TRENTON, N.J. (CBS/AP) — New Jersey’s coronavirus caseload and the rate of transmission have climbed higher and are “setting off alarms,” Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday. Despite the rise in cases, Murphy said New Jersey hospitals reported no new deaths for the day ending 10 p.m. Thursday for the first time since March 10, which the governor said was an “extraordinary milestone.”
After weeks of being called a national model in the fight against COVID-19, the transmission rate of the virus in New Jersey is now at its highest level in three months.
“Look, the numbers are setting off alarms that we are taking and we take very seriously,” Murphy said.
Murphy says weeks of progress have stopped as there were 699 new positive cases reported Friday — up from 261 on Thursday. The rate of transmission, which indicates the number of people an infected person passes the virus to, climbed to 1.35 from 1.14.
“Even with the increases we have seen in the latest case numbers, New Jersey remains among the 10 states nationwide with the lowest number of active cases,” Murphy said.
The increased cases are blamed mainly on people not following safety precautions, gathering indoors in poorly ventilated spaces — mainly at house parties and bars.
“We’re seeing a lot of this in teenagers and young adults,” Burlington County Director of Health Dr. Herb Conaway said. “People are going to graduation parties, people are going to going-away parties, going back to school or they’re congregating at the shore or other places where they are contracting coronavirus.”
“We will not tolerate these devil-may-care nonchalant attitudes any longer,” Murphy said “Everyone who walks around refusing to wear a mask or who hosts an indoor house party or who overstuffs a boat is directly contributing to these increases. This has to stop and it has to stop now.”
If cases continue to increase, Murphy said the state will impose new restrictions and pull back on activities that have been allowed that would probably entail lowering the threshold for how many people are allowed to gather inside and stronger enforcement.
“I think if we take any steps, we’re not going to wait a whole lot longer, I can’t give you an exact date,” Murphy said.
The total number of positive cases stands at nearly 182,000. There were 10 new deaths reported overnight, putting the death toll at 13,944, with 1,875 fatalities deemed likely from COVID-19.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.
CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl contributed to this report.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)