As COVID grows in N.J., Murphy says ‘everything on the table’ in fight to contain its renewed spread

Published: Dec. 17, 2021

With COVID-19 cases once again soaring in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said the state could soon face new restrictions in response to a deadly pandemic that is once more growing.

“My fear is we’re going to be getting back to capacity limits at some point,” Murphy said during an unrelated press event at Port Newark on Friday, where he warned “this thing is still with us and sadly, the numbers are still going up.”

Earlier on Friday, the state reported another 16 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 6,260 confirmed cases. It marked the first time New Jersey health officials marked back-to-back days of more than 6,000 confirmed positive tests in the 21 months since the pandemic began.

On Thursday, the state reported another 6,271 positive tests, bringing the two-day total to 12,531. New Jersey had just six days total last winter with more than 6,000 cases — the highest recorded at 6,922 on Jan. 13.

Those numbers come as the cases of the omicron variant of the virus have been spreading like wildfire worldwide. Experts say the evidence is that omicron is far more transmissible and more likely to evade some natural immunity and, to some extent, vaccine-induced immunity.

The first case of the omicron coronavirus variant in New Jersey was identified two weeks ago in a Georgia woman who traveled to the state in November. The woman, who had been fully vaccinated, had recently traveled to South Africa, officials said.

Within days, a second case was reported involving a Monmouth County man who attended Anime NYC at the Javits Center in Manhattan in November, according to the Department of Health. The man got sick on Nov. 24 but was not hospitalized as he experienced mild symptoms.

Murphy said common sense would suggest that omicron cases in New Jersey are at a higher level than the sequencing being performed on specimens by the New Jersey Department of Health laboratory would suggest. Still, the governor believed the new spike in cases now being seen are largely part of the same wave sparked by the delta variant that began two months ago.

He said people should be cautious as the holiday season approaches. Gatherings inside with those whose vaccination status cannot be confirmed should be cause for concern for anyone, he said.

“That’s a mask if not a double mask,” Murphy said. “Going to someone’s New Year’s party in some basement somewhere with a bunch of people you don’t know — that’s a flashing yellow if not red light. You have to be very careful.”

Asked whether mask mandates might return if the numbers continue to rise, Murphy said “everything is on the table.”

Among those options include the possible return of capacity limits — whether implemented by the state or individual locations, he said.

Still, Murphy noted there were defenses that weren’t available a year ago, with vaccines and now boosters in play.

“There’s no reason to panic. But there is plenty of reason to be deadly serious about this,” the governor said.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-12-18 02:05:31 -0800