With overall COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations continuing to decline in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has given the green light to amusement and water parks and playgrounds to reopen with limited capacity starting July 2, along with indoor dining and casinos.

But state officials are voicing concern about a disturbing trend among younger New Jerseyans.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the state has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases among adults under 30. In April, this age group represented 12% of cases. As of June, however, they represent 22%.

She said videos of young partygoers jammed at the Jersey Shore and a bar in North Jersey last weekend are disturbing because such gatherings raise the risk of transmitting COVID-19 and people of any age can get severely ill.

“More than 640 residents between the ages of 18 and 29 have been hospitalized because of complications from this virus,” she said Tuesday. “And there have been more than 50 deaths among this age group.”

Murphy said if infection rates and hospitalizations start to rise, the progress we’ve made in reopening will be in jeopardy.

“The last thing any of us want to do is to put our restart on hold — as they’ve just done, by the way, in Louisiana. So, this is not abstract; this can happen. We don’t want it to happen but it can happen,” he said.

Persichilli noted even though many young people with the coronavirus are asymptomatic, meaning they don't present symptoms, “this population can spread the virus to more vulnerable populations.”

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Murphy added that young people need to remember that they are not invincible.

"There is no vaccine for COVID-19, there is no cure, there is no therapy. The only thing that works is to not get it — period, full stop. This isn’t a drill; this is a real-life battle to save lives even as we begin restarting our economy, and everyone has a role to play.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com