Coronavirus cases in New Jersey, which just a week ago had plunged to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, are rising again, fueled in part by outbreaks among young adults along the Jersey Shore.
As of Thursday, New Jersey had recorded an average of 416 cases per day over the last week, an increase of 28 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a database maintained by The New York Times. On Friday, there were 699 new coronavirus cases, sending the week’s average number of daily cases to 550, well above the rate from a month ago.
“The numbers are setting off alarms,” Gov. Philip D. Murphy said at a briefing on Friday. “We are standing in a very dangerous place.”
The increase has worried elected leaders and public health officials who say that young people who are enjoying summer parties are not taking enough precautions.
A party that dozens of Long Beach Island lifeguards attended has been linked to 35 cases of the virus, according to the state’s health commissioner. A house party in Middletown, N.J., has been blamed for 65 new cases; 52 of the people infected were between the ages of 15 and 19, Mr. Murphy said. And a graduation party in Westfield, N.J., farther north, resulted in 17 cases.
“We are not past this,” the governor warned. “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.”
The head of the State Police has said the parties may be linked to the continued shutdown of indoor bars and restaurant dining, spawning what he called an “underground situation.”
In perhaps the most glaring example of this apparent thirst for summertime revelry, a party at an Airbnb rental in Jackson, N.J., about 65 miles south of Manhattan, drew more than 700 people on Sunday night, leading the police to issue tickets to the three organizers. More than 100 cars were parked outside, and it took the police more than five hours to clear the scene. On Friday, Airbnb announced it was removing 35 listings across New Jersey as part of an effort to crack down on illicit house parties.
Just a week ago, New Jersey recorded its lowest seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases — 224 — since the numbers peaked in the state in early April.
Aides to Mr. Murphy touted the achievement on Twitter, noting that New Jersey was the only state in the nation to have achieved a two-week decline in new cases of the virus.
On Thursday, it was New York’s turn to crow. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that New York had reached new lows in the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 or on ventilators. The rate of positive test results was 1.09 percent in New York — half of New Jersey’s 2.15 percent positive rate on Friday.
Mr. Cuomo said he had no plan to bar residents of New Jersey from coming to New York.
“I don’t know how you could quarantine New Jersey,” Mr. Cuomo said. “They don’t fly into New York. You’d have to blockade roads, and we’re not talking about blockading.”
Officials with Mr. Murphy’s office noted on Thursday that despite the uptick, New Jersey continues to be among the six states with the fewest new daily infections per 100,000 residents. Some of the increase in the last week also can be linked to a lag in testing results, which they said are sometimes delivered in large bulk batches, skewing the daily case counts.
On Wednesday, for example, the state reported 489 new cases of the virus; on Thursday, there were 261. On Friday — the first day since March 10 without a single Covid-19 death in New Jersey — the number spiked again to 699 cases.
The governor has not minced words about the worrisome trend, or its potential to undermine months of conscientious efforts to reduce the spread of the virus that has been linked to 15,819 deaths in the state.
“Over the past four months, we have crushed the curve,” he warned on Wednesday. “But folks, this is sobering.”
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Updated July 27, 2020
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- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
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Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
- So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
He added: “We can’t go backward. We can’t afford to go backward.”
Perry N. Halkitis, an epidemiologist and dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, agreed the delay in testing results muddies the daily data report.
But he said the seven-day trend is alarming.
“It’s time for us to say, ‘Indicators are bad,’” Dr. Halkitis said. “People are just gathering with no thought in mind.”
He added, “It’s almost like we have to re-pause, right now, before it gets too late.”
The risk of the virus has hit close to his home turf: The number of Rutgers University football players infected with the virus grew to 15 on Wednesday, the health commissioner, Judith M. Persichilli, said. The college announced on Saturday that it had suspended in-person team activities and placed all the players under quarantine.
Dr. Halkitis said he was concerned about schools reopening in just over a month for in-person instruction.
“The thing that keeps me up at night is the schools,” he said. “It’s absolutely an ‘uh-oh’ moment.”
George Helmy, the governor’s chief of staff, said they take every increase in virus cases seriously, and will continue to monitor any changes in the spread of the virus.
Mr. Murphy has said his goal is to try to open all schools for at least some in-person learning, though the final decisions are being made by individual districts.
“New Jersey has the best public education system in the nation and the governor believes that in-person learning for our children is essential for their academic advancement, social and mental well-being and development,” Mr. Helmy said on Thursday.
“Public health informs all of our decisions and we continue to assess and reassess our data as we get closer to the first day of school.”
Amanda Rosa contributed reporting.