Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials have said repeatedly that little emphasis should be placed on single-day metrics. Statistics based over a period of days or weeks are far more telling.
But, when the state’s rate of transmission — which is the number of additional cases one case will spawn — jumped over the important 1.0 mark this weekend for the first time in 10 weeks, there was cause for concern.
For the last two days, the state’s RT has been 1.03.
“This means that, for every new case of COVID-19, we are seeing that case is leading to at least one other new case,” Murphy said. “This means increasing rate of spread statewide. This is an early warning sign that, quite frankly, we need to do more. “
Murphy, speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday, said the state needs to be more vigilant — especially when it comes to wearing masks.
“There’s more mask wearing anecdotally than there was two weeks ago, but there’s not remotely enough outdoors,” he said.
Murphy also emphasized the volunteer 14-day quarantine for those visiting hot spots.
“We need to be smarter and work harder,” he said. “Our 14-day self-quarantine advisory for those who have come through a known coronavirus hotspot is there for a reason — to prevent flareups like the ones we are now seeing. Visit covid19.nj.gov/travel to learn whether you should be self-quarantining.
“Our requirement that face coverings be worn while indoors, and our need to wear them outside, as well, are there to help slow the spread of this virus. Millions of you are taking the need for self-responsibility to heart. But, even so, just one selfish person can undo the hard work the rest of you have done.”
Murphy said outbreaks across the country are having an impact here.
“We knew we were taking some amount of risk reopening, but there is a further element of risk associated with hot spots that is something that we weren’t planning on a month ago,” he said.
The rest of the hospital metrics look good. For instance, hospitalizations remain below 1,000 — and the number of patients in intensive care and the number of patients on ventilators remain under 200.
Murphy admits there is some lag in those numbers — and that this weekend’s RT increase may not show up for days. That’s why he’s preaching caution.
“I want us to be able to deliberately and responsibly continue down our road back,” he said. “I do not want to have to hit another pause on our restart, because a small number of New Jerseyans are being irresponsible and spreading COVID-19 while the rest of us continue to work hard to stop it.
“But, we all need to be traveling down this together. We all need to be wearing face coverings — even when it’s a hot day like today. COVID-19 doesn’t care about the weather — it only cares about finding another person to infect. Don’t be a willing host. Wear a face covering. Self-quarantine if you have been in a coronavirus hotspot. And, get tested.
“This is how we reverse this upward trend of RT and get it back down below 1. We absolutely must. We have so many metrics falling in our favor — but, with an increasing RT, all of that work becomes jeopardized, too.”