Delta variant driving spike in NJ COVID cases, not omicron
Even with the presence of the new omicron COVID variant now confirmed in New Jersey, it's the delta variant that is fueling the current surge in new cases.
For the past several days, hospitalizations for coronavirus have topped 1,000, after falling to as low as 644 reported on Nov. 7. State health officials have warned hospitalizations could double by mid-January as new cases spike. However, hundreds of patients are discharged each week after fully recovering.
New Jersey's rate of transmission (r/t) spiked to 1.2 over the weekend. The number of positive tests has nearly doubled from a week ago. Any r/t above 1.0 indicates a spread of the virus.
Every New Jersey county is listed as having a "high risk" of community spread, according to the CDC's data tracker.
On Saturday, Gov. Phil Murphy urged New Jersey resident to resume wearing a mask in public and to get a COVID vaccine or booster shot, but did not announce any new restrictions.
Murphy's urgings came a day after he confirmed a woman who had arrived in New Jersey by plane was the first confirmed case of the omicron variant. Murphy and state health officials expect many more omicron cases in the weeks ahead.
The New Jersey Department of Health has not identified the woman, but has confirmed she remains in isolation in New Jersey. She is said to be having mild symptoms.
Although this latest variant appears to be highly contagious, it seems to cause much less severe illness. Despite being the dominant strain in South Africa, where it was first discovered, there has not been a huge spike in hospitalizations.
Chief White House Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he is cautiously optimistic the omicron variant does not produce severe illness in many people, but says more scientific study is needed.