The 18-to-29-year-old age group made up 33 percent of new COVID-19 cases, the state’s top health official said, as New Jersey experiences yet another rebound of the virus.
On Friday, the state logged 519 new cases of COVID-19, and 617 new cases on Thursday—some of the highest numbers for new cases since a surge at the end of July.
At his Friday COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton, Gov. Phil Murphy described the data as “back-to-back days where we have clocked some big numbers.”
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli decried a rash of gatherings across the state – not just parties, but “solemn” events like funerals. And, added State Epidemiologist Christina Tan, state health officials are warily eyeing the possibility of new cases this coming weekend, as Jewish residents usher in a new year with Rosh Hashanah.
“People are likely to be more indoors than out,” said Murphy. “That could mean that many New Jerseyans will stay indoors, where the virus more easily spreads than at outdoor gatherings.”
“We’re finding some very common patterns with regard to why we’re seeing increases. A lot are associated with gatherings,” Tan said. “With holidays coming up as well, you can gather safely.”
The new outbreaks in cases these past several days centered around Monmouth and Ocean counties, according to Persichilli, who said the two reported a combined 736 new cases over the last week.
Ocean County saw 112 new cases on Thursday and 93 on Friday, both the highest of New Jersey’s 21 counties on those days.
In the last week of July, New Jersey recorded a combined 2,000 new cases, a worrying trend that Murphy said was due to indoor and outdoor parties, typically attended by teenagers and adults in their 20s.
The 18-to-29-year-old age group made up only 12 percent of new cases as of April, ballooning up to 22 percent in June.
Persichilli said on Sept. 11 that 6 percent of all COVID-19 tests in the 19- to 24-year-old age group came back positive, and 4 percent in the 14- to 18-year-old age group, compared to a statewide average of just over 2 percent.
Both last week and today, she cited “anecdotal reports at social gatherings” such as “end-of-summer parties and back-to-school parties.”
“They’re occurring and helping to drive transmission,” she said at the governor’s COVID-19 press briefing on Sept. 12. “We’re also hearing reports of increasing transmission among college students who have returned to off-campus housing rather than on-campus.”
A much more daunting “twin-demic” of the flu season and a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases looms ahead in the colder months, which could overload the state’s health care system and force shutdowns to be re-enacted.
State officials have repeatedly denied that any new cases so far have stemmed from New Jersey’s K-12 school buildings, saying that any teachers and students who tested positive for COVID-19 contracted it elsewhere. And they have yet to come out with data on whether the resumption of indoor dining, gyms and theaters on Labor Day weekend led to new cases or no impact at all. Murphy did not say either way on Friday.
“We can’t just as a result of” these reopenings “feel like we’ve gotten through it,” the governor said.
Murphy and Persichilli have both maintained that the data would not be known for 10 days to two weeks, so between Sept. 17 and Sept. 21.