Vaccination rates are up and the number of COVID cases in New Jersey continue to fall, so what's next as we head into autumn?

The metrics

Many of the key COVID indicators tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey Department of Health are falling to levels not seen since the beginning of August. The seven day weekly average of new positive COVID tests has dropped by more than 30%. Hospitalizations are just above 800. The rate of transmission has also fallen to .93. Anything below 1.0 indicates the outbreak is shrinking, not expanding.

Seven New Jersey counties have now moved down one tier in the CDC's daily COVID tracker. Just a few weeks ago, all counties were listed as having a 'high' risk of community transmission. Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic and Somerset counties have been moved to having a 'substantial' risk of transmission.

Vaccinations

New Jersey is on pace to reach 6 million fully vaccinated individuals who live, work or study here by the end of this week. That's close to 75% of the eligible population. Only a handful of state's have a higher vaccination rate. In addition, state health officials say 6.7 million people have received at least one dose of vaccination. Another 315,000 have returned for a booster dose.

Regulations

With the daily and weekly COVID metrics moving in a narrow range for weeks, there has not been a lot of conversation about the need for stricter mandates from the state. For the most part, state health officials have been content to allow local towns and counties to set their own mandates when it comes to vaccinations.

As of today, all state workers are subject to weekly COVID testing if they cannot prove they are fully vaccinated.

Federal labor officials are about to release guidelines for the workplace soon. President Joe Biden has mandated that all businesses with 100 or more employees require workers to be inoculated against COVID.

Gov. Phil Murphy, facing re-election, has been slow to impose new mandates but has stated "everything remains on the table." That could include mandates that require vaccination proof to eat inside a restaurant. With the FDA appearing ready to approve COVID vaccines for kids as young as 5, New Jersey could also be among the first states to impose a vaccination requirement for all students to attend in-person classes. However, no one inside the Murphy administration is willing to commit to any new regulations this close to the gubernatorial election.

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