New Jersey officials on Monday reported another 260 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the fewest announced in one day since August — and an additional 10 deaths, while COVID-19 hospitalizations fell below 700 patients for the first time in more than seven months, as Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state is set to lift many of its remaining restrictions over the next two weeks.
That includes dropping the state’s indoor mask mandate in most cases Friday; eliminating 6-foot social distancing guidelines at restaurants, stores, and more the same day; and ending indoor gathering limits June 4.
“At a certain point, we’ve got to open up,” Murphy said during his latest coronavirus briefing in Trenton, held nearly 15 months after the state’s outbreak began. “And we believe this is the right point to do that.”
The governor said the state is not yet “out of the woods” with the pandemic but added “we are in a meaningfully, dramatically different and better place.”
This all comes as more than 3.9 million people who live, work, or study in the Garden State have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at New Jersey sites. That includes 88,000 out-of-state residents who were vaccinated in New Jersey. Another 167,000 New Jersey residents have been vaccinated in other states.
The state has set a goal of having 70% of New Jersey’s 6.9 million adults vaccinated by the end of June. About 56% have been fully vaccinated so far, while kids as young as 12 are now eligible to receive shots. More than 188,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been vaccinated in New Jersey.
More than 4.78 million people have received at least their first dose at a New Jersey site — about 52% of the state’s 9.2 million residents.
New Jersey’s coronavirus numbers keep dropping steadily as vaccinations continue to be rolled out. The state’s seven-day average for new confirmed positive COVID-19 tests is now 491 — down 35% from a week ago and 81% from a month ago. That’s the lowest seven-day average since Sept. 25.
The 260 new cases announced Monday were the fewest the state has announced in one day since Aug. 24.
There were 699 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the state as of Sunday night — the lowest number since Oct. 13. Overall, hospitalizations for the virus are down 82% since the state’s second-wave peak of 3,873 patients on Dec. 22.
The statewide transmission rate increased to 0.64 from 0.51 the day before. But any number under 1 indicates the outbreak is slowing and each new case is leading to less than one additional case. The transmission rate has fluctuated over recent weeks, in part due to a recent revision to total cases to remove more than 10,000 duplicates.
The positivity rate for tests conducted on Thursday, the most recent day available, was 2.13% based on 28,873 tests.
Murphy has been gradually easing coronavirus restrictions as numbers fall. On Monday, he announced New Jersey will drop the indoor mask mandate it has had in place since last April starting Friday — though there are exceptions and those who aren’t vaccinated are still strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks. Still, there will be no efforts to enforce that and New Jersey will rely on the honor system, Murphy said.
The governor also said there will no longer be 6-foot social distancing limits on restaurants, stores, personal services, churches and other businesses as of Friday. The state already eliminated most fixed, percentage-based indoor capacity limits at those places this past Wednesday, but this will take away any caveats.
In addition, the state will remove all indoor gathering limits June 4.
“These steps, when all added together, are the clearest signs of our commitment to carefully and deliberately reopening our state after what has been a truly crushing almost 15-month period,” Murphy said.
New Jersey, an early coronavirus epicenter, has now reported 885,987 confirmed cases out of 14.3 million PCR tests in the more than 14 months since the state reported its first case March 4, 2020.
There have also been 128,203 positive antigen tests during the outbreak. Those cases are considered probable, and health officials have warned that positive antigen tests could overlap with the confirmed PCR tests because they are sometimes given in tandem.
The state of 9.2 million people has reported 26,100 residents have died from complications related to COVID-19 — including 23,440 confirmed deaths and 2,660 fatalities considered probable.
New Jersey has the most coronavirus deaths per capita among American states, largely driven by the early days of the pandemic, when the virus spread rapidly through the region.
There were 699 patients hospitalized with confirmed (602) or suspected COVID-19 cases across New Jersey’s hospitals as of Sunday night — two fewer than the previous night, according to state data.
That included 148 in critical or intensive care (three fewer than the night before), with 102 on ventilators (six fewer).
There were 67 COVID-19 patients discharged Sunday, while 55 people were admitted.
By comparison, hospitalizations peaked at more than 8,300 patients during the first wave of the pandemic in April 2020 and more than 3,800 during the second wave in December.
New Jersey has reported 281 in-school coronavirus outbreaks, which have resulted in 1,263 cases among students, teachers and school staff this academic year, according to state data.
The state defines school outbreaks as cases where contact tracers determined two or more students or school staff caught or transmitted COVID-19 in the classroom or during academic activities at school. Those numbers do not include students or staff believed to have been infected outside school or cases that can’t be confirmed as in-school outbreaks.
There are about 1.4 million public school students and teachers across the state, though teaching methods amid the outbreak have varied, with some schools teaching in-person, some using a hybrid format and others remaining all-remote.
Murphy announced last week his executive order allowing for virtual schooling in New Jersey during the pandemic will not be renewed beyond this academic year, which will officially end the option for virtual learning in the fall.
Broken down by age, 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 (19.9%), 65-79 (10%), 5-17 (10%), 80 and older (4.4%) and 0-4 (2.1%).
On average, 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 (45.6%), followed by those 65-79 (33.6%), 50-64 (16.3%), 30-49 (4.1%), 18-29 (0.4%), 5-17 (0%) and 0-4 (0%).
At least 8,050 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 are active outbreaks at 155 facilities, resulting in 1,547 active cases among residents and 2,354 among staffers. Those numbers have slowed as vaccinations continue at the facilities.
As of early Monday afternoon, there have been more than 167 million positive COVID-19 tests across the world, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 3.46 million people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The U.S. has reported the most cases, at more than 33.1 million, and the most deaths, at more than 589,900.
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