New Jersey likely to pause reopening plans as cases rise, governor says

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks at a press conference after touring the vaccination site at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center Covid-19 in Edison, New Jersey on Friday, January 15, 2021.

Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

New Jersey is likely to suspend its reopening plans as Covid-19 cases in the state rise again, Governor Phil Murphy said Monday.

Since Sunday, the 7-day average of new Covid-19 cases in the state has risen to just over 4,000 per day – an increase of more than 10% from the previous week. This comes from a CNBC analysis of the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It also tops the US in new cases per capita last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When asked on CNN whether the state would “hold back” from reopening plans for a week or two, Murphy said, “I think you’ll see we do that in the future.”

“I suspect we won’t be tapping additional capacity for some time because of the case loading,” Murphy said, adding that he believes things should get better as the weather warms up and more people in the state get vaccinated.

New Jersey has opened 50% of its indoor capacity to restaurants and other businesses, according to Murphy.

Other states are also seeing spikes in new cases when they reopen, and health officials are concerned that it could cause a new spike as highly contagious variants spread across the country.

During a press conference at the White House on Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urges Americans to remain “vigilant” while officials struggle to vaccinate the majority of Americans.

“We are at a critical point in this pandemic,” said Walensky. “I worry that if we don’t take the right action now, we will see another avoidable surge, as we are seeing in Europe right now.”

“We are now in a position where we have a plateau of around 53,000 cases per day,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief physician, on Friday. “The concern is that there are a number of states, cities, and regions across the country that are withdrawing some of the mitigation methods we talked about: withdrawing mask mandates, withdrawing to essentially non-public health measures.”

As of Sunday, the CDC had identified 6,390 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which were first identified in the UK. The agency identified 194 cases of the B.1.351 strain from South Africa and 54 cases of P.1, a variant, identified for the first time in Brazil.

In New Jersey, officials have identified 160 cases of variant B.1.1.7, one case of strain B.1.351, and two cases of variant P.1, according to the CDC.

“We are monitoring these variants very closely, the case numbers have clearly increased,” said Murphy. “We clearly have these variants in our state, as we see in New York City, which is a little reminiscent of what happened last spring.”

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