New Jersy reports 6 COVID deaths, 246 cases. Hospitalizations back over 300

New Jersey on Thursday reported another 246 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and another six confirmed deaths, while statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations jumped back over 300 as officials continue to warn unvaccinated residents about the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.

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More than 4.97 million people who live, work, or study in the 9.2 million-resident Garden State have now been fully vaccinated, according to state data. More than 5.44 million people have received at least their first dose at a New Jersey site.

Officials have said New Jersey’s outbreak has plateaued recently after weeks of sharp drops in numbers, with the state seeing an increase in Delta variant cases — which now account for 1 in 4 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Officials have called on more New Jerseyans to get vaccinated to protect against the variant, saying the relatively high vaccination rate here has helped prevent the larger outbreaks other states have seen.

“We are among the most vaccinated states in America,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during his radio show Wednesday night. “We have the virus on the run as we sit here.”

Still, Murphy said Wednesday, the Delta variant is “not just an American challenge” but “a New Jersey challenge.”

“Especially if you are unvaccinated,” he said.

New Jersey’s seven-day average for newly confirmed positive COVID-19 tests has crept up in recent days. It’s now 218 — up 18% from a week ago but down 30% from a month ago.

There were 315 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 (247) or suspected cases across New Jersey (49) as of Wednesday night — 20 more than the previous night — with 49 in intensive care and 28 on ventilators. By comparison, hospitalizations peaked at more than 8,300 patients during the state’s first wave in April 2020 and more than 3,800 during its second wave in December.

The statewide transmission rate rose to 0.97, up from 0.95 the day before. But any number under 1 indicates that each new case is leading to less than one additional case and shows the state’s outbreak is declining.

The latest statewide positivity rate for Saturday, the date with the most recent data, was 1.49%.

New Jersey, an early coronavirus hotspot, has now reported 26,462 deaths from complications related to COVID-19 in nearly 16 months — 23,759 confirmed and 2,703 considered probable. That’s the most deaths per capita among U.S. states.

In all, the Garden State has reported 893,155 total confirmed cases out of more than 14.44 million tests since it announced its first case March 4, 2020. The state has also reported 130,458 positive antigen tests — which are considered probable cases.

Murphy has lifted the majority of New Jersey’s coronavirus restrictions, though mask mandates remain on NJ Transit and in state buildings, among some other places. He has also ended the state’s emergency over the pandemic, though he retains some powers to keep managing the state’s response.

The governor announced Monday the state will not require students or staff to wear masks in school when the next academic year begins and instead will leave it up to individual districts whether to implement their own mask mandates. But he noted this is all contingent on there not being any “dramatic” deterioration in the state’s COVID-19 numbers.

Asked Wednesday whether the Delta variant would cause him to reinstate mask mandates in New Jersey, Murphy said: “I hope we don’t have to go back. We would not have taken the steps we’ve taken with any expectation we had to go backwards.”

“But if we have to, we will, clearly,” he added.

Murphy said the state will host its next COVID-19 briefing next Wednesday, July 7, but will cut the events down to one a week, every Monday, after that.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Live map tracker | Newsletter | Homepage

Those 30 to 49 years old make up the largest percentage of New Jersey residents who have caught the virus (30.9%), followed by those 50-64 (22.4%), 18-29 (20%), 5-17 (10.1%), 65-79 (10%), 80 and older (4.4%) and 0-4 (2.1%).

The virus has been more deadly for older residents, especially those with preexisting conditions. Nearly half the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents 80 and older (45.92%), followed by those 65-79 (33.15%), 50-64 (16.35%), 30-49 (4.16%), 18-29 (0.39%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0.02%).

At least 8,062 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been among residents and staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to state data.

There have been more than 182.3 million positive COVID-19 cases reported across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 3.94 million people having died from complications related to the virus. The U.S. has reported more cases (33.66 million) and deaths (604,700) than any other nation.

More than 3.2 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally.

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