As the weather starts to warm up and more outside activities begin to take place the COVID vaccine rollout is picking up steam, but the Garden State continues to pause its reopening plan.

While a significant number of residents are testing positive for the virus, the daily total was considerably higher in January than it is now. Also, most of the COVID metrics are considerably improved compared to the start of this year.

Two and a half months ago there were 3,726 COVID hospitalizations in New Jersey, compared with 2,225 reported on Monday.

The positivity rate is lower now than it was, there are fewer patients in the ICU, and the number of patients needing the help of a ventilator to breathe has almost been cut in half.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced modest outdoor gathering and seating capacity increases will kick in starting this Friday, but some Garden State residents are questioning why more significant steps are not being taken, especially because more than 4 million vaccines have already been administered, and the number is expected to significantly increase over the next few months.

During Monday’s COVID update in Trenton, the governor acknowledged the state is in a much better place than a few months ago and he seemed to agree that many of the positive test results lately involve younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill. But he continued to urge caution.

“We want to open; there’s no question about that,” said Murphy. “But we want to make sure that it’s a one-way street and that we don’t go back.”

“With the variants in our state and the level of transmission right now, which is about as high as it is anywhere in the country, we are in the better to be safe than sorry category," he added. “Nobody wants to open this place up more than I do ... and we are trying to save every single life we can as we do that.”

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said even vaccinated people need to be careful outside their home so as not to spread the virus around.

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

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