Officials say COVID-19 cases in the Garden State are on the rise and re calling on residents to continue to take protective measures despite more people being able to get vaccinated.

This week Gov. Phil Murphy said the statewide rate of transmission is currently at 1.09%. On March 31, 2,221 patients were in hospitals across the state who were confirmed to be positive with COVID-19. Of that number, 458 were being treated in intensive care and 236 were on ventilators. Murphy warned about the new variants that are posing a risk.

Vaccine eligibility was recently increased for more frontline essential workers and high-risk groups in the COVID-19 vaccination program. Eligible groups include individuals ages 55-64, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, higher education educators and staff, and communications and utility infrastructure workers.

“There’s no other way to put it. The virus continues to spread, and this pandemic is not over. We have more contagious variants to contend with. We have the on again, off again weather we have to contend with,” he said. “This is why we have to continue the basics: wearing facemasks, keeping social distances. It’s why we ask you to use your commonsense. It’s why we need to take this thing seriously. I know we all want to get back to things the way they were.”

Murphy recently signed an executive order increase outdoor gathering limits and increase capacity for seated events at large venues. The order also clarifies indoor capacity limits for banquet halls and similar venues. Outdoor gathering are increasing to 200 people. Venues, including sports and entertainment venues, with a seating capacity of 2,500 or more will be permitted to host events at 20% capacity indoors and 30%. General indoor gathering limit will remain at 25 people.

Health department Commissioner  Judy Persichilli said hospitalizations have increased in New Jersey increasing by 28% one the last two weeks. Parents in ICU are up by 16%. The largest increase is among the ages of 40 and 49. Persichilli says cases and hospitalizations will continue to rise.

“These sustained increases of hospitalizations and COVID activity demonstrate that we are definitely in another wave of this virus,” she said. “In the predictive modeling that the Governor reviewed, our assumptions – and they are assumptions – show increasing hospitalizations April through May with a very slow recovery over the summer.”

Burlington County Health Department Director Dr. Herb Conaway called for renewed vigilance by county residents about mask wearing and social distancing in the wake of an uptick in COVID-19 activity.

urlington County’s COVID-19 infection risk moved from “moderate” to “high” on the latest COVID-19 Activity Level Index report issued by the New Jersey Department of Health. The rating reflects increases in COVID-19 cases and a rise in the positivity rate from testing.

More than 33,000 Burlington County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and a total of 739 have died since the pandemic’s start last March.

There were 789 new cases in the county between March 19 and March 25 for an average of 113 new cases a day.

“We’ve been battling this pandemic for over a year now so it’s easy to understand why people may be experiencing COVID-19 fatigue, but we must remember that the virus is still very active in our state and in our county and we cannot let down our guard,” Conaway said. “We’re at a critical time. Even though thousands of our residents are now fully vaccinated and thousands more are getting their COVID-19 shots every day, the presence COVID-19 variants and lax attention to proven infection control practices threaten to reverse the progress we’ve made since the winter spike.”

Bergen County in collaboration with Bergen New Bridge Medical Center announced April 2021 dates for drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Bergen Community College (400 Paramus Rd, Paramus, N.J.). The program offers COVID-19 Nasopharyngeal Diagnostic PCR tests providing results in 48 hours tests.

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