TRENTON — “Alarms are going off,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday as several COVID-19 numbers in recent days have climbed precipitously across New Jersey.
The number of new positive cases reported on Friday was 699, compared to around 350 a day in June. The number of patients hospitalized was 695, with 113 of those in intensive or critical care. And the rate of transmission, which had been knocked down to 0.70 by June 15, now has risen to 1.35, well above the benchmark of 1. That means the virus now is spreading, instead of abating as it had in April, May and June, when the state was “flattening the curve.”
“Look, the numbers are setting off alarms that we take very seriously. … We are standing in a very dangerous place,” the governor said at his press briefing on Friday.
The governor warned that he would not hesitate to re-impose tighter restrictions if the numbers continue to increase. He blamed the rise mostly on house parties and other incidents of people gathering indoors without facial coverings or social distancing, and he said there will be crackdowns on violations of his executive orders.
“The only way to silence these alarms and get back to moving forward is for everyone to take this seriously. All of us. We are not past this,” he said.
“Everyone who walks around refusing to wear a mask, or who hosts an indoor house party or who overstuffs a boat is directly contributing to these increases. This has to stop and it has to stop now.
“I’m not announcing any specific action today, but consider this as being put on notice. We will not tolerate these devil-may-care, nonchalant attitudes any longer,” Gov. Murphy said.
“The limit on indoor gatherings is the lesser of either 100 people or 25 percent capacity, meaning if your capacity is 100, then you can have no more than 25 people inside. I want to reiterate that we reserve the right to lower this threshold if necessary to protect public health,” he said.
“Let’s keep working together to push this virus back down. Keep your social distances. Wear a mask. And please, no house parties, no overstuffed boats.
“We can do this, folks. We’re New Jersey. We always punch above our weight. Behave responsibly. Common sense for the common good,” he urged.
The governor did offer one good number on Friday — zero COVID-19 deaths were reported by hospitals in the previous 24 hours.
“This is the first time this has happened since March 10th,” he said, but noted that it was a “lagging indicator,” since most COVID-19 deaths, which now total 13,944 in New Jersey, happen about a month after the victim is infected.
The cumulative number of cases in New Jersey since March 4 stood on Friday at 181,660, with 10,414 of those in Ocean County, the seventh highest in the state, and 10,057 of those in Monmouth County, the eighth highest.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the federal Centers for Disease Control recently released data on patients with milder cases.
“They found that one in five previously healthy young individuals 18 to 34 years of age weren’t, in fact, back to usual health in two to three weeks after testing positive. This lingering illness may lead to prolonged absences from work, studies or other activities. Some studies have indicated the virus can damage the heart,” and she said and many younger persons who contract the virus are still struggling with fatigue or difficulty breathing weeks or even months later.
“This should be a sobering reminder to healthy residents, especially young individuals, that this disease is serious. It is not worth taking unnecessary risks,” Ms. Persichilli said.
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