Murphy: Climbing virus contagion among young people ‘striking’

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The rising rate of COVID-19 transmission among young people worries health officials.

TRENTON – Rising COVID-19 transmission among young people has New Jersey health officials worried.

“We are seeing case numbers climb among ages 19 to 24. This population now has the highest percent positivity in the state, at six percent. Right behind them is the 14 to 18 age group, with a positivity of four percent,” state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during Gov. Phil Murphy’s Friday news conference. “Percent positivity among all other age groups is declining or remaining flat,” she said. The average positivity rate for New Jerseyans taking COVID-19 tests now is 2.6 percent.

“The positivity rate among young people is really striking,” Gov. Murphy said.

Health officials are not aware of any transmission of the virus occurring inside any elementary or secondary schools that have reopened, Ms. Persichilli said.

“The most recent increase among young people began in mid-August, and the department is hearing anecdotal reports of social gatherings such as end-of-summer parties and back-to-school parties, and they are helping to drive transmission.

“We are also aware of reports of increasing cases among college students in some areas, those who have returned to off-campus housing,” Ms. Persichilli said.

“We are all social beings and we know young people want to socialize, but it must be done safely. Stay at least six feet from one another, wear face coverings and wash hands. Avoid sharing food and drink with others and certainly if you feel sick, stay at home,” she said.

She said it’s critical that the 14 to 18 age group follow the same precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, especially to older, more vulnerable people such as their grandparents.

Gov. Murphy said the statewide rate of transmission “is down a hair,” to 1.08, but still above the benchmark of 1.0 that shows the outbreak is not widening.

On Friday, state officials reported 518 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 195,888.

There were nine new confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported, bringing the state’s death toll to 14,234.

Gov. Murphy began the news conference Friday by remembering the 704 New Jersey residents killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“So, as we did on that day, today we recommit to the values of liberty and community upon which this nation was built. We are a nation of individuals, but as the first words of our Constitution note, ‘We, the People,’  and we rise and fall as one.

“We were knocked down 19 years ago today, but we got back up and showed the world our nation, even when in shock and stricken with grief, comes together,” Gov. Murphy said. “And perhaps, with everything we have been facing over these past six months, this is the most pertinent of anniversaries, because we are now forced to marshal that inner strength again.”

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