Latest numbers: Cases, hospitalizations creep higher — but rate of transmission drops for 4th straight day

This much is clear: New Jersey is nothing like Florida, where a record 21,683 COVID-19 cases and more than 9,000 hospitalizations were announced late last week.

This much isn’t clear: Is the slow — but not necessarily steady — rise of COVID cases and hospitalizations going to lead Gov. Phil Murphy to bring back mask mandates this week?

On Friday, the governor said he and state officials were considering a “whole series of steps” and that they would continue to do so as they watched the changing health metrics over the weekend.

Here’s what they saw:

  • New cases: On Sunday, the state reported that there were 883 new cases (and 287 probable cases), continuing an up-and-down pattern, as there were 1,009 cases reported on Saturday, 964 on Friday, 1,017 on Thursday and 854 on Wednesday.
  • Seven-day average: The seven-day average for newly confirmed cases is 883, up 32% from a week ago and nearly 300% from a month ago.
  • Hospitalizations: Those hospitalized from COVID dropped, as there were 484 reported Sunday, down from 501 on Saturday, 306 on Friday but 519 on Thursday.
  • Intensive care: The only number to go up was for those in intensive care. On Sunday, the state reported 41 cases, the most since June 16, when the state reported 43.
  • The rate of transmission: It’s the number of cases one case is said to create. It was reported to be 1.43 on Sunday, the fourth straight day it has declined. That being said, it remained the highest it’s been since the start of the pandemic (remember, anything over 1 indicates the pandemic is growing).

On Wednesday, Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli issued a statement that said they “strongly recommend” wearing face coverings in crowded indoor spaces — even for those who are vaccinated.

Murphy and Persichilli said they would be watching other states (which they didn’t identify) while pondering next steps. Last week, the number of cases rose nationally by approximately 60%.

All this being said, it’s worth repeating: Nationwide and across New Jersey, unvaccinated people make up more than 99% of the new cases and hospitalizations — an indication the vaccine works amazingly well.

State officials said 5.3 million residents are fully vaccinated.