Signs point to possible new COVID restrictions coming in NJ
There are increasing signs from the Murphy administration that mask mandates and other restrictions could return to New Jersey.
The latest COVID metrics released by the New Jersey Department of Health reported on Wednesday show the number of positive COVID tests are up by nearly two-thirds over the last month. The state also reported more than 300 new tests in a single day for the first time since the end of May.
However, for perspective, the state was reporting thousands of new positive PCR tests a year ago.
Still, with more than 5.12 million residents considered fully vaccinated, it is a trend that has alarmed state health officials and the metrics are moving in a direction that could allow Gov. Phil Murphy to impose new mandates just as things are returning to normal in New Jersey.
When Murphy allowed his public health emergency declaration to expire, he cut a deal with the Legislature that would restore his sweeping pandemic powers if the rate of transmission (r/t) rose above one and/or there was a spike in hospitalizations. While the r/t has risen to 1.08, indicating COVID-19 is again spreading in New Jersey, there has not been a spike in hospitalizations. Just 310 of the infected were hospitalized statewide as of Wednesday.
Murphy has, however, continued to warn that new restrictions could be coming if the metrics continue to trend upward and more New Jersey residents are not vaccinated. He has declared the pandemic over for those who have gotten their shots, but claims the COVID variant is spreading among the unvaccinated.
Variant infections have yet to peak
The former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the "worst is yet to come" with the COVID Delta variant. Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday he believes Delta will become the dominant strain, and wash over the country through the summer, peaking in "September, maybe into October."
Variants of the Variants
There is also a report that the COVID mutations are also now mutating. Most troubling in that category was a mutation of the Delta variant, known as Delta-plus. Delta-plus, Gottlieb said, is as highly contagious as the original Delta, but is also showing resistance to current vaccines.