Numbers looking good or bad? … Here’s why it’s hard to say

As we return from Labor Day Weekend, it’s a mixed bag of results when it comes to the state’s COVID-19 health metrics.

On the one hand, the number of positive cases decreased in each of the past four reports, going from 478 on Friday to 370 to 360 to 344 on Monday. And that was with an unusually high number of tests (more than 52,000) reported Monday. (Keep in mind, the numbers reported are always of 10 p.m. the previous night.)

On the other hand, the rate of transmission has jumped in each of the past 10 days. It went over 1.0 at 1.03 on Friday and increased to 1.05, to 1.06 and to 1.09 on Monday. For most of the summer, the rate of transmission has hovered around 1.0, below it more often than above it.

Then, there’s this: The state numbers are still well below those of almost every other state. New Jersey now has the eighth-highest total of cases, at 194,390, after spending much of the early months at No. 2. New Jersey is now No. 13 in cases per 100,000 people, as much of the South has surpassed the state. Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi are the Top 3 in that metric.

On top of everything else is this: If there is a jump in cases from activity on Labor Day weekend, they may not show up in the numbers for another week.

Fatalities, meanwhile, stayed low: Only two were reported Monday, capping a weekend of just 20 (seven on both Friday and Saturday and four on Sunday).

Other metrics, as of 10 p.m. Sunday night:

  • Hospitalizations: 389;
  • In intensive/cardiac care: 79;
  • On ventilators: 29.

Other notes from the weekend:

School reopening update

With most school districts set to begin the school year after the holiday weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy noted that the Department of Education continues to receive reopening plans.

In total, the department has received 804 reopening plans as of Monday from districts, charter schools, schools for students with disabilities, and others. He said 607 of the plans were marked as complete, while 180 have been returned for revision and 17 have not yet been reviewed.

Murphy is remaining optimistic about the job the department is doing to keep students safe.

“I know Commissioner Kevin Dehmer and his team are pushing to get every plan approved in time,” Murphy explained. “I have every confidence that our school year will get off to a safe start.”

Out of the finalized plans, there are 354 with hybrid in-person and remote learning, 59 with all in-person, 172 with all-remote, and 22 with some combination of all of the above.

Community contact tracing

The governor also highlighted the need for residents of the state to cooperate with the Community Contact Tracing Corps in order to get an accurate reading on the scope of COVID-19.

“I really cannot put it any clearer — our contact tracers only care about protecting public health and about protecting you and your family and friends,” Murphy said. “We cannot get ahead of this virus if you don’t work with our contact tracers … if we do not get ahead of this virus, then the steps we have taken this week to reopen our restaurants and theaters, for example, may be in jeopardy.”

There have been an additional 66 contact tracers added to the corps, bringing its total to 1,769. There is an average of 19.9 tracers per 100,000 people, which is well on the way to the governor’s initial goal of 30 per 100,000. The only county yet to reach the initial benchmark of 15 per 100,000 residents is Atlantic County.

Final word

Murphy on working conditions in New Jersey:

New Jersey is among the very best states to work, live and raise a family. We take care of everyone who calls this state home, and we do it with compassion and empathy. That’s what it means to be stronger and fairer. And, this is a special point of pride for us up here, who have been guided by science and facts to take the steps necessary to help our families and our communities.”