New Jersey continues to see an increase in the number of cases involving a COVID-19 mutation.

Public health officials confirm 31 cases have been positively identified in 11 counties. All are believed to be the mutation first detected in the United Kingdom. The U.K. variant can be up to 70% more contagious than the original strain. There is also growing concern it could be more deadly.

Initially, it was not believed to cause more severe symptoms, but there us initial medical data that suggested that may not be the case. There is also evidence the mutation is resistant to current vaccines. Vaccine makers have already begun development and testing of modified vaccines to combat these mutations.

Of the 11 New Jersey counties where the U.K. variant has been found, Ocean County had the highest number of infections at 12. The Murphy administration has confirmed one death from the mutated virus. Of those infected, at least three had recently traveled. Health officials have not said how often they are testing for mutations like the one from the U.K. or if they are also testing for strains that were first detected in South Africa and Brazil.

Mutations in viruses are common. The COVID virus has already mutated thousands of times. In most cases, the mutations have no real impact on transmission or treatment. However, some of the mutations will develop over time that can make the virus more aggressive, dangerous and resistant to vaccines and treatments. That is what we are seeing with these named mutations.

It is also why White House Chief Medical Advisor. Anthony Fauci says it is critical to speed up the pace of vaccinations. If there are fewer hosts for the virus to infect, it will not have the opportunity to mutate.

New Jersey passed a million doses of vaccine given on Monday, but of that total, just 224,000 have been given their second dose for full immunity. That is less than 5% of the state's goal of 4.7 million adults vaccinated.

Gov. Phil Murphy expressed confidence the state would reach that goal by summer in order to return to some sense of normalcy. He told Harry Hurley on WPG he expected the state would reach it's vaccination goal in time for things like beach concerts and the Atlantic City Air Show to go on. That is contingent on a dramatic increase in the amount of vaccine being delivered to New Jersey, which Murphy expects to happen in the next few weeks.

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LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.


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