COVID-19 Variants Help Drive NJ Infection Rate to Highest in Nation

by Colleen O’Dea, Senior Writer, NJ Spotlight News

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to FULL story: njspotlight.com/2021/03/covid-19-variants-nj-highest-u-s-infection-rate-gov-murphy-loosens-restrictions/

New Jersey currently has the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections in the nation, likely fueled at least in part by the presence of large numbers of viral variants that state health officials are having a tough time quantifying due to the dearth of specialized testing.

Despite this, and the fact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is characterizing the current level of community transmission in every New Jersey county as high, Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday expanded the numbers for limited types of gatherings. He increased the number who can gather outdoors to 200 and raised the capacity percentages at such large venues as sports arenas to 20 percent for all indoor facilities that seat at least 2,500 and 30 percent for outdoor venues. Both take effect Friday.

Murphy said he feels comfortable that these will still allow for appropriate social distancing and noted that all other indoor limits—for dining and businesses—remain.

“Yes, cases are rising. They’re up. Hospitalizations are up two (200) to 300 over the past week to 10 days,” Murphy said. “We predicted this, expected it. We did not change the overall indoor capacities so it’s still the gather limits are 25. The indoor dining, gyms and indoor entertainment are still at 50 percent and I suspect they’ll stay there. We did raise it on large venues …They’re doing an exceptional job and going to 20 percent does not come anywhere close to having people need to be within six feet of each other.”

According to the latest data from the CDC, New Jersey’s rate of coronavirus cases over the past week was 346 per 100,000 people. The only other state with a rate higher than 300 was Michigan, with 327 cases per 100,000. The total number of COVID cases reported by the state rose by 3,600 on Monday. A NJ Spotlight News analysis of case data shows that the total number of cases has increased by more than 31,000 since last Monday to a total of more than 900,000, or roughly 10 percent of the state’s population.

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