With COVID cases and hospitalizations continuing to rise in New Jersey because of the Delta variant, there are continuing concerns about what may happen with the pandemic and how it could impact the economic recovery.

On Thursday, as the stock market continued to rally after falling at the start of the week because of COVID jitters, the state confirmed an additional 655 COVID positive cases, almost triple from a week and a half ago. Hospitalizations also increased to 369, 19 higher than the previous day.

Dr. Martin Blaser, an infectious disease expert and director of the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicinem, said with millions of people vaccinated in the Garden State he does not expect the pandemic to come roaring back “but COVID keeps springing surprises on us.”

“Behind Delta are other variants that we don’t even know what they can do. Maybe they won’t be as bad, maybe they’ll be worse," he said.

Even with this uncertainty, Rutgers University economist James Hughes said the economy has been gaining momentum for the past 15 months and “any health concerns that have arisen could slow things down. But it’s not going to stall the recovery. The recovery is going to continue.”

Dr. Blaser said while the future twists and turns of COVID are unknown, it’s important that people react appropriately, which means our reaction to conditions may change.

“A few weeks ago we were breathing more easily, but now I’m starting to wear a mask whenever I’m going into a store or a public place,” he said.

“The vaccine gives a lot of immunity, it’s so much better than not being vaccinated. But it’s not 100% immunity so people need to be cautious," he said.

Gov. Phil Murphy has so far rejected the notion of reinstating any mask mandates, but that may change after the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended having all school children wear masks. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agrees.

Hughes said the National Bureau of Economic Research just announced the recession caused by the COVID pandemic technically ended in April of last year, lasting a total of about two months, making it the shortest recession or contraction in the history of record keeping.

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

50 Most Popular Chain Restaurants in America

YouGov investigated the most popular dining brands in the country, and Stacker compiled the list to give readers context on the findings. Read on to look through America's vast and divergent variety of restaurants—maybe you'll even find a favorite or two.

Most Expensive House For Sale in Mercer County

Located in Mercer County, the six bedroom and 10 bath home is listed for $9.75 million. The home has a movie theater, a bar, three bedrooms with balconies, and a three-bedroom carriage house. Outside, it has over 128 acres of property with a pool, a putting green, two ponds, and basketball and tennis courts.