Coronavirus cases fell across much of New Jersey this week, a positive sign that comes as public health officials fear the Christmas and winter holidays could trigger a new outbreak of the disease.
New Jersey added 33.8 new cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents, a decrease of 10.6% from the previous week. Statewide, 17 of 21 counties saw declines from Dec. 17-23, led by Passaic, Salem and Union, where new infections each fell by nearly 30%.
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This marked the second week in which the spread of the epidemic declined, a plateau that follows an explosion of new cases in the aftermath of Thanksgiving. Although hospitalizations have fallen in recent days, they remain at unrecorded levels for months, and Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has warned that the winter break could fuel a new wave.
“We don’t want anyone’s Christmas to lead someone to be sick or hospitalized on New Years Eve,” Murphy said in a briefing Wednesday. “We want everyone to enjoy their vacation, but to enjoy it responsibly.”
Of the counties that saw declines this week, eight saw double-digit declines, including Somerset (down 26.2%), Essex (down 21.3%) and Hudson (down 18.1%) %).
With the four counties where the coronavirus has developed, only two recorded double-digit increases: Atlantic (up 23.5%) and Sussex (up 15.8%).
Atlantic County now has one of the highest infection rates. It ranked fifth in the state this week with 39.9 new cases per 10,000 people, behind Cumberland (44.1 new cases per 10,000), Monmouth (41.8 new cases per), Ocean (40.5 new cases per) and Middlesex (40.3 new cases per).
New Jersey and the nation battled a second wave of coronavirus that erupted after a summer lull in the disease. Murphy has warned of perilous months ahead as the state begins handing out vaccines that are ultimately expected to reach millions of people.
Like New Jersey, the United States as a whole has also seen new cases of the coronavirus plummet this week, although COVID-19 is still spreading faster nationally than in the state. There were 44.5 new cases per 10,000 people across the country, down 9.2% from the previous week and well above the rate for New Jersey.
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Riley Yates can be reached at [email protected].