Virus Cases Are Rising in N.J., Spurred by Young Partygoers at the Shore

Coronavirus cases have jumped by 28 percent. The governor pleaded “one more time to parents and kids”: Don’t gather inside.

Coronavirus cases in New Jersey, which just a week ago had plunged to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, are rising again, fueled in part by outbreaks among young adults along the Jersey Shore.

In the past seven days, New Jersey has recorded an average of 416 cases per day, an increase of 28 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a database maintained by The New York Times.

The increase has worried elected leaders and public health officials who say that young people who are enjoying summer parties are not taking enough precautions.

A party that dozens of Long Beach Island lifeguards attended has been linked to 35 cases of the virus, according to the state’s health commissioner. A house party in Middletown, N.J., has been blamed for 65 new cases; 52 of the people infected were between the ages of 15 and 19, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said. And a graduation party in Westfield, N.J., farther north, resulted in 17 cases.

“I just want to plead one more time to parents and kids,” Mr. Murphy said on Monday. “Don’t congregate inside. Please don’t do that. If you’re going to gather, get outside. Wear a face covering. Stay away from each other.”

The head of the State Police said the parties may be linked to the continued shutdown of indoor bars and restaurant dining, spawning what he called an “underground situation.”

In perhaps the most glaring example of this apparent thirst for summertime revelry, a house party in Jackson, N.J., about 65 miles south of Manhattan, drew more than 700 people on Sunday night, leading the police to issue tickets to the three organizers. More than 100 cars were parked outside, and it took the police more than five hours to clear the scene.

Just a week ago, New Jersey recorded its lowest seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases — 224 — since the numbers peaked in the state in early April.

The milestone came even as the Jersey Shore beaches were in full swing, Atlantic City’s casinos were open and towns across the state were walling off streets to create lively outdoor-dining bazaars.

Aides to Mr. Murphy touted the achievement on Twitter, noting that New Jersey was the only state in the nation to have achieved a two-week decline in new cases of the virus.

On Thursday, it was New York’s turn to crow. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo noted that New York had reached new lows in the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 or on ventilators. The rate of positive test results was 1.09 percent in New York — less than half of New Jersey’s 2.42 percent positive rate on Wednesday.

Mr. Cuomo said he had no plan to bar residents of New Jersey from coming to New York.

“I don’t know how you could quarantine New Jersey,” Mr. Cuomo said. “They don’t fly into New York. You’d have to blockade roads, and we’re not talking about blockading.”

Officials with Mr. Murphy’s office noted on Thursday that despite the uptick, New Jersey continues to be among the six states with the fewest new daily infections per 100,000 residents. Some of the increase in the last week also can be linked to a lag in testing results, which they said are sometimes delivered in large bulk batches, skewing the daily case counts.

On Wednesday, for example, the state reported 489 new cases of the virus; on Thursday, there were 261.

Still, the governor did not mince words about the worrisome trend that had the potential to undermine months of conscientious efforts to reduce the spread of the virus that has been linked to 15,809 deaths in the state.

“Over the past four months, we have crushed the curve,” he warned on Wednesday. “But folks, this is sobering.”

He added: “We are now back — plus or minus — to where we were a month ago in the daily number of new cases. We can’t go backward. We can’t afford to go backward.”

Perry N. Halkitis, an epidemiologist and dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, agreed the delay in testing results muddies the daily data report.

“It’s time for us to say, ‘Indicators are bad,’” Mr. Halkitis said. “People are just gathering with no thought in mind.”

He added, “It’s almost like we have to re-pause, right now, before it gets too late.”

The risk of the virus has hit close to his home turf: The number of Rutgers University football players infected with the virus grew to 15 on Wednesday, the health commissioner, Judith M. Persichilli, said. The college announced on Saturday that it had suspended in-person team activities and placed all the players under quarantine.

Mr. Halkitis said he was concerned about schools reopening in just over a month for in-person instruction.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is the schools,” he said. “It’s absolutely an ‘uh-oh’ moment.”

George Helmy, the governor’s chief of staff, said they take every increase in virus cases seriously, and will continue to monitor any changes in the spread of the virus.

Mr. Murphy has said his goal is to try to open all schools for at least some in-person learning, though the final decisions are being made by individual districts.

“New Jersey has the best public education system in the nation and the governor believes that in-person learning for our children is essential for their academic advancement, social and mental well-being and development,” Mr. Helmy said on Thursday.

“Public health informs all of our decisions and we continue to assess and reassess our data as we get closer to the first day of school.”


News – Virus Cases Are Rising in N.J., Spurred by Young Partygoers at the Shore

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