The long-dreaded second wave of the pandemic is hitting New Jersey as the number of new COVID-19 cases hit a six-month high.
The state reported 2,089 cases on Friday, the biggest count since the first week of May. Hospitalizations remain over 1,000—a three-month high.
“The second wave is no longer something off in the future,” Governor Phil Murphy said Thursday during a virtual briefing. “It is coming and it is coming now.”
New Jersey is now averaging about 1,600 cases a day and the new cases push the 7-day rolling average to about 18 cases for every 100,000 residents. That’s nearly double from just two weeks ago when New Jersey first topped 10 cases for every 100,000 residents.
“We are now urging you to double down on the practices that helped us flatten the curve,” Murphy said, striking a graver tone than in previous weeks.
The state’s worsening crisis bodes poorly for New York in its effort to prevent a second wave. In another bad sign for the region, Connecticut recorded a daily positivity rate on Thursday of 6.1%, the highest it has been since June. CT Governor Ned Lamont said that he saw the numbers as a sign of the second wave.
Two New Jersey cities, Newark and Paterson—which were hit hard in the spring and are seeing an alarming number of new cases— issued curfews for businesses this week.
Newark is reporting a positivity rate of 11.6 percent and Mayor Ras Baraka is ordering non-essential businesses to close at 8 p.m.
Paterson, the state’s third largest city, is ordering all businesses to close by midnight and encouraging residents to stay home after 9 p.m.
Murphy has not issued additional lock down restrictions but said nothing is “off the table.” He has attributed rising numbers to private gatherings and said there is still no link to widespread transmission in schools or indoor dining.
The state is reporting 28 outbreaks at its more than 3,000 public school buildings with a total of 122 cases among students and staff.
State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the state is getting ready to deploy teams of contact tracers and help set up pop up testing centers at virus hot spots. These hot spot teams have already been deployed to Newark.
“Newark has been extremely resilient in responding to COVID-19 but they needed a little more support. We deployed contact tracers and we're working with the health department to enhance testing and isolation capacity,” she said.
Persichilli said when cases surged in Lakewood in September, the state sent 21 contact tracers and opened 33 pop up testing sites. That helped lower the positivity rate from 36 percent to just under 6 percent last week.
New Jersey is testing about 33,000 people a day, according to its latest data. The state’s testing per capita rate, however, remains below New York and Connecticut.
Additional contact tracers are also being trained and will boost the state’s contact tracing corps to 2,100 in the next two weeks.