Covid-19 cases rising in New Jersey as officials prepare for second wave

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Judith Persichilli speaks to the media. | Pool photo by Chris Pedota/Gannett

New Jersey officials say they are bracing for a second wave of the coronavirus, with the state recording 1,301 new Covid-19 cases, the highest amount in a single day since May.

In a briefing on Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy described the number as “sobering” and pleaded with residents to practice social distancing and wear masks.

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“Please, please, please continue to do the right thing as millions of you have. And for those of you who haven’t, wake up, for crying out loud. Wake up,” Murphy said.

The state has seen escalating case totals in Monmouth and Ocean counties along the Jersey Shore, particularly in Lakewood, a township of more than 100,000 people. In total, 22 percent of the 1,301 new cases were in Ocean County, and 10 percent were in Monmouth County. The rest were from a smattering of other counties across the state.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli warned that without proper action the caseload will continue to climb.

“We are anticipating a second wave,” she said. “If individuals do not adhere to social distancing, masking guidelines, washing your hands, or staying home if you’re sick, this wave has the potential to become a surge.”

The good news, officials said, is that the state is much better prepared with testing than it was in the spring, and has a stockpile of personal protective equipment.

Persichilli said that signs of community spread are showing up “predominantly in adolescents and young adults, but not exclusively.” The state is also closely monitoring Lakewood.

Murphy has been cautious in recent days to highlight the severity of the outbreak in Lakewood, without hammering its sizable Orthodox Jewish community.

Persichilli said that state officials are working closely with the local health department and other community leaders to increase testing and contact tracing. Testing has “greatly increased” in Lakewood, with more than 1,000 people getting testing yesterday.

Persichilli said the increases may be associated with the recent high holy days of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. The spikes are primarily in white, non-Hispanic men between the ages of 19 and 49.

It’s unclear exactly what measures Murphy will take next. He’s indicated he wants to pursue a “scalpel” approach as opposed to statewide restrictions, and says he wants to work collaboratively with community leaders.

Meanwhile, the state has seen 16 outbreaks in schools, for a total of 58 Covid cases. There are more than 3,000 school buildings in New Jersey.

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