’re the densest state in the nation” and “we’re the densest region in the nation,” hence a potentially slower end of the second wave.

The state reported 3,149 new cases on Feb. 26, down from an all-time record-high of close to 7,000 daily cases reported on Jan. 13.

The seven-day average was 2,579 cases as of Feb. 26, which is down 4% from a week ago. There were 2,008 COVID-19 hospitalizations, which was down 48% from a second wave peak on Dec. 22, and an all-time high in the spring of more than 8,000 patients.

State leaders and public health officials have confidently stated that much of the pandemic will be under control by the fall.

That’s because of the potential end of the second wave, a ramped-up (albeit sluggish) vaccination effort, as well as the approach of warmer weather that keeps people outside where the virus is less easily transmissible.

As of Feb. 26, the state had administered 1.26 million first doses and over 636,000 second doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is hearing New Brunswick drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s bid for emergency approval of their one-shot vaccine today, Feb. 26.

If that’s approved immediately, Murphy said the state could get as many as 70,000 doses next week.

As the virus is brought more under control, the governor would gradually roll back restrictions placed on businesses, such as reduced capacity, sanitization requirements and mask mandates in public.

Those have helped curb the spread of the virus, but strangled both the regional and national economy in the process.