Sweeping new mandates are going into effect around the country and in our region, fueled by fear over the spreading omicron COVID variant.

The mandates are being enacted despite early evidence the mutated coronavirus causes only minor to moderate illness in most people. In South Africa, where omicron was first detected and is now the dominant strain, there has been no dramatic spike in the number of hospitalizations, with most patients are recovering at home.

Gov. Phil Murphy now has the power to reclaim many of the pandemic powers he gave up when he allowed the public health emergency declaration to expire earlier this year, but he has not done so.

Murphy is strongly urging people to get vaccinated and boosted and to start wearing masks again, but has announced no new mandates.

In New York City, however, new mandates will go into effect by the end of the month, and they are the toughest in the nation.

They include a vaccine mandate for all city workers, public and private.

If you want to take your kids to see a show or eat at a restaurant, you will need to show proof they have been vaccinated against COVID.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the sweeping new mandates with the support of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, however she was not ready to impose those restrictions on the state as a whole.

The CDC also will now require anyone two years old and older flying into the United States to provide a negative COVID test within 24 hours of boarding their flight.

New Jersey's current spike in new cases continues to be driven by the delta variant, not omicron. There has been one confirmed case of omicron, but health officials suspect there are many more.

Many anticipate Murphy will soon impose new mandates on New Jersey, but he has signaled no indication that will be the case. Speculation among Trenton insiders is that he is reluctant to do so with the wounds suffered by Democrats in last month's elections still fresh.

Lawmakers did grant Murphy the ability to impose new mandates if New Jersey's rate of transmission rose above one or there was a spike in hospitalizations.

New Jersey's rate of transmission was logged as 1.26 on Monday and hospitalizations have now topped 1,200.

However, there is little support in the Legislature for a new round of restrictions, and the public is clearly weary of the slow pace of recovery and return to normalcy now nearly two years into the pandemic.

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