New COVID cases plunge in NJ
New Jersey's COVID metrics are continuing to drop, another key indicator that the current outbreak is waning.
The rate of transmission (r/t) is at it lowest levels in months, at .89. Anything below 1.0 indicates the outbreak is not expanding.
Hospitalizations have increased slightly, but remain below 900 and have been fluctuating in a narrow range for weeks.
Nowhere has the improvement been greater than in Union County. Once a New Jersey hotspot, the number of new infections have dropped 88% in Union County in the last week. Union is now listed on the CDC data tracker as having a "low" risk of community transmission. It is the only county in New Jersey to reach the CDC's lowest risk tier, and one of only about 30 counties in the entire country with that designation.
Essex County has seen a 50% drop in new infections, and is now listed as having a "moderate" risk of community transmission.
Bergen, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic counties are classified as "substantial" risk, with the rest of the state still in the CDC's highest tier.
The change is welcome news to COVID-weary New Jersey residents, but comes as state health officials still warn of a fall and winter spike in infections as more people move to indoor activities. They are warning people to take precautions through the upcoming holidays, but have said trick-or-treating is considered safe.
The drop in metrics also comes as New Jersey approaches six million fully vaccinated individuals. However, few of those are coming back for their recommended booster shot. Only 20% of those eligible have received the extra dose.
State health officials are also preparing to launch a blitz to get kids as young as 5 vaccinated, once the United States Food and Drug Administration approves the shots for kids. That is expected to happen as early as next month. New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said vaccine doses will be made available at state clinics as well as pediatricians' offices and possible inside schools.
Gov. Phil Murphy said he is still considering making a COVID vaccination mandatory to attend in-person classes in New Jersey.