By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
SOUTH JERSEY — On Thursday, New Jersey reported a total of 1,017 new COVID-19 cases — the highest total in three months.
New Jersey last reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in the state on May 8, which is when 1,030 new cases were added to its total. The recent uptick in cases comes as the Delta variant of the virus, which is more contagious and spreads more rapidly than other variants, has spread throughout the United States.
The virus’ Delta variant has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to change its mask-wearing guidance. Two months ago, the CDC said it was safe for vaccinated individuals to not wear masks indoors. Now, the government agency is now recommending all individuals who live in counties where the virus’ spread is “substantial” or “high” wear masks in indoor spaces, regardless of their vaccination status.
In conjunction with its announcement of the new mask-related guidance, the CDC shared a map showing how the virus is spreading by county. As of Wednesday, three South Jersey counties — Atlantic, Ocean, and Burlington — were deemed to have a “substantial” level of COVID-19 spread. Cumberland County’s level was “low,” while Gloucester, Salem, Cape May, and Camden counties were all classified as a “moderate” level of COVID-19 spread.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy responded to the updated CDC guidance by issuing a statement with Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. He “strongly recommended” New Jerseyans resume wearing masks indoors, but he didn’t reintroduce any concrete mandate pertaining to masks and social distancing.
You can read Gov. Murphy’s full statement below:
Our metrics are trending in the wrong direction, and new data suggests the Delta variant is more transmissible even among vaccinated individuals, which is why we are making this strong recommendation. Fortunately, our numbers are a fraction of those in many other states, most of which have significantly lower vaccination rates. Should our numbers reach those levels, we reserve the right to take more drastic action, including a statewide mask mandate.
We have crushed this virus repeatedly like no other state in the nation, and we are proud to boast among the country’s highest vaccination rates. But at this point, given where our metrics are now, we feel the best course of action is to strongly encourage every New Jerseyan, and every visitor to our state, to take personal responsibility and mask up indoors when prudent. And we equally encourage every unvaccinated resident or visitor to get vaccinated. The vaccines are proven safe and highly effective, and are the surest way we can end this pandemic.
New Jersey initially lifted its mask mandate on May 28. Gov. Murphy said during an interview on CNBC that he doesn’t want to reintroduce it, but he’ll do so “if we have to.”
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