TRENTON — Monmouth and Ocean counties have experienced their highest weekly increases in new COVID-19 cases as state health officials warn that the more transmissible delta variant is fast becoming the dominant strain in New Jersey.
In Monmouth County, recent COVID-19 numbers published by officials show 280 new cases from July 8 to July 15, with figures showing that the county has recorded 68,380 total cases of the virus since last March.
The weekly increase experienced this past week is nearly double the amount of new weekly cases the county had at the start of the summer. From May 30 to July 6, the county experienced a weekly increase of 73 cases, with figures inching upward to 110 the next week and 127 the week after. The previous week, from July 2 to July 8, saw an increase of 191 new cases.
New weekly cases in Ocean County have also seen an increase. From July 9 to July 16, the county has experienced 193 new cases of COVID-19, the highest increase seen since Memorial Day weekend. From May 30 to June 6, 101 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded. In successive weeks, the county published figures showing 63, 108, 126, 129 and 167 weekly cases.
The delta variant has become the dominant strain of the virus in New Jersey over the last four weeks. Of the 555 total variants sequenced in New Jersey, 51.4 percent have been the delta variant. The alpha variant, the most prevalent variant overall in New Jersey, was sequenced 24 percent of that total in the same timeframe. Since mid-December, the most sequenced has been the alpha variant. Of the 14,191 variants sequenced since Dec. 20, 39 percent has been the alpha variant and 2.9 percent has been the delta variant.
New Jersey has seen a 20 percent increase in hospitalizations among unvaccinated individuals, according to the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health.
Speaking during a coronavirus briefing on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said that officials are watching the increases in the rate of transmission and new cases “like a hawk,” but at this time it was too early to discuss reinstating some measures meant to limit the spread of the virus, like mask mandates and capacity restrictions.
“Our strong preference is to not go back. We are among the most vaccinated states in the country and that is a huge positive,” the governor said. “Our strong hope is that we can stay where we are.”
As of Monday, 5,175,076 New Jersey residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. While the state has hit its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by the start of July, the rise of the delta variant worries state officials.
“Despite New Jersey’s successful vaccination program, many residents are still unvaccinated, which is leading to increases in cases and hospitalizations in our state,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said on Monday during the state’s coronavirus press briefing.
The commissioner has warned that the increase in the delta variant is also a threat to children under the age of 12, who are not able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Nationally, the delta variant, which is highly transmissible and virulent, is driving cases in unvaccinated residents including children,” the commissioner said. “It is expected that this variant will cause an increase in cases among children that can not be vaccinated, including severe cases. We are concerned.”
In New Jersey, case rates among children under 12 have increased at the same rate as the general population, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. But, when looking at case data from June 12 to last week, cases among children have increased by 29 percent among those ages 4 and younger, 15 percent for those between age 5 to 10, and 36 percent for those ages 11 to 13.
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